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Letter: Beggars should be choosers

YOUR leading article 'Rich remarks on begging' (29 May) deploring the Prime Minister's remarks on begging and your front-page report about homelessness among ex-service personnel ('Quarter of single homeless served in the armed forces') deserve a broader perspective.

Much as I feel that John Major and his party are unfit to govern this declining democracy, I absolutely agree with him that there is no need for anyone to beg in this Welfare State. However inadequate our system, it nevertheless helps those who need it. The taxpayer cannot be expected to subsidise the lifestyles of those of no fixed abode who have opted out of the democratic process.

If a city such as Calcutta in poor but democratically vibrant India, with absolutely no welfare benefits, can abolish begging, I see no reason why it cannot be done in Britain.

I sympathise with the current plight of ex-servicemen, and remember watching the arrival of hordes of demobilised British soldiers in the 1940s for the so-called Tanganyika Ground Nut Scheme. That scheme was a success in off- loading these redundant and mentally disturbed men only trained to face and cause death. Indeed, there were similar schemes in various parts of the Empire. Let's face it, we even exported delinquent children.

Now, of course, these problems have to be resolved within the confines of this island. Spoils of war and the so-called victory have social consequences for which British governments have not had much planning experience. Hence, the next time we send our men and women to kill in the name of peace, let's think twice.

Anver Jeevanjee

Shirley, Southampton