“Careful what you wish for” is my comment to David Cameron and Ed Miliband over their desire to stop EU migrants’ children receiving UK benefits if they live abroad. Even if they think that they have the support of Angela Merkel, that does not mean that they will receive support from other EU countries.
Why should an EU country such as Poland be responsible for the benefit payment for a child if the parent’s taxes are paid in the UK? As it is, these countries already offer these children local school places and access to their health services, without receiving any return in income tax collected in the UK.
Even if this measure was eventually agreed by the Commission it would result in those children being brought to the UK, where their taxpaying parent lives, so not only would the UK have to continue to pay the child benefit, but also supply school places as well and open access to other social services.
At present there are 25,000 Polish-speaking schoolchildren in London alone, probably near 80,000 throughout the country, not mentioning children from other EU countries. This figure could double if the child benefit they are entitled to because their parent is a UK taxpayer were to be stopped.
I can see the outcry then about the need to provide even more school places in the UK’s overcrowded primary schools.
When The Independent allowed Nigel Farage to express his opinions in a regular column I was extremely disappointed with your paper. However, Ian Birrell (15 December) has restored my support for The Independent. Everything he states in support of immigrants to the UK should be required reading for our xenophobic general public. Our NHS would collapse without the employment of “immigrants”, the Treasury’s tax receipts would be lower and most of the country’s restaurants would have to close.
Horton cum Studley, Oxfordshire
Sources of militant Muslim anger
On the subject of Peshawar, Gaza, and Robert Fisk (17 December); well, the Israelis did destroy 145 schools, killing some six hundred children while dropping 21,000 tons of explosives on Gaza. One cannot say that they did not intend to do so.
The Israeli justification is the same as that of the Taliban militants killing the school children in Peshawar – to dissuade the Pakistan Army/Gazans from attacking us, Waziris/Israelis. The actions and justifications of both Israelis and Taliban are equally repellent. Both should be equally condemned. They are not.
I have travelled, over many years, among the ordinary people of the region, from Morocco to Hyderabad, from Timbuktu to Hunza, and yes in Israel/Palestine. Direct experience tells me that, whatever Nakba-deniers might write, such Israeli actions, including the continuing ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and Palestine with our connivance, and our dual standards, are a fundamental motivating cause of anti-western Muslim radicalisation.
Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire
The BBC 10 O’Clock News on 16 December described the appalling killings by the Pakistan Taliban of 132 children and nine adults in a school in Peshawar, as a “massacre”. Not once was the monstrous 51-day bombing of Gaza last July and August by Israel, which left 574 children dead, along with over 1,000 adults, described as a “massacre” by the BBC. Why?
There is good science and there is bad science and they are quite easy to tell apart. There is also good religion and there is bad religion, very easy to tell apart. But bad religion is truly awful.
Among its features are moral immaturity (a focus on rewards and punishments), emphasis on who is “in” or “out” (“us/them”, “saved/unsaved”), and a holy text that cannot be questioned or considered to be less than perfect.
It can be combated, in part, by offering a positive alternative: a form of religious behaviour which advocates moral maturity, resists simplistic labels, and understands that a text can be precious and useful when rightly handled, without being perfect.
Professor Andrew Steane
Cuts threaten a great library
As Deputy Chair of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and as someone who lives in and loves the great city of Birmingham, I am only too well aware of the crisis facing our libraries (“The great British library betrayal”, 18 December).
Just over a year after fellow Birmingham resident Malala Yousafzai opened the Library of Birmingham to great fanfare, it is facing savage cuts that would see the loss of 100 of its 188 staff and opening times cut from 73 to 40 hours a week.
In its short time the library has become a focus of every kind of artistic, educational and media work that goes on in this diverse and youthful city. It is not just a jewel in Birmingham’s crown, but as the largest and busiest library in Europe it is already one of the UK’s most successful and best-loved cultural institutions.
To see it gutted in this way would indeed be a betrayal: a betrayal of our young people, of our sense of civil pride and of the ideals and principles that saw the library built in the first place.
Only a few weeks ago George Osborne saw fit to award Manchester £78m for a new “flexible arts space” for the International Festival. Good for Manchester. But this makes no sense if other equally valuable institutions, not to mention the network of smaller community libraries, are allowed to wither away. It is time for the Government to show the same kind of financial commitment to our libraries, not least the Library of Birmingham, one of the greatest libraries in the world.
Mandy Rice-Davies, radical reformer
Too young to understand the Profumo scandal at the time, but growing up in its aftermath, I think both Andy McSmith and Geoffrey Robertson (20 December) may have missed Mandy Rice-Davies’ enduring legacy as a radical social reformer.
Thanks to her pithy words, when a (mature, white, male) pillar of the Establishment says one thing and an 18-year old model says something else, we now stop to wonder which one may be telling the truth.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Your report on the death of Mandy Rice Davies refers to her having slept with “dumpy, balding, middle aged” Peter Rachman, with the inference it was his money which attracted her. That may be true, but it is still insulting to those of us who have those attributes and are poor with it.
Wildlife sites need more protection
I fully support the Wildlife Trust’s call for more protection for Local Wildlife Sites. With increasing population pressures and climate change, all Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (Sincs) urgently need more protection if they are not to be lost (“Local wildlife sites not protected by statute are being ruined by development, warns report”, 22 December).
Some of South-east England’s most important conservation sites, such as the ancient woodlands of Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches, which we manage, are protected by law under our Open Spaces Acts. But too many locally important green spaces don’t meet the criteria for designation as either Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Sincs, so they are dependent for their protection on local planning authorities, which are now under huge financial strain.
Director of Open Spaces, City of London Corporation
Perhaps other readers might challenge my locality for the 2014 “This Green and Pleasant Land” nominations? Rules: developments must be within a mile of your home and be on greenfield sites.
Here in Calow, we have an in-vessel composting facility on country park land, two housing developments, a rejected application for fracking now going to appeal and proposed 20 acres of solar panels. HS2 is scheduled to pass us but just over a mile away.
Passengers miss the fuel price cut
Why is it that airlines, such as British Airways, are still imposing on passengers a fuel surcharge on flights (now sneakily renamed a “carrier imposed charge”) when fuel prices are so low?
A thriller from North Korea
The Sony imbroglio – cyber attack, weird dictator, vendetta, blackmail, capitulation – has all the makings of a Hollywood movie. Is somebody making it?
Dr John Doherty