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Letters to the editor

Tax attack

Roger Flint's letter (NCE 19 May), which raises the issues of the tax penalties on our members working overseas introduced in the March budget, is to be welcomed. It gives me an opportunity to report on the steps that have been taken to get this damaging change in taxation policy reversed.

As a matter of policy, the ICE, because it is a professional learned society, does not comment publicly on personal taxation. This policy was endorsed by the Future Framework Presidential Commission (FFPC). However, the FFPC also recommended that the ICE should take an active interest in the global employment conditions of its members. Therefore, members should be aware that the ICE is actively supporting the representations being made by bodies which are to lobby on these issues.

The construction industry representative bodies are making strenuous objections to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of those working overseas, because the proposed legislation is totally inappropriate for the type of export business and projects in which our members are engaged. In addition, the matter has been raised with the Chancellor by the Engineering Council, and it has also been brought to the notice of those MPs who are professional engineers.

The points that Roger Flint makes are perfectly correct. The ICE is actively supporting these representations, because the export of civil engineering technology and good practice should not be hindered by poorly conceived fiscal policy. This transfer of technology benefits both the donor and the receiver.

I hope that Roger Flint and many other members will encourage their MPs to lend support in opposing this change, because the costs to British exports are enormous, whereas the benefits to the Treasury are minute.

Roger Dobson (F), Director General and Secretary, The Institution of Civil Engineers, 1 Great George St, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA

Bright idea

What a sensible cyclist Sir Alan Cockshaw is! He and his companions (NCE 30 April and 21 May) have obviously assessed the risks in riding along the new Sustrans cycle path, and decided that the best way to stop any car drivers who happen to be on the cycle path from knocking them off is to make themselves highly visible by wearing bright clothing. David Soye seems to think that all cyclists should wear helmets at all times, but as they are only useful after the car has hit you, I suggest that a far more effective tactic is to wear high visibility clothing and to use lights to avoid being knocked off in the first place. Well done, Mr President!

Nick Clarke, 10 Becketts Avenue, St Albans, Herts AL3 5RU

Name change shock

I nearly choked on my muesli Saturday morning as I read my newspaper: 'Graduates may soon have a new incentive to become engineers,' began the article.

Can you guess the next line? Was it:

a) when the Institution of Civil Engineers announced that engineers were going to hike up their fees by a massive 25% to bring civil engineers' salaries in line with the 'recognised' professions.

b) when the BBC announced a new series following a group of civil engineering undergraduates through their gruelling university course and into the world of industry, working for low pay and sometimes up to seven days a week on muddy, cold, wet construction sites.

c) when the Institution of Civil Engineers announced it was giving out free World Cup wall charts to all students signing up to study civil engineering this autumn.

d) permission to use the title Engineer, or Eng, for short, in front of their name.

Yes, I am afraid the answer was d).

At first I thought it was a belated April Fool item by the national newspaper but then I realised I had read something similar in the 30 April edition of NCE. So it had to be true.

Apparently, 'it would put engineers on the same footing as doctors, boosting the profession's prestige'.

Well, it could hardly lower the prestige of our profession could it? All I can say is that if this is the best the ICE can come up with then just watch the number of students wanting to become lawyers, architects, doctors, vets and accountants rocket.

Kevin McFarlane (G), 14 Stairlie Crescent, West Kilbride, Ayrshire KA23 9BT

Licence for what?

So now we are being asked to volunteer to a licensing scheme in a bid to improve our status. The debate on status was rumbling along when I got my first NCE in 1979 and I was no doubt a newcomer to it even then.

Our two main problems are: a) that we get on with the job, with as little fuss as possible, precisely because we are professionals; and b) that use of the word 'engineer' has become so broad. We can only grit our teeth and accept both these facts; as many of us do.

Over the years our status was to be improved by higher degree entry levels; QA; the title Eur Ing; CPD; all foisted on us by 'those who have lost their own way' to quote Duncan Eggar (Letters 21 May). None to these initiatives improved our standing in the community and neither will licensing.

None of us can or should attempt to demand respect and those obsessed by titles surely miss the point. My friends and children have been amused enough by BEng MICE, I could never quite bring myself to register for Eur Ing; and 'Engineer Wood' had my kids howling with laughter when I suggested it. Mr Rahman (also 21 May) suggests PEng; why not follow it with UIN? Mr Rahman also seeks to rid the profession of this 'cowboy element'. In 20 years in the industry I have never come across this cowboy element and I fail to see how our status will be improved by calling each other names.

We should all say 'NO' to licensing, it will lead to our profession being controlled totally by 'those who have lost their way' in the industry; and those others in the insurance industry who think they know how engineers should behave

Let us concentrate on doing a good job, as before, learning what we need as we progress, unconcerned by status; titles; and recognition. We may find that it is those who just get on with it, with no fuss and a little humour and humility, who get the recognition they deserve. Now wouldn't that be ironic?

Andrew Wood (M)

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