Letters: Bankers pay

Pay plea reveals bankers' poverty
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What a sad reflection Michael Spencer's article is on the motivation of those who work in banking ("Britain needs these big payouts", 10 March). "Why go that extra mile," he asks, "if you are not going to be rewarded [financially] for it?"

Who would envy someone with that poverty of motivation? That's the really sad aspect of the remuneration of bankers: they have no concept of what wealth is and clutch at ever greater piles of cash, missing entirely what one expects the original Quaker owners of Barclays would set as a definition.

A wealthy man is one who knows he has enough and enjoys giving what does not need to others or creating a legacy which will outlast him, not someone in the "rich list". A pile of cash does not make you wealthy.

Jonathan Devereux

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Michael Spencer says that high pay is necessary to motivate people to "go that extra mile".

Research shows that financial incentives are more effective motivators at the bottom of the pay scale than the top, and that productivity tends to be higher in companies with narrower pay dispersion. Those who defend stratospheric pay deals should remember that company performance depends on the whole workforce.

Duncan Exley

Director, One Society

London SE1

Finally we see a bank getting a rap on the knuckles for "serious misconduct" in carrying on with reckless lending, obviously throwing good money after bad ("Judgement day at last for the bankers", 10 March).

But who were all those favoured customers who took the bank for a soft touch and have now run off with the £32bn and more of our money that Lloyds has had to write off from the HBOS dodgy loans? I think we ought to know who they were.

Then, it was very easy to get millions for dodgy property development, but now it is very hard to get a few thousand for small business development.

L R A Melton

Milton Keynes

Sex and the meaning ofgay marriage

Dr Michael Johnson (letter, 9 March) is quite right to call marriage "a natural institution", but did it come about simply in order that people "of whatever gender and gender-mix" might "relate to each other"?

Or might it be that its origin stems rather from the fact that since human beings procreate sexually there are good reasons for social groups to recognise and protect such unions?

Dr Johnson's fastidiousness may shrink from the "animal-like task of reproducing"', but did not sexual attraction evolve for this very purpose? This, surely, is why many who are entirely in favour of civil unions for homosexual couples still feel that the word "marriage" bears an intrinsically heterosexual connotation.

Michael J Phelan

London W12

As a happy gay man in a long-term relationship that has endured for 28 years this year, I feel that marriages happen in the head, not in a church or a register office. If you feel married, you are. If you don't you are not, and no amount of men in frocks uttering incantations and waving incense about the place will change that.

We have registered our partnership for legal reasons at the local register office, and can see no advantage in heading back to turn it into a "marriage". All our friends and family see us as married, so if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, the chances are it's a duck. What's in a name?

Russell Pearce

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Chris Bryant (10 March) raises an interesting issue when he points out that a marriage, unlike a civil partnership, has to be consummated for it to be valid. So will it be possible for a gay marriage to be annulled for non-consummation? And will there be a legal definition of what amounts to consummation?

Gordon Elliot

Burford, Oxfordshire

To claim that gay people getting married will devalue marriage for everyone else is the same as saying that people from different ethnic groups moving into the community will ruin the neighbourhood.

Bob Morgan

Thatcham, Berkshire

Dominica Roberts (letter, 9 March), says that the ancient Greeks clearly understood the difference between homosexual love and marriage. They also understood the importance of not allowing women to vote.

David French


Case for quotas not proven

Helena Morrissey correctly notes that there is evidence that imposing quotas for women on boards may have a negative effect on shareholder value, but her assertion that the male-dominated boardroom of the past is "the wrong way to oversee a company" is less convincing. ("Women don't need quotas to get to the top", 2 March)

Many successful companies have had all-male boards. Just as any causal link between board diversity and corporate performance has yet to be clearly demonstrated, I am unaware of any research that directly links poor performance to homogeneous boards.

As the interim report of the Kay Review wisely observes: "Perhaps there is no set of rules that can define the composition of an effective board."

Laura F Spira

Professor of Corporate Governance

Oxford Brookes University

Helena Morrissey's argument that quotas are unnecessary to help women into top jobs deserves the support of active feminists, as much as of any one else geared to the realities of life in the workplace.

Having had a privileged view of some of the internal workings of our armed forces over the past 30-odd years, it's clear to this observer at least that it is vital to the strength of units, morally if not physically, that each sex has trust in the other's professional acumen, awareness and loyalty. It's possible to draw an analogy between military life and the civilian workplace. If women can show they can function well in the increasingly diverse employments they'll be faced with, this will promote mutual trust and fair mutual evaluation.

Quotas are very harmful to male clear-mindedness and a gift to women-haters or the easily threatened. They wreck the chances of group cohesion.

Georgina Natzio

Woodbridge, Suffolk

Stop stoking the flames of jihad

The end of the Afghan war must certainly be accelerated, as argued in your leader column (8 March).

We may or may not succeed in leaving behind a stable democracy – personally I think it most unlikely – but when will our leadership stop promoting the lie that the war is also helping to make British streets safer? The presence of Western troops in Afghanistan provides fuel for jihadists all over the world, and we should feel less safe as a result.

David Simmonds

Epping, Essex

Isn't it time to wash our hands of this rotten Afghanistan, corrupt and chauvinist from top to bottom? After 10 years of warfare, we've become hostage to the place. Al-Qa'ida long abandoned their training camps, and as for the Taliban taking over, that is exactly what is happening. The mission is futile and politicians are in fear of the soldiers they've sacrificed.

Collin Rossini

Braintree, Essex

Crime in the countryside

It is sad to find how many people have unrealistic and romantic views of the countryside (Terence Blacker, 6 March). One of the unrealistic and romantic views that has not been mentioned is the common misconception that there is less crime in the countryside; many people have decided to live in rural areas on the basis of this view.

As Sherlock Holmes said: "The lowest and vilest alleys of London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside." In close-knit urban communities crime is more likely to be recorded and prevented than in lonely rural areas where much crime can continue, year in, year out, unrecorded.

Edward Kendall

Goudhurst, Kent

London's great cab drivers

Susie Rushton pours scorn on the black cabbie's ability to know his or her way around the capital (Notebook, 6 March). Not only is this not fair, but black cabs and the professionals who have earned the right to drive them, are a truly great London institution, and tourists should be encouraged to use them.

The cabbie's unique right to ply for hire is constantly under threat from the satnav minicab lobby. Ms Rushton is not obliged to use real taxis, but I'm sure she'd really miss them if she was only ever offered the alternative.

Gus Alexander

London EC1

Unfair idea for train fares

The plan to vary peak train fares to even out demand will not only be complex and confusing, it will also disproportionately affect the lower-paid and parents. Commuters in higher-grade jobs are more likely to have the freedom to vary their hours; those who have fixed hours or need to transport their children to and from school or childcare will have little choice but to travel at the most expensive times.

Michael Hingston

Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

Begging the answer

The meaning of "to beg the question" isn't too arcane at all (Errors and Omissions, 10 March). It's a rough translation of the Latin petitio principii, which is the well-known fallacy of assuming that a point on which your argument is based has already been proved, whereas it hasn't been at all – taking for granted essential points which are actually contentious would be another way of putting it. Far from being avoided, it is much needed and should be used – correctly – more often.

Max gauna


How to spot a crook

I was sorry to read of the retired civil servant who had lost so much money in a Ponzi scheme (9 March). However, I note he was impressed by the fraudster's mode of dress. Surely anyone who wears a paisley cravat with a suit marks himself as a spiv?

D J Walker

Macclesfield, Cheshire

The fruits of corruption

Your report "Ofcom looks at stripping Murdoch of BSkyB" is fascinating (9 March). Ofcom's unit doing the looking is called Project Apple. That couldn't be because it's to do with someone or something being rotten to the core?

Mike Abbott

London W4

Traditional dishes

I loved Mark Hix's recipe for tinned sardines on toast (10 March). Is there any chance he could follow it up with his recipe for a jam sandwich?

Eddie Doherty