Letters: All in the pensions debacle together


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Dominic Lawson employs smoke and mirrors in his attack on public-sector pensions ("You think a Greece can't happen here", 8 November). Having quoted the example of a civil servant retiring on a final salary of £29,800 receiving a pension worth £24,300 – a level which would require a private pension pot of £650,000 – he then invites us to "multiply that by millions".

But the vast majority of those "millions" will neither earn £29,800 nor enjoy a pension which is more than 80 per cent of that sum. A teacher with 40 years' service (which few achieve) would retire on 50 per cent of final salary and most other public-sector pensions are no more generous than that.

Mr Lawson would do better to turn his fire on those annuity providers who offer a mere £6,000 per year at age 60 on a pension pot of £200,000. Just who's ripping who off here?

Derek Haslam

Colne, Lancashire

Dominic Lawson's quoted figures on public-sector pensions quite astounded me: I come from a family who work mostly in the public service and I know of no one whose pension exceeds half of their final salary – most are in fact a lot less, as they fall short of the length of service (normally 40 years) required to attain this.

But suppose for a moment that his figures are correct – let's imagine that most public servants have a pension almost as large as their salary, while the average private-sector worker has a pension amounting to only £900 a year. Most of these private-sector pensioners will have to turn to the state for extra support in their old age, and will not be earning enough to pay income tax, so who will be paying for these handouts? Why, the fat cats of the public sector, with the tax they pay on their huge pensions!

The real issue is that the pension funds of both the public and the private sectors have lost value and are now struggling to meet their commitments. This is not the fault of the public sector, but of the banking and investment system.

Marjorie Clarke

Totnes, Devon


It was refreshing to read Dominic Lawson's piece on the financing of public servants' pensions. Being in the private sector, we have done as much as we can to protect the pension rights of our own employees, but in no way can we compete with the generosity of Civil Service retirement benefits.

That my team have to work to ensure that public servants have better rights than us is ludicrous. It's time that a hard line was taken. I suggest that on 30 November all we "private financiers" have a day of action and withhold the amount of tax due, as no public services were delivered to us on that day.

Fred Crook

Milton Keynes


Much of last week's government rhetoric regarding public-sector pensions appeared to focus on comparisons with private-sector schemes. Why not consider MPs' pensions?

Members of Parliament are offered a choice of employee contribution; 5.9 per cent will win them an accrual rate of 1/60th applied to their final salary. Under the Coalition's "deal of a lifetime" proposals, a teacher fortunate enough to be earning £40,000 (more than £25,000 less than an MP) will have no choice but to contribute 10.5 per cent of their earnings for the same 1/60th accrual rate on a (less generous) career-average basis.

In my view, the proposed changes would be far more palatable if it were clear that we really are "all in this together".

Owen Elton

Teacher of Mathematics, Charterhouse, Godalming, Surrey

Democracy under threat as financiers call the shots

The prospect of Mr Berlusconi resigning on Monday was, for a short time, enough to reduce Italy's borrowing costs; when this prospect receded, up went the costs again and with this the possibility of a default came even closer.

Putting the fitness of Mr Berlusconi for office to one side, I find this disquieting. It seems as if the international financial community is blackmailing Italy. The implication is: "Get rid of him or we'll ruin you". For all his faults, Mr Berlusconi came to office through democratic process, but financiers – and not the Italian people – may well be the ones who remove him.

Perhaps we should do away with tiresome elections for our leaders? How much more convenient to put potential national leaders forward for inspection by the big investors and let them vote, demonstrated by granting the lowest bond yield in each country to their preferred candidate?

Dr Peter Glover

Rayleigh, Essex

Sparkly poppies show no respect

The new array of sparkly poppies, enamel poppies and poppies worn on dresses but so large that they should be on the front of a car – coupled with the growing row about footballers wanting to wear them to a game in Europe – has nothing whatever to do with remembrance, or respect, or the way that we used to wear poppies at this time of year.

Wearing a poppy used to go unremarked. One might forget to get one this year and buy five the next because they became lost, or crumpled – but the act of wearing one was very British and very modest.

And it was the repeated buying of the poppy that kept the funds coming in; the cheap, disposable paper poppy needs to be purchased again and again – not so these fashion items sported by those so keen to be identified with it.

Now we have debates about which side to wear it, when to wear it, and everything else that is about fashion and self-presentation – but little about respect and memory.

D B V Thomas

Usk, Gwent

Poppy wearing has become a form of look-at-me political correctness. From now on I think I will keep to myself the huge appreciation I have for those who died for us.

David Gibbs

London SW4


I read Robert Fisk's article on the wearing of poppies (5 November) while in the background X Factor was playing on TV. I occasionally looked at the screen and noticed that many of the contestants and the judges were wearing glitzy poppies as fashion accessories; truly obscene.

James La Bouchardiere

Telford, Shropshire

Pernicious use of sexual violence


Theresa May's words about British gangs using rape as a weapon (report, 2 November) echo a sad reality around the world: one in every three women worldwide will be raped, beaten or abused in her lifetime. A recent report by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative revealed the shocking pattern of rape as a "weapon of war" in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with an estimated 48 women and girls raped every hour.

In Central America, the rate of brutal sexual violence, kidnap and killing of women is highest among the mostly female workforce processing goods for export to Britain and other wealthy countries: their male overseers treat violence and rape as weapons of intimidation and subjugation.

Whether on the streets of urban London, remote villages in Africa or the factory floors of Latin America, we cannot let this violence continue with impunity.

The date of 25 November marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of 16 days of activism by CAFOD and other organisations against gender-based violence. Let us not be silent, but speak out and act.

Tanja Haque

Gender Adviser, CAFOD

London SE1

Let's be realistic about road traffic

Roger Chapman (Letters, 8 November) calls for lorries to be able to stop as quickly as cars travelling at the same speed. This is a tall order, bearing in mind their respective all-up weights in relation to the tyre-to-road contact area of each, through which the decelerating force must be transmitted.

If a 40-tonne articulated truck could be braked as efficiently as a modern small car, its loads would have to be secured far more rigidly to stop them shooting forward under fierce retardation. The vehicle would have to be constructed much more strongly, adding substantially to its unladen weight, and reducing its payload capacity. Freight costs per ton-mile would rise accordingly and that extra cost would have to be passed on to the hard-pressed consumer. I suggest that, short of providing separate motorways for car and lorry traffic, there have to be compromises in the real world of road transport.

Alan Bunting

Harpenden, Hertfordshire


In reply to calls for vehicles to have GPS monitoring to ensure compliance with the speed limit, you will have noticed that at least six HGVs were involved in this incident. They are speed limited to 56mph. That did not prevent them from crashing, so what is the logic?

What we should be talking about is whether the speeds were excessive for the conditions. Driving into the back of someone at 69mph is legal but has tragic consequences. Whether the limit is 70 or 80 does not mean you have to drive up to it.

Roger Slater

Malvern, Worcestershire

Olympic day out for Cameron?


Given that "there was no money left" by the last administration, and the assurance from the current administration that "we are all in it together" as we face rigorous austerity measures, should we be surprised that the Government has purchased over 8,000 Olympic tickets?

I hope that Cameron, Clegg et al, aka the 1 per cent, enjoy yet another freebie paid for off the backs of the taxpayers, most of whom will either be working or watching on TV.

Martyn Shepherd



The Department for Culture Media and Sport must have an enormous credit limit on their Visa card, as no doubt they were awarded the tickets through the ballot. If they received the same per cent allocation that I did, I calculate their credit limit must be in excess of £25m.

David Cox

Sevenoaks, Kent

At least it's better than the dole

The Government and newspapers should not get too optimistic that there has been "only" a 12 per cent fall in applications for higher education in advance of the new £27,000 fees from 2012. The application figures would be a lot lower, except that the only real alternative to 30 years of deep debt after three years on an overpriced course is joining the one million young people already on the dole. At least next year's entrants have the hope of a more youth-friendly new Government upon graduation in 2015.

Paul Ives

Croydon, Surrey


We read that the French President is being criticised for his lack of diplomacy in commenting about Benjamin Netanyahu that "he's a liar". Surely the real issue is whether the Israeli Prime Minister is or is not a liar. Or are we meant to know or assume that he is, so it's all rather old news?

Mike Simpson

Warlingham, Surrey

Royalty tracked

According to reports (9 November), Prince William is among the high-profile people who have been tracked by private investigators over the years. It is worrying that the royal protection squad should not have been aware of this and able to take countermeasures.

Michael Boswell

New Buckenham, Norfolk