As a Pakistani I am no less touched by the catastrophe of the floods than the persuasive Ayesha Siddiqa ("My country needs help, not disapproval", 15 August).
But before any foreigners part with their penny, I would request them to demand that the government of Pakistan levy a tax on income from agriculture and recover all the hefty, written-off loans advanced by banks. These two measures should bring in at least 10bn rupees or more than £650m. Readers may be shocked to learn that Pakistan's politicians oppose agricultural income tax and land reforms, whereas Bangladesh, even when it was part of Pakistan, introduced both measures at provincial level in the 1950s.
We should also ask how much of the Zardari-Benazir billions the president of Pakistan has donated, and see a list of donations by the fat-bottomed lawmakers in this hour of national crisis. They spend tens of millions to get elected. Such measures would automatically convince the international community of the sincerity of Pakistanis in grappling with the crisis and sympathy would be translated into donations.
The article by Susie Mesure ("Take shorter breaks more often for the happiest time off", 15 August) while making some valuable psychological points does not consider the environmental impact of travel. As a high proportion of vacations involve flying, such short breaks should avoid flying, and be confined to the UK and rail or a short drive on the Continent. We need to do what we did 30 years ago: take an occasional flight every few years, make it a long stay and a two- or three-centre one, with different activities. The current culture of taking three or four foreign holidays a year if you can afford it has to stop. We have to rediscover creative ways of catering for our material, recreational and spiritual needs. Recreational breaks can take all sorts of forms beyond the conventional holiday: a residential course on a hobby, perhaps. We need to become aware of the carbon footprint of every major thing we do.
Community right-to-build schemes, far from creating a "nimby's charter", will ensure residents are able to back developments they want in their area, rather than have building work imposed upon them ("Nimby charter will allow small groups to block development", 15 August). Such schemes will not need planning permission, so it is right that any development would need the overwhelming support of local people, likely to be between 80 and 90 per cent. With housebuilding at its lowest since 1924 under the previous government, we're handing power to local communities to back the new homes they need.
Grant Shapps MP
Minister for Housing and Planning
Baby boomers can't be blamed for the tax breaks and lack of regulation which caused a house price bubble of epic proportions ("Baby boomers can't retire – they need the money", 15 August). But it is tragic that 4.6 million adults are delaying starting a family due to the lack of affordable housing, because the Government is protecting over-extended house "owners" to the detriment of more productive areas of society and the economy.
As a hospital chaplain I have listened to many going through a miscarriage (Letters, 15 August). Statistics about healthy pregnancies within three months of miscarriage encourage the "forget about it and get on and have another" approach. But the physical and emotional readjustment is considerable. If hospitals quote these figures, how will this help the fearful and those who miscarry again? When will doctors learn that we are people with feelings, not just statistics?
Rev Dr John Grant
Janet Street-Porter is wrong to imply that cancer is down to luck ("Cancer doesn't steer clear of vegetarians", 15 August). Diet and lifestyle make a big difference to the likelihood of one contracting most illnesses, including cancer. The Oxford Study tracked 11,000 people over 12 years and found that non-meat-eaters reduced the likelihood of early death by 20 per cent and of death from cancer by 40 per cent. In 1986, a BMA report stated that "vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders and cancer and gallstones".
Chill the elderly, malnourish the young, close their exercise spaces, stop school building, deprive the needy and abandon the vulnerable while the wealthy prosper .... This is not a government: it's a satire.
Corrections and clarifications
In Vox Pop on 15 August we attributed Dave Jewitt's reply to David Miles, whose photograph we carried. Our apologies to both men.
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