Letters: Bank charges

The losers over bank charges are the good customers
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The Independent Online

The Independent says, "Bank charges, a setback, but the fight goes on" (26 November). The headline implies that "we" the public are fighting the banks and have suffered a setback.

The winners and losers in this are not the banks vs the public: it is "us", the majority of the public who have avoided overdraft fees (or not made a fuss about them) vs the nine millions claiming compensation "running into billions". Overdraft charges of £35 were known and agreed, and resulted only from personal behaviour: I have never paid one in 30 years.

But if "they" (the claimants) win, it is not the banks who are going to pay, it will be "us", the other 50 million people in the UK. Bank profits will be curtailed; that will mean less corporate tax income for the state and more of the public debt reduction cost being shouldered by us, the taxpayers. It may also mean lower share dividends; that will hit many of us with shares ISAs or stakeholder pension funds.

Finally, the banks may have to recover part of the current and future costs by reducing interest rates or introducing/ increasing account charges. So who will be the winners and the losers?

Giuseppe Bignardi


The analogy between defaulting bank customers and a car thief betrays sloppy thinking (letters, 27 November). An intention to permanently deprive is a key element in "theft", and banks have the technological wherewithal to prevent "taking without permission". Defaulting bank customers are neither stealing nor acting without permission. The heart of the problem lies not in any objection to the imposition of charges, but their extent. Banks need reminding that, like any service provider, they should charge a reasonable sum for work reasonably done.

The letter-writer should be subject to an immediate charge for his own default.

Marc Patel

London SE21

The Supreme Court tries to justify the high fees for unauthorised overdrafts on the grounds that this will stop the cross-subsidisation of borrowers by those bank customers who stay in credit.

I now await a judgment forcing the banks to repay the vast subsidy given to them by those customers with credit balances but whose return on their funds has been minimal or even zero.

Nigel Wilkins

London Sw7

Patient care not top of NHS priorities

How much further can our NHS go down the pan before it is scrapped in its present form? Your report about the death rate and the A&E wait at Basildon hospital (27 November) is just the latest in a string of reported hospital disasters.

I left the NHS in 1992 because I had become aware patient care was falling from the top of the agenda to be replaced by more "management" and the practice of defensive medicine. I have seen eminent doctors in tears over management decisions where patient care was so far down the priority list that the doctors concerned were driven to moral devastation.

The case of a dear local colleague who took his personal tragedy to the media when he lost his beloved wife to a hospital infection, is a fine example of the state of affairs. I cannot understand how we have reached the state where we can tolerate such malpractice without lawsuits for manslaughter.

We have in the NHS a culture of neglect and maltreatment that is inexcusable under any circumstances. We must replace the present management-driven system and return to an authoritative system where the care of the patient is paramount, and those who are charged with that care are ultimately responsible.

Dr Tim Lawson

Cheam, Surrey

I was concerned to read of the reported conditions that have been brought to light about two NHS Foundation Trusts.

As a nurse with more than 30 years' experience, I know that nurses and midwives often work in difficult environments, but they are also responsible for upholding the principles within the code, Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. Within the code, they are expected to manage risk and make the care of people their first concern.

The code remains relevant throughout a nurse or midwife's career, so it applies equally to those in senior leadership roles. We are now considering our course of action in accordance with the Nursing and Midwifery Order (2001).

We are also considering whether Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust and Basildon and Thurrock NHS Trust are providing suitable learning environments for nursing and midwifery students. We will be discussing the situation with the universities, because we have the authority to remove students if the learning environments prove detrimental to their pre-registration education.

Effective partnership, working between regulators, individual nurses and midwives and the public is pivotal to ensuring the public continues to have confidence in the professions and the health services.

We are committed to working in partnership with the Care Quality Commission and would urge anyone who has a concern about the conduct of an individual nurse or midwife to speak to the person in charge or to contact the NMC.

Dickon Weir-Hughes

Chief Executive and Registrar, Nursing & Midwifery Council, London W1

Advent calendars ignore meaning

With some disappointment, I read the articles in the Life section on Advent calendars (24 November), which seemed to promote the increasing trend towards secularisation (and commercialisation) of religious events, in that only one calendar featured showed any relevance to the true meaning of Advent. Whether Christmas is regarded as a religious festival celebrating the birth of Christ, or a more secular event promoting a celebration of family values and sharing is not the point, since it can be, and is, enjoyed by all cultures and creeds.

But Advent surely is the period anticipating the birth of Christ, and not the more secular (or commercial) alternative, and I would have thought this could at least have been reflected to a greater degree in the choice of Advent calendars.

Dr Adrian Canale

Rugby, Warwickshire

The arrogance of TV Licensing

I do not have a television. Years ago, I replied to letters from TV Licensing by telling them I did not own one, and that I took exception to their assumption that I did. Now I just throw the letters in the bin.

The other night, a man from TV Licensing rang my doorbell and asked to come in to my flat to check. I objected but allowed him in. On asking for the name of someone to complain to, I was just given a standard, mildly threatening, "We called and you were out" letter, with options of how to pay for a licence.

How can we stop these people from bombarding us with letters and disturbing people in their homes? Why should they make an assumption about our choices, and, more importantly, how dare they assume we are lying?

I am considering checking on my legal rights. Can TV Licensing be done for harassment?

Jennifer Kavanagh

London W1

Later-life problems spotted early

Your report by Jeremy Laurance (27 November) detailing new research in America which shows that early intervention in dysfunctional families can halve crime will come as no surprise to thousands of teachers in this country who struggle with anti-social behaviour in very young children. In the 1970s, I ran a small playgroup; only two children caused me problems.

One was very bright but destructive with no social skills; later, he was in trouble with the police. The other had no understanding of how to play or react with other children; he now suffers from severe mental illness.

These two children were four years old. Criminal behaviour is predictable, but treatment is expensive. So nothing is done.

A Dight

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Housing can help heal broken society

Johann Hari suggests that I, as David Cameron's housing adviser, attended a meeting at which council housing was dismissed as a "dead end" and market rents should be charged ("The harsh truth about Tory policies", 6 November). Owing to other commitments, I ceased to be a special adviser in April, and no such meeting took place.

But, in a personal capacity, I do fervently believe that housing has a far greater part to play in the rehabilitation of this country than appears to be recognised by politicians of both main parties.

Most of my thinking friends in the housing world, who tend to be politically to the left of centre, now believe that the ownership, management, and tenure of social housing, not to mention access to it, are all matters that warrant a radical review, and this provides an exciting and unique opportunity for an incoming Conservative Government.

For so long, housing has not been considered politically important, but if we really want to mend our broken society, to increase personal responsibility, to support the family and to save money, housing is the place to start.

Owen Inskip


Weapon inspectors were still in Iraq

Martin Shaw (letters, 24 November) is wrong to say the UN inspectors were "on the verge of being allowed back into Iraq" before the March 2003 invasion.

Weapons inspectors from the IAEA and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission were working – unimpeded – in Iraq from November 2002 (after adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a "final opportunity to comply with disarmament requirements under previous Security Council resolutions") until they were withdrawn on 18 March 2003.

James Budd

Manningtree, Essex

Adrian Hamilton's piece on the bonafides of the members of the committee (Comment, 26 November) came into sharp focus when the witness, Sir Christopher Meyer, let the cat out of the bag.

His disclosure that some of his telegrams to London in the period leading to war have not been given to the committee shattered any illusion that Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues have the strength of character to demand and get hold of all the documents relating to Iraq to establish the truth.

M A Qavi

London SE3

Colour choler

Liz Lightfoot writes (Education, 26 November) that the state school children in a maths classroom at St Paul's stood out because of their "pink pencil cases and polyester sweatshirts". How patronising. I suppose the fee-paying children wore only natural fibre, although what pencil-case colour may denote a better class of pupil escapes me.

Deborah Backhaus

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Mind the gap

My Independent last week was delivered with a wall-map of the British Isles showing population densities, roads and airports but without railways. It is published by The Future Mapping Company. I look forward with dread to further publications from them.

Andrew Gordon

Haddenham, Buckinghamshire

Picture imperfect

I have just read, in your Arts & Books review (27 November), Tom Lubbock's appraisal of Piet Mondrian's abstract art. An alternative assessment of Mondrian's work, in particular of his Composition in white, black and red illustrating Lubbock's article, would be instructive. In my judgement, an insightful second opinion would, albeit hypothetically, be provided by the young lad in Hans Christian Andersen's tale, The Emperor's New Clothes. And I laughed aloud at the assertion that Mondrian "firmly rejected his colleague, Theo Van Doesburg, for succumbing to the diagonal".


Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Give us a brake

When visiting our daughter at university in Kyoto, we hired bicycles (letters, 25 November). She warned us not to use the bell when riding on the pavement, because it was considered bad manners. When asked how else we should warn pedestrians of our approach, she advised us to brake lightly: all Japanese bikes have squeaky brakes.

Piers Hart

Thetford, Norfolk

Y me?

As a Jones, I concur with Bernard Smith (letters 26 November) but, although I never have been expelled from Libya, I have other problems. Most languages, in particular German, Spanish and Scandinavian do not pronounce J as the British do. Also, I frequently have difficulties keeping up with myself.

Len Jones

Congleton, Cheshire