Letter:Referendums are a sign of maturity

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From Mr Stephen Wynn Sir: Michael Rogers (Letters, 14 December) is wrong to dismiss the Swiss system of direct democracy so lightly. Switzerland is an exceptionally prosperous country with a negligible rate of unemployment, inflation and crime.

He gives a list of topics including privatisation, immigration policy and taxation which he claims are unsuitable for referendums. On the contrary, these are quite suitable topics. The privatisation of the railways would be rejected in a referendum. The

detention of people seeking refugee status is a suitable topic and has indeed been the subject of a recent referendum in Switzerland. This is a civilised way of deciding this kind of question which so often seems to be decided at present on the basis of a slanging match between pressure groups. The poll tax would never have been introduced had it been subject to a referendum.

Contrary to the view of Mr Rogers these topics are not "too complex to be decided by the public in general". A Mori opinion poll in 1991 indicated that 75 per cent of the public would like a variety of topics decided by referendums, including topics raised by petitions. Where such a system is established, as in California, it becomes a popular part of democracy.

Yours faithfully, STEPHEN WYNN Brighton, Sussex