Letters: Anger simmers over energy bills

These letters appear in the Friday 18th October edition of the Independent

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Ed Miliband’s promise to freeze energy prices was greeted with scare tactics. However, when people realise how much more they are going to have to pay, I suspect they will regard Mr Miliband as a parlour pink rather than a red-in-tooth-and-claw socialist. 

SSE announced average price rises of 8.2 per cent, but I discovered yesterday they will be increasing my electricity charge by 11.5 per cent. I wonder which consumers will discover they are below the average? I doubt if it will be private customers, who are struggling to manage their household budgets on frozen or reducing incomes.

The sans-culottes are not yet marching down Whitehall, but the Government is so out of touch that the tumbrels will be crossing Horse Guards Parade before the ruling clique is aware that its plan to steal from the poor and give to the rich has finally been rumbled. 

Peter Martin, Milton, Ross-shire

We won’t tackle soaring fuel bills until we tackle the root cause of the problem – the rocketing price of gas (“Tories target subsidy fund after energy firm raises prices by 10 per cent”,  11 October).

Ending our addiction to fossil fuels, slashing energy waste and developing the United Kingdom’s huge renewable energy resources would not only provide us with an affordable energy system, it would also help combat the growing threat of climate change.

Last month major financial institutions, including the Bank of America and the insurance giant Aviva, accused the Government of scaring off investment in Britain’s renewable energy sector because of its refusal to include a power-sector decarbonisation target in its Energy Bill.

Many peers in the House of Lords are known to share this view, and look increasingly likely to reverse the Government’s block on a decarbonisation target later this month.

Faced with fresh scientific warnings about the impacts of climate change and the urgent need to fix our broken energy system the Government must drop its opposition to a clean power target.

Andy Atkins, Executive Director,  Friends of the Earth,  London N1

In all the furore about the fixing of energy prices, no one has pointed out that one of the best ways to reduce our energy consumption and CO2 emissions would be to radically increase prices.

It would encourage us to insulate our houses, keep them cooler and make do with smaller abodes. As for Labour’s promise to fix prices – it is so woefully populist and inane as to not be worthy of comment, only despair.

Lars McBride, London SW19


Who is lying, police or politician?

You may be right that public faith in the police has been tested by “Plebgate” (leading article, 17 October), though nothing like as much as our patience has been tested. However, since public faith in politicians is far, far lower than in the police, we’re still giving the benefit of the doubt to the police.

It will take more than the claims of sleaze-ridden, bandwagon-jumping politicians to shake our belief in the police.

Paul Harper, London E15

Like most citizens – and all members of the Tory party – I tend to take the police side, which is what makes “Plebgate” such an own goal.

A constable having a bad hair day and exaggerating an incident is not such a big deal, but discrediting a senior politician and having your pals back you up makes it worse. It got much worse when three Police Federation officers misrepresented a meeting with the politician, and out of control when three chief constables whitewashed them.

Front-line police are betrayed by such deplorable leadership and “Plebgate” shows how right the decision is to open top police jobs to outsiders such as Army officers.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews

A couple of years ago, I was stopped early one Sunday morning by two policemen in an unmarked car and accused of using my mobile phone while driving. In vain I protested that my phone had remained in a zipped jacket pocket since I had left home. I received a summons.

My lawyer pointed out the difficulty and expense of a defence based on my word against that of two policemen. I had just been made redundant and was in no state to attend court to contest the allegation. The result was a fine and three points on a licence unblemished for almost 30 years.

We now know all too well that some politicians lie. However, we should not rush to assume they invariably do so and that the police, most of whom like most politicians are honest, invariably tell the truth.

Name and address supplied


Oxford’s case for higher fees

Clive Tiney’s comments about Professor Hamilton’s speech are misleading (Letters, 16 October). Oxford uses nearly half of its additional fee income to recruit and support less advantaged students. Our package of needs-targeted fee reductions, bursaries and other support is more generous than that of any other major UK University.

We are committed to our historic mission of ensuring that the most able students can study with us whatever their circumstances. Philanthropists from the Middle Ages to the present day have enabled us to offer scholarships.

As the Vice-Chancellor pointed out, the financial crisis has meant that necessary savings in public expenditure have resulted in a shift in support for higher education from the taxpayer to the student, through reductions in government grant and increases in fees. It would be unwise to base our plans on the expectation that this trend will reverse in the near future.

What has been exposed by this shift, however, is that artificially capping the fee so much below our costs of teaching produces anomalies. It can be argued that a fee cap is regressive, preventing us from focusing our resources as well as we might on those who most need our support. If the Government were to decide to liberalise the market in university fees, I am confident that even more students who need our support would be able to afford to study at Oxford.

W S James, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resource Allocation), University of Oxford


Keep misogyny out of sex

Nigel Scott makes a valid point in saying that we should not seek to control the sexual practices of consenting adults (letter, 16 October), but he fails to demolish Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s central argument, which is that too many women are complicit in misogyny.  

I put this down mainly to lack of education, so that ignorant young women just want to be pretty and famous, and do not understand that objectification leads to contempt for women and is connected to violence against them.

However I do not believe that women have “completely capitulated to the forces of darkness” if they watch or play out a bit of submission fantasy in an affectionate relationship. The notion of submitting sexually is exciting to many men and women, both straight and gay, which seems to me to suggest that it is, for most of them, no more than a strange but compelling fantasy.

I am much more concerned about young boys and girls watching this stuff on the internet and then assuming that this is real, normal and how women are treated and should be treated.

Julie Harrison, Hertford


Great War with  no Germans

It is disappointing that the BBC’s extensive output of commemorative First World War programmes will not include any commissioned from German sources (report, 14 October). This is a petty and short-sighted omission.

Germany gave us the outstanding novel on the Great War, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, and not even the celebrated American film adaptation of that book can match the bleakness and impact of Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s film Westfront 1918. So it has to be hoped that the BBC will at least include these works as evidence of earlier German depiction of the war, even if the corporation believes that today’s Germans have nothing interesting to say about it.

David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire


Hurrying past the poor

David Cameron is like one of those polite people you pass in the street who ask, “How are you?” but quickly pass by before you have time to reply.

One morning soon, as he hurries along past rough sleepers waking up in shop doorways, queues waiting for the food banks to open, and people coming out of all-hours’ money lenders, he really ought to stop and listen to what they have to say.

Geoff Naylor, Winchester


Airport cache not for us

The Order of Malta wishes to state in the strongest possible terms that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the claims made in your newspaper of Thursday 3 October that our organisation had tried to claim a €20bn cache currently held in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The Order of Malta is a worldwide charitable organisation with projects running in 120 countries. Our sole aim is to care for the poor and the sick with total impartiality and neutrality.

Richard Fitzalan Howard, President, The British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, London NW8


GM tests

I am not opposed to GM in principle (Letters, 16 October), but amongst all the arguments for and against, there are two overwhelming issues that must be dealt with before GM crops are grown in the UK. There must be proof that the consumption of GM food is not harmful to humans in the long run – not yet possible. And GM producers must ensure 100 per cent that there is no cross-pollination with natural crops – impossible. Case closed.

Eric Fitch, Hereford


Coronate that

I’ve been saying “coronated” (letters, 14, 17 October) since I was a small child, not long after Princess Elizabeth got coronated. It’s so obvious, I’m surprised it hasn’t been OEDificated yet.

Anne Waddingham, Tonbridge, Kent


US lesson

The current silliness in the US government surely clarifies the foolishness of giving the House of Lords the status of an elected body.

Tony Lake, Hertford