IoS letters, emails & online postings (26 December 2010)

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The case histories with your timely article about legal loan sharks and impoverished debtors illustrated the stress involved ("High cost of credit sends growing numbers into poverty", 19 December). The Government Office for Science noted in a Foresight report the relationship between debt and mental illness. Welfare claimants are already paying off £3bn a year to the state, because they and government agencies made errors, even before they start suffering the 25 cuts in benefits.

The Zacchaeus 2000 Trust serves vulnerable people in debt. We take cases of stress-related illness from GPs and other parts of the NHS in London, handling every degree of mental health problems from stress to hospitalised depression due to debt.

The NHS estimates that mental illness costs the economy £105bn a year, including days lost at work, but the coalition's White Paper on public health does not include the word "debt" let alone devise a policy to prevent its distressing and expensive consequences for the poor.

Rev Paul Nicolson

Chairman, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

London SW1

Why cannot an emergency Bill be passed to prohibit anyone – banks, credit card companies, or loan sharks – charging more than a fixed amount (say 3 to 5 per cent) above bank rate? If there are those who say it can't be done, I would remind them that there was strict government control over hire purchase agreements in the post-war years.

Malcolm Morrison

Swindon, Wiltshire

The loss of Gift Aid relief on membership fees at the London Library, which occurred a year ago, is not a sign that the library is about to lose its charitable status (Diary, 19 December). Nor has there been any long-running (or short-running) battle over that status. HM Revenue & Customs decided in November 2009 that we, like many other charities, should not be getting tax relief on subscriptions, because the law says that relief should not be given when payments are being made in return for services. Only "heritage" charities such as the National Trust are given exemptions. Nevertheless, the library still gets Gift Aid relief on all conventional donations. It is the Charities Commission, not the HMRC, which grants or denies charitable status, and it has never questioned the Library's eligibility.

I am pleased to say that membership numbers are rising healthily, and have just passed 7,000.

Bill Emmott

Chairman, The London Library

London SW1

The British Medical Association is very pleased to hear that George Osborne is trying to claw back some of the hundreds of millions of pounds currently spent paying off huge PFI investment projects ("Osborne looks to save hundreds of millions on PFIs", 19 December).

It is interesting to note that a Whitehall source has indicated that it could be difficult to breach existing PFI agreements with contractors. This seems ironic when NHS Employers is planning to break the contracts of thousands of NHS staff and not pay them the increments they are entitled to in order to plug a £1.9bn additional shortfall in the NHS budget.

Rather than continually hammering hard-working public sector staff, the Chancellor should do everything in his power to ensure that PFI contractors shoulder their share of the pain.

Dr Hamish Meldrum

Chairman of council, BMA

London WC1

As a comedian, Dom Joly is prone to exaggerate for comic effect, but to describe security guards at our store as "Nazi-like" is offensive ("I had a spot of bother on the Didcot line", 19 December). Moreover, our requirements for dress are well-known and are advertised clearly on our website.

Katharine Witty

Group director of corporate affairs

Harrods, London SW1

So in 2010 the Vatican Bank withdrew ¤650,000 from an Italian bank without disclosing where the money was headed ("Vatican Bank hit by financial scandal", 19 December). Some institutions will go to any lengths to cover up the expenses they incur in moat cleaning and building duck houses.

Ivor Morgan



Our article "London's 'Mr Party' defies court to carry on carousing" of 19 December 2010 stated that Mr Edward Davenport has hired out his house on at least one occasion since an injunction forbidding such use of the premises was enforced in July. We accept that it is untrue that Mr Edward Davenport has hired out his house for commercial purposes since the ban. We also accept that the noise abatement notice against Mr Davenport was dismissed and that he was awarded costs of approximately £28,000. Finally we are happy to clarify that a 9 month prison sentence imposed on Mr Davenport for VAT evasion was suspended following appeal after he had served only 16 days.

We would like to apologise to Mr Davenport for any distress or inconvenience caused.

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