Housing market, ID cards and others

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Landlords must be prevented from charging excessive rents

Landlords must be prevented from charging excessive rents

Sir: As a 28-year-old, living in rented accommodation in central London, and a member of the same generation as Hermione Eyre, I read her article "Can't buy, must rent - how the young survive" (5 April) with interest.

Unable ever to get on to the lower rungs of the property ladder, our generation is trapped, at the mercy of parasitic estate agents and landlords who are free to exploit us. It is a frustrating existence, and painful to hand over large amounts of rent to, frequently, second-rate landlords. I watch with envy my peers who are supported by generous parents and can break out of this predicament.

Hermione Eyre's article is frustratingly small-minded and unimaginative, however. Surely, the great opportunity of our generation is to break free from the mentality of previous generations and appreciate that it doesn't matter if we don't buy the property in which we live. Britain's infatuation with property ownership is detrimental to the quality of our life, and other European countries show that we don't have to own our property to live a fulfilling life.

Cities such as Paris and Berlin illustrate that renting need not only be the situation of the 20-somethings, and that successful individuals can continue to rent throughout their lives. What is needed now is control to stop excessive rents being charged by unscrupulous landlords.

London SW9

Sir: Young people who rent view astronomical house price increases as "no closer to affecting them than reports from the Mars Express spacecraft", says Hermione Eyre in her Editorial & Opinion page article. Rising house prices will mean rising rents since landlords seek to maximise their return on investment, with the result that young people here in Britain spend more on rent as a proportion of their salary than in most of Europe.

Because young people are more concerned with noble causes and tend not to vote, their financial situation will probably get worse, even without the effect of top-up fees.

London E4

ID cards: unwanted and will not stop terrorism

Sir: Your story ("Blair and Blunkett 'plan to make ID cards compulsory by 2008' ", 5 April) just shows how desperate and cynical Blunkett has become as he tries to turn a pet policy into law.

To use the fear and panic created by the Madrid bomb in an attempt to persuade the people of the UK into something that they largely do not want, rather than use a reasoned argument, reveals how thin the real argument is. Compulsory ID cards will be a bureaucratic and financial black hole. They will not reduce crime and regardless of the technology used, criminals will only be a pace behind.

This Government has a healthy track record of not listening to the people who disagree with them and ending up in difficulty. ID cards will not end this lamentable record, but we will at least know who is to blame.


Sir: As a legacy of the Franco dictatorship, Spain has had ID cards for many years but continues to suffer badly from various sources of terrorism. ID cards, smart or otherwise, will not stop terrorists.

The Government needs to look at the causes of terrorism as a route to removing the threat, not naive and expensive short-lived measures which provide good business for criminals and politicians to exploit.


Sir: How exactly will ID cards contribute to preventing terrorism? I can see that they could make life very difficult for illegal immigrants, but how many convicted or suspected terrorists have actually been illegal immigrants (or vice versa)? Were, for example, the 11 September terrorists illegal immigrants?

The Government appears to be picking on a vulnerable group, illegal immigrants, in order to be seen to be doing something - anything - and to distract us from the problems inherent in a "war on terrorism".

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Sir: I left Britain 11 years ago and moved to Hong Kong. ID cards were first tried out here by Britain, supposedly to simplify things amongst so many people having the same names but multiple origins and languages.

In terms of border security, the ID cards did not work, as a means of persecution they did - people are still arrested and imprisoned for not carrying them at all times.

The plastic and magnetic cards were to easy to copy and magnetically wipe, so now they are changing them to digital ones like phonecard chips.

The next step is implants, unless fingerprints will do. Think hard and long about what are you doing.

Hong Kong SAR, China

Sir: Following the recent announcement that the US is to introduce the taking of fingerprints and photographs of all Europeans entering the country (report, 3 April), can we rightly expect similar reciprocal arrangements to be made at all ports of entry, not only into the UK, but for all other European Community members?

London NW3

Sir: If an obligatory system of identity cards is to be introduced here, could the government explain early on in the proceedings how it proposes to oblige its citizens to carry them.

What compulsion will be used if the wretched things become compulsory?


East End changes

Sir: My friend Baroness Uddin ("Stranded in the slipstream of multiculturalism", 6 April) makes many valuable points. I want to disagree with one and expand on one. She says, about the East End, "everyone there will tell you very little has changed". In fact a great deal has changed, much of it for the worse.

The City has been pushing its relentless way eastwards, leading to both gentrification and yuppification. The property developers and the estate agents are trying to abolish the concept of "the East End", renaming us "City fringe". Ordinary people - poor and in middle income groups - are being priced out.

This is glaringly evident both in Whitechapel where I live, and in Wapping where Baroness Uddin lives, and it has had disastrous effects on race relations, on the practice of community, and on the lives of the people.

Secondly, she says that "multiculturalism has systematically failed the Muslim community", and with this I entirely agree, though Christian-Muslim relations here are much better than in many places, due to hard work from both communities over a very long time. But the demonising of Islam, since the collapse of "communism", has had appalling consequences.

In spite of this the East End continues to offer much positive experience from which the rest of Britain could learn.

St Botolph's Church
London EC3

Postnatal depression

Sir: Whilst we would not condone the actions of a depressed Asian mother who snatched her children from foster care ("Hunt for depressed mother after children snatched in street", 2 April), we can understand why she may have felt driven to it. The insensitivity, cultural and racial bias and ignorance we have observed at parents' meetings with social workers has been alarming.

Recent research has confirmed what we already knew from our helpline. Mothers are now lying in answer to questionnaires designed to detect postnatal depression, because they are afraid of losing their babies if they seek professional help.

This is no idle fear. Providing young children for adoption is taking priority over giving practical help to families in need. We know a mother whose baby was booked for adoption when she had severe postnatal depression although she had reared two happy, well-behaved, well-educated older siblings. Only the support and intervention of three horrified local organisations prevented the permanent loss of her child, and the family is now doing well.

When will the Government and politicians realise that current child protection policies often rest on a poor standard of case work, and that it is high time this expensive intervention was asked to provide proof of its effectiveness and lack of adverse effects?

Hon Chair
Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services
Surbiton, Surrey

History lessons

Sir: I'm not at all surprised that some people think Hitler was fictitious ("1066 and all that: how Hollywood is giving Britain a false sense of history", 5 April). Hasn't our government recently confused him with Saddam Hussein? Haven't they also championed the distortion of history in their prevarications about the war in Iraq?

As one of many history teachers spending the Easter break marking GCSE course work I'm reassured to note that for the most part those pedalling these current fallacies learned their history over 30 years ago. The failure of previous generations to recognise that history is more about analysis and interpretation than the recollection of great national events has no doubt helped to bring us to the current mess that is pompously called the war on terrorism.

I note with optimism that school students played a major part in the demonstrations against the war, perhaps due in some measure to the injunctions of their history teachers to examine the evidence and challenge conventional interpretations.

Senior Teacher
Teeside High School for Girls
Eaglescliffe, Stockton on Tees

Sir: The results of the history survey come as no great surprise. A couple of years ago I asked my grandchild of 12, who lived close to the site, "Where was the Magna Carta signed?" The reply was "What is the Magna Carta?"

Granada, Spain

German notes

Sir: Explaining how Bach wrote his name in musical notation Michael Church (5 April) correctly states that the note B in German is H.

However, A does not mean A flat. In fact B stands for B flat. In the days when keyboards only had white notes, leading experimental musicians daringly started 6-note scales on an F and found that they did not like the sound of the B, so they created a second kind of B: a soft one (B flat). The soft sign became our flat sign, while the so-called hard B was represented by a capital H which developed into both the sharp and the natural sign. Hence the German terminology.

Bromham, Bedfordshire

The Doh man

Sir: Admirer though I am of the multi-talented and many-voiced Dan Castellaneta, I think Andrew Gumbel (2 April) is mistaken in crediting him with the invention of Homer Simpson's trademark phrase "Doh!"

That honour surely belongs to the late James Finlayson, longtime supporting player in many of Laurel and Hardy's shorts and feature films. He used it to express his fury, disgust or frustration at the unending indignities heaped upon him by that immortal duo. When these films were shown on television in the 1970s, my two very young nephews always greeted his appearance with cries of "It's the Doh man!"

Kingsholm, Gloucester

Organically cut off

Sir: On behalf of all your readers who live in remoter parts of the UK, the next time you do an "organics" supplement (5 April), would you please ask the suppliers you feature why either they won't deliver to remoter or non-mainland parts of the UK, or if they do, why do they slap on such excessive delivery surcharges?

Westray, Orkney

Sub-titles preferred

Sir: I entirely agree with your correspondent Marialette de Haas (Letters, 3 April).

I have always been irritated by the patronising English voice-over which our media feel to be necessary whenever a foreign tongue is spoken. We British should be ashamed of our lack of linguistic competence as compared with our European neighbours, who commonly speak at least one other European language to a reasonable degree of fluency.

Sub-titles would at least allow those of us who wish to gain in linguistic proficiency to enjoy the experience of hearing languages spoken by native speakers rather than a dumbed-down English monologue.

Hexham, Northumberland

Orwell's prediction

Sir: The author of Nineteen Eighty-Four could not only predict a grim future but also one of gaiety and intelligent humour. After watching the 19-year-old Peter Ustinov perform in a review in 1941, George Orwell wrote: "I prophesy that nothing will stop Mr Ustinov, who must still be extremely young, from ending up in the highbrow theatre. Even when he is playing the fool in the lightest manner he manages to convey an atmosphere of intellectual distinction." Not bad!

London W8

Irish themes

Sir: Having avoided the Irish theme pubs which have sprouted up in the UK over recent years (Letters, 31 March), I am now looking forward to visiting these as they become entirely non-smoking to copy even more faithfully the genuine Irish establishments.

Ely, Cambridgeshire