Letters: Banks are still left free to run amok

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The Vickers report on banking reform had scarcely received the seal of approval from the Government when UBS reported that an alleged "rogue trader" in the City had lost the bank $2bn in unauthorised trades. Irony does not present itself in larger form than this.



The Vickers report will not be implemented fully until 2019 and within a week has been found out by the hardest stress test of all: reality. The banks and bankers have not only destroyed our global financial system but have been left free to run amok.

Had Roosevelt applied the Vickers proposals to the Great Depression when he came to power in 1933 and introduced the New Deal, then he would not have implemented banking reform in the US until 1941; around the same time as he faced the small difficulty of Pearl Harbor. In economics the relevance of Vickers to our predicament was provided by the memorable observation of JM Keynes: "In the long term we are all dead."

In 2011, if we go on listening to the banking industry and to the governments that represent its interests and the feral culture that brought us to this pass, we will be brought to ruin.

As long ago as 1995 the oldest Merchant Bank in the City, Barings, was destroyed by the rogue trader Nick Leeson. The trade was rogue but the culture that produced him was systemic; nothing effective was done in the City or Wall Street in 1995 about a banking culture that went on to deliver the Lehman Brothers bank collapse in 2008. Nothing effective has been done since 2008 to regulate the banking system, which is still out of control.

John S Warren

Callander, Perthshire



We have all come to realise over recent months how diligently bankers work to earn their high salaries and bonuses. It would be interesting if USB could let us know whether or not Kweku Adoboli's line manager knew what was going on and, in either case, what was their annual salary and bonuses and what disciplinary measures are being taken.

T Saul, Mansell Gamage, Herefordshire



It is alleged that a trader at UBS has lost £1.3bn.

Can it be inferred that a corresponding gain must have been achieved by the other institution or institutions with which the deals were done? Does anyone ever try to find who the recipients were in such cases and how big the bonuses their traders received on their winnings?

Tim Brook, Bristol



Shake-up for boundaries

The most radical overhaul of parliamentary boundaries for more than a century is sure to impact on local authorities both in terms of the additional cost and complexity of electoral administration and of the integrity of their own boundaries and thus their long-term viability.

To take London as an example, as recently as 1992, only one London constituency (the City of London and Westminster South) was made up of parts of more than one local authority. Currently, 15 per cent of London constituencies (11 out of 73) are "cross border" constituencies.

The Boundary Commission's proposals create a majority of seats which cross London borough boundaries (37 out of 68) and we will now have the absurd situation where the proposed "City of London and Islington South" constituency is to comprise parts of three local authorities (Camden, Islington and the City of London).

The London Borough of Brent will provide parts of five different constituencies but none of them will be wholly within Brent. A third of London's boroughs will not have a single constituency wholly within their existing local authority area.

The huge population movement within London boroughs since they were formed in 1965 means the largest boroughs (Croydon and Barnet) are more than twice as populous as the smallest boroughs (Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea). It is only a matter of time before London boroughs are amalgamated to create a smaller number of "super boroughs".

London borough boundaries could be recast using the proposed new constituencies as building blocks. A smaller number of London boroughs would bring economies of scale in the cost of service provision, a strengthening of the strategic role of the Mayor and Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies coterminous with local authority areas.

It would be a model that could apply in other parts of the country as well.

Richard Cotton, Sherborne, Dorset



No doubt the Boundaries Commission will receive many representations about the proposed constituency boundary revisions.

There will be objections on the grounds that the new boundaries will break up communities and local government entities

The truth is that boundary revisions, however they are done, will always cause such problems. These problems would be greatly reduced if constituencies were much larger, containing (say) four or five of the present constituencies, each returning four or five members elected by the single transferrable vote.

Simon Gazeley, Bath



I have sympathy with the idea of reducing the number of MPs in parliament and balancing the numbers of constituents in each seat (leading article, 14 September). However, I fear that the proposed process is nothing more than another means of squeezing the smaller parties, who are already hugely disadvantaged by the "first-past-the-post" voting system.

The Lib Dems, Plaid, SNP, Greens and others are forced to rely heavily on target seats, often with a crucial incumbency effect, many of which are the kinds of rural seats being merged or altered. We are likely to see the Lib Dems (who achieved 23 per cent of the popular vote in 2010) being reduced to only 7 per cent of the sitting MPs.

Changes which will further disenfranchise such large sections of the electorate, magnifying the advantages already enjoyed by the two main parties, can only be seen as detrimental to democracy.

Dr Chris E Finlayson, Institute of Maths and Physics, Aberystwyth University



I would like to make a modest proposal to reduce the cost of holding elections.

With a change to the voting system having been rejected in the AV referendum earlier this year, and now the Boundary Commission's report, surely it is time to consider something truly radical: As general elections are effectively decided in only 150 or so marginal seats, why bother having a vote each time in the other 450? Instead, just hold a poll in seats where the majority is less than, say 10,000, and in the remainder only do so each time there is a boundary review or the Member of Parliament stands down, dies or is de-selected by his or her party.

Richard Madge, Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex



Historical myths about Israel

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown informs that Palestinian land "was stolen to create a Jewish State in order to assuage the guilt of the Holocaust" ("Clouds over the Arab Spring", 12 September). Both statements are inaccurate and irresponsible.

In 1947, when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, no Palestinian would have lost their home or their civil rights, whatever side of the border they would have found themselves on. There would have been one economy and free movement between the two states and an internationalised Jerusalem.

Nor was this a plan to recompense Jews for the Holocaust. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine made it clear that the arrangements were confined to the situation in Palestine itself. The committee never once referred to the Holocaust as such, but in a passage on the "distressed Jews" of Europe (ie the survivors) it said the partition plan "cannot be considered as a solution to the Jewish problem in general."

In the debates that followed, with the exception of the Soviet Union, the Holocaust was not mentioned and many anti-Semitic statements went unchallenged – hardly a sign of any feelings of guilt.

Alibhai-Brown's views are irresponsible as they help reinforce all those who do not want a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In the week that Palestine returns to the United Nations to seek an endorsement of the two-state solution, historical myths are particularly dangerous.

John Strawson, Reader in Law, University of East London



Fighters for wildlife

Peter Marren is right to highlight wildlife decline as an overlooked environmental issue – and he is partly right in the directions he points his finger when looking for the causes. ("Our wildlife needs a voice", 14 September).

In attacking conservation groups such as Buglife, Plantlife and the RSPB he ignores the many successes we have achieved in recent years both directly on nature reserves and through dogged campaigning for better wildlife protection legislation. I'm immensely proud of our record but yes, we can and will do more.

The really interesting point he makes is around the changes to the business model of Natural England, the Government watchdog charged with championing and protecting our wildlife.

Wildlife needs a strong independent voice in this country at a time when farmland birds, woodland butterflies, marine life and many other species are under threat and habitats are facing increased pressure from a proposed planning system which puts the economy before ecology.

Natural England's staff includes some of the country's most passionate and able wildlife experts. Since the Coalition Government came into power, funding for Natural England has been cut and their public voice has been lost. We need agencies that are able to speak truth to power in protecting our precious native wildlife.

The Government has a responsibility to our natural environment and Natural England is a central part of that – they must be equipped to do their job.

Martin Harper, Conservation Director, Royal Society for the protection of Birds, Sandy, Bedfordshire



Heart fails to bleed for the rich

I wonder how many others like me have recently found themselves shouting repeatedly at the newspaper, radio and TV "The 50p tax rate does not mean that people pay 50 per cent of their income in tax!" - most recently at Ben Ambridge's letter (16 September).

You pay 20 per cent on the first £37,400 of your taxable income and 40 per cent on the next £37,401-£150,000 – you pay 50 per cent only on the amount above £150,000.

As someone who has never earned enough to pay above the basic rate my heart does not exactly bleed for those who are required to "give to the state" half of what they earn above £150,000 per year, a salary that 99 per cent of us can only dream of.

Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon



Ben Ambridge's view that a 50p tax rate is fine for high earners because of all the things the state has done for them raises the question of why this shouldn't apply to us all. I expect him to now donate half his income to the state, given that it's educated him, transported him and policed him. But include me out, please.

Allan Friswell, Cowling, North Yorkshire



Petrol prices will only get worse

To rail against the price of petrol is simply to ignore reality (letter, 14 September).

First, with crude oil priced in dollars the falling value of the pound is not going to help reduce prices.

Second, current oil production at around 80 million barrels per day is at or close to its peak. Because of the recession, production has so far been able to meet the demand, but any increase will be difficult and ultimately impossible to achieve, forcing prices up sky-high. It is forgotten that crude oil has many other uses, not least for the manufacture of fertiliser, other than just to be burnt.

Production is already on the downturn in all but Middle Eastern countries and there is good evidence that the published reserves for these are grossly overstated.

People are going to have to get used to living without private motor vehicles which run on diesel and petrol.

Terence Hollingworth, Blagnac, France



U-boats in Scotland?

The subject of German U-boat crews supposedly landing in the Republic of Ireland (Robert Fisk, 17 September) reminded me of a similar report, this time in the UK

While working as a community nurse on the remote Shetland island of Yell, I was being inducted by a colleague. As we drove past an idyllic inlet of the sea, I was reliably informed that it was common practice for German U-boat crews to "hide" there, make for land, and acquire sheep for their larder, and depart soon afterwards.

Andrew Champion, Oxford



Cut out all that nonsense

I was slightly bemused by recent correspondence regarding Status Quo, who are described as "providing two hours of no-nonsense rhythm and boogie". I've heard of rhythm and blues, but not of rhythm and boogie. This particular genre is I suspect unlikely to include Radiohead or Coldplay.

But the fact that "no-nonsense" is mentioned specifically does imply that somewhere out there are some nonsense rhythm and boogie bands. These rogue bands are presumably breaking the rules of rhythm and boogie by not playing the same 12-bar song over and over again for the entire evening.

Pete Barrett, Colchester, Essex



The Saviour appears

I must take issue with Michael Glover's 16 September Great Works column, in which he asserts that Christ appears nowhere in James Ensor's masterful painting Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889.

Surely the Saviour is the bearded man, with a large halo, sitting astride a donkey in the midst of parading revellers. He blesses onlookers with His right hand as the human comedy swirls around Him: a small but transcendent figure. Rarely has a work of art so amused and uplifted me.

Scott Varland, Purley, Surrey



Modest menus

I'm not suggesting he reviews my local chippie, but could John Walsh direct his gastronomic judgement and fine prose in the Saturday magazine to a restaurant which is both outside London and which does not require me to take out a bank loan to eat there?

David Kennedy, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire





Perspectives on recycling

Landfill fills up with useful hardware



It is reprehensible that an NHS trust in Kent accidentally sent patient records to landfill inside an unwanted filing cabinet, but why was the trust sending old filing cabinets to landfill in the first place?

If the cabinet was broken, it should have been properly recycled, and if it was surplus to requirements it should have been sold or donated to a worthy cause.

I once stopped the finance director of a company where I worked sending two dozen surplus computer monitors to landfill, most of which worked and all of which contained recyclable materials, simply because it was the easy option. One wonders how much unnecessary waste is created by large organisations just because people can't be bothered.

Patrick Cosgrove

Chapel Lawn, Shropshire



Waste means profit



We are told that "Britain's biggest supermarkets believe the Government's plans to change date codes on food will end up causing more waste and confusing consumers over what is safe to eat" (report, 16 September).

Present "Best before" labelling encourages ridiculous amounts of food waste every year and this is something supermarkets have made very little effort to discourage. Manufacturers and retailers benefit from the public throwing food away early because it means we will purchase more on the next visit to the supermarket. Forcing them to change a system that guarantees daily sales will force the prices higher to offset the losses .

The companies that make ketchup get rich not on the ketchup you eat but on the stuff you leave on your plate.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire



Paper mountain



I have just spent two hours "recycling" 1,500 newspapers. Is this a record? It can be difficult to let go of our beloved Independent.

Nicholas E Gough

Swindon, Wiltshire

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