There are remarkably few Jobcentres in villages and small towns. Equally, in many rural areas, there is little or no public transport. How much will the Chancellor grant in extra benefits to the long-term unemployed to allow them to afford either the petrol or taxi fares to attend a Jobcentre that is, possibly, 25 or more miles away? Would he prefer tented encampments outside Jobcentres in larger towns so that people can be sure of being there daily?
Or perhaps he envisages small re-enactments of the Jarrow march as streams of people walk for hours to the Jobcentre and then back again? It is doubtful whether they would also find time to pick up litter or volunteer for charity.
As for those currently employed in clearing litter or cooking for elderly people, presumably they would be sacked so that the unemployed can do their jobs. Then, of course, they could find themselves doing their old jobs, but unpaid.
It would be reassuring to voters and taxpayers if the Chancellor would put such silly ideas to some sort of Common Sense Committee before he spouts them off to rest of the UK.
Pamela Guyatt, Lamerton, Devon
The Government decides to reduce the welfare bill by encouraging people to downsize (bedroom tax). It seems a good idea except that there are thousands more possible applicants for smaller homes than properties available.
They then decide to help people to buy their own homes by backing a 95 per cent mortgage. The demand will rise along with house prices because there are not enough affordable homes being built.
So then good old George decides to reduce the unemployed figure by forcing the long-term unemployed into work. How? There are not sufficient jobs available for school leavers and employable people. Who will employ those who prefer to live on benefits?
I despair of this government ever thinking a plan through. Any manager worth his salt would consider the whole programme, not just the party conference sound bite.
W Sandys, Chinnor, Oxfordshire
Pilots awake but still a danger to passengers
There is a danger arising from aircrew fatigue (report, 27 September) more insidious than falling asleep at the controls, and that is impairment of mental faculties, which may lead to poor judgement when decisions must be taken in critical situations. A fatigued pilot may be “awake” but not at his or her best at assimilating and responding to inputs to the brain from eyes, ears, and tactile senses.
Although alarming, both pilots falling asleep in an airliner flying straight and level on autopilot might not be as hazardous for passengers as an “awake” but fatigued crew flying a manual approach and landing at an airport poorly equipped with navigational aids in marginal weather conditions. Fatigued pilots might not even be aware that their judgement has become impaired.
Julien Evans, Retired Boeing 757 captain, Chesham, Buckinghamshire
Drug laws weakened
You ask (leading article, 30 September) how “die-hard supporters of the status quo” will react to the latest call for weaker drug laws, from the Chief Constable of Durham. The question itself and the absurd claim that drug liberalisers are “silenced” by derision show a curious lack of knowledge or observation.
Liberalisers are in fact guaranteed a prominent and uncritical hearing in most of the British media. Politicians, it is true, noisily proclaim their supposed toughness on the subject to gullible media. But the status quo – as any police officer should know – is that informal decriminalisation of drugs has been under way in this country for more than 40 years, and many of the ills that we now see are the results of that.
Those caught in possession of illegal drugs, including those in Class ‘A’, rarely face any serious punishment. Abusers of heroin are expensively provided with substitutes (mostly methadone) by the taxpayer.
As for the connection between drugs and crime, there is no reason to believe that legalisation would end it. Much crime in this country is based on the smuggling of cigarettes, and on the manufacture of alcohol. Both of these are, for better or worse, entirely legal.
PETER HITCHENS, London W8
Women who choose niqab
Patricia Baxter (Letters, 26 September) puts wearing the niqab in the same category as genital mutilation and honour killings. This will not do – the latter are monstrous things done to people; yet it is clear from your interview with Shalina Litt on 18 September that some women are choosing to wear the niqab.
A Radio 4 interview with a lady called Anisha Patel told how she and her teenage daughter were approached by two men who tore off her daughter’s face veil and then walked away laughing. The report said that the Cross-government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred put some blame on the media for prejudice against Muslims, and said that stories about the veil had not helped.
Your columnists have contributed to this. Such intolerance, expressed in liberal papers like the Independent, and the failure even to try to understand niqab-wearers’ point of view, are truly shocking.
John Dakin, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
The ostensible purpose of the niqab is to be modest. To most English people it is something strange and exotic, so it looks like attention-seeking.
I suspect that many of the new teenage adopters will eventually find that life is more fulfilling without it. Too much heavy-handed criticism will only polarise opinions.
David Ridge, London N19
Alleged bias in GP exam pass rates
I was dismayed by your report (“Ethnic minority doctors far less likely to get senior NHS jobs”, 27 September) about an article on bmj.com, which considered unproven allegations of discrimination against black and minority ethnic (BME) medical graduates taking our MRCGP examination – which is a gateway for entrance into general practice.
Your article said the report on bmj.com had stated that “racial discrimination in the marking of the [exam]” could not be “excluded” as a reason for the fact that BME candidates – many of whom are international students – fail our exam at a greater rate than their white counterparts. However, on the very same day as the publication of the bmj.com article, a six-month independent investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) found that “the method of assessment is not a reason for the differential outcomes [observed]”.
The authors of the GMC report said: “Our observations suggest that international medical graduates are treated exactly the same as British graduates.” They went on to say that “lack of preparedness” of international medical graduates “may be an explanation for the differences”.
The RCGP takes equality issues extremely seriously, and the official GMC report notes that we ensure all our examiners have “mandatory training” in equality and diversity issues.
Dr Clare Gerada, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners, London NW1
Ian Dickins (letters, 24 September) displays supernatural certainty about what would have happened if the Lib Dems had not coalesced with the Conservatives. True, a minority Conservative government might have swiftly fallen and been replaced by a majority Conservative government. Even so, that would have been a different government, in which moderate Conservatives might have been stronger, less needful of support from the right.
But other possibilities are also conceivable. The Lib Dems might have continued to rise in popularity, and been even stronger in a second election. Labour might have got over their downfall and become more ready for a centre-left coalition. Alternative history-writing offers many possibilities for the imagination: the “no alternative” defence for the Coalition does not stand scrutiny.
Professor John Coleman, Oxford
Rail lines ripped up in the 1960s
Malcolm Everett’ claim (letters, 27 September) that our Victorian forbears “omitted to provide sufficient north-south rail capacity” is misleading.
The lack of capacity now – which Mr Everett quotes in arguing for HS2 – is as much about what was foolishly ripped up or down-graded in the mid-20th century as it is about what was built in the first place.
The Great Central main line from London to Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester was built right at the end of the Victorian era as a high-speed main line, and it was built to more generous dimensions than earlier railways so it could take the larger continental European trains. It would be a valuable asset now had it not been thrown away by closure in the 1960s.
John Harrison, Wokingham
My journey home from central Manchester on Sunday was considerably disrupted by row upon row of coaches which had brought protesters from south of Watford to the TUC march. What a pity we don’t already have HS2 so they could all have come to Manchester by train.
Graham Curtis, Manchester
Food aid will kill future children
Thoughtlessly providing food aid for children today will not merely mean that they might die tomorrow, as Ray Chandler implies (Letters, 24 September): it also means that an exponentially increasing number of children will inevitably die tomorrow. So will the environment which has hitherto supported their forebears.
I know that the cold-blooded expression of such facts opposes all sentiments of kindness and dignity, but the laws of mathematics apply to biological systems, which include ourselves, as much as they do to the performance of weaponry.
The unconditional provision of food alone or, probably worse, of food and an alien culture, may well increase the eventual total suffering.
Sidney Alford, Corsham, Wiltshire
Was that a “Spot the Psychopath” photo-competition that accompanied the story “Netanyahu moves to block Iran’s return to diplomacy” (30 September)?
Eddie Dougall, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk