IoS letters, emails & online postings (13 March 2011)

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The Independent Online

You are wrong to say that the 33,000 women born between 6 March and 5 April 1954 who face a two-year delay in their state pension age are "undoubtedly unlucky but nowhere near as unlucky as generations of men" ("There will be losers, but we have to iron out sex inequalities", 6 March). These women, who have already accepted a five-year increase in their state pension age, have also faced a lifetime of workplace inequality. Even now, a 55-year-old man working full time earns a third more than his female equivalent.

The loss of income for these women will be about £10,000, and for those in receipt of pension credit, the figure is closer to £15,000. Yet this group has an average of only £9,100 of pension savings (compared with £52,800 for a man) – equal to just £11 a week in retirement.

Labour supports the equalisation of the state pension age, and an increase in the state pension age, but not an acceleration in the timetable that hits one group of women disproportionately.

Rachel Reeves

Labour MP for Leeds West andshadow pensions minister

Howard Davies's resignation from the London School of Economics testifies to the seriousness with which the institution is taking the issue of donations ("Gaddafi son's thesis 'written by Libyan academic'", 6 March). It is extremely honourable and deeply regrettable that a director who has done an excellent job has chosen to take the bullet for at least one errant colleague.

Richard Collins

London EC2

Universities are not only receiving "many kids": 40 per cent of all undergraduates are now part-timers and, increasingly, they are mature distance learners who rarely, if ever, enter the hallowed portals of a university campus. Furthermore, I don't think you can, with a clear conscience, "set aside the whole question of Britain's complicity with regimes it strategically disowns". If government does disown say, North Korea, should universities act against that by training their nationals?

James Derounian

University of Gloucestershire


Robert Rowland Smith's claim that "we sort of invented" education is quite wrong ("How universities lost their innocence", 6 March). Japanese education dates back to at least the sixth century, and with the introduction of Buddhism came the Chinese system of writing and its literary tradition, and Confucianism. The Mexica, one of the Aztec groups, were among the first people in the world to have mandatory education for nearly all children regardless of gender, rank or station.

Jean Giusti

via email

Those insisting that our armed forces should be preserved, even in the current financial climate, do not explain why we need the third-largest military expenditure in the world after the USA and China ("Military chiefs sign letter calling for rethink on defence", 6 March). According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Britain also spends more of its GDP on armaments than any other European country bar Greece.

Is the implication of the letter from senior military figures that other countries do not care about security? Do they claim that the Danes and Swedes abandon their citizens when they are caught up in countries at war? Do they accuse Ireland, Canada and a host of other nations of reneging on their duty to police the world? Or is this simply a letter from turkeys expressing misgivings about the approach of Christmas.

Ian Ragan

London SW10

Living in Britain without a car is almost not an option ("Petrol hits £1.40 a litre", 6 March). But artificially capping the price of fuel will simply prolong the dependence. We need to progressively increase the cost of fuel above its natural level through taxation, and use the revenue to encourage the "reconcentration" of communities, so that people, shops and workplaces are no longer many miles apart. To subsidise cheaper fuel would keep the nation motoring a few more years but also make the "cold turkey" much more painful when, at some point in the not too distant future, oil really does start to run out.

Alan Mitcham

Cologne, Germany

Congratulations on your front-page story about animal smuggling ("The £6bn animal smuggling industry", 6 March). As a small conservation charity working to save endangered species, with an emphasis on ending wildlife crime, we were very heartened to read your report. But you mistakenly referred to tigers in the African range states. Tigers are not found in Africa, but there are an estimated 3,200 tigers in the 13 tiger range states throughout India, Asia and Russia. The error illustrates that there is a lot to learn about these magnificent cats and that the campaign we are about to launch, Tiger Time, to raise awareness in the UK, is timely.

Vicky Flynn

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Cranleigh, Surrey