Letters: Budget bribe won’t help our grandchildren

These letters appear in the Friday 21st March edition of the Independent

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George Osborne may have calculated that giving money to the elderly in his Budget would persuade us, on the basis of unenlightened self-interest, to vote Tory in 2015. But he may not be aware that many of us have grandchildren, and we are appalled at the difficulties our youngsters are having to struggle with because of the policies of his government.  

With enormous fees if they are lucky enough to get to university, ever-increasing rents demanded by greedy landlords, unemployment or low-paid and insecure jobs, and ferocious and corrupt policing if they dare to demonstrate or protest, life is pretty tough for youngsters these days. 

I and many others try to make up for Osborne’s harshness by giving our grandchildren some of our pension, and I, and I hope many others, will persuade the youngsters to use their votes but never to vote Tory. Osborne may live to regret his cynical “Help the Aged Only” budget.

Tony Cheney, Ipswich, Suffolk

George Osborne, whose high office probably precludes him regularly frequenting public houses, and whose drinks in the Commons watering holes are subsidised by us taxpayers, can be forgiven for not knowing the harsh realities of pub life for beer drinkers. But journalists, even those of the modern school who do not spend all afternoon at the bar before submitting their copy, surely have no excuse. Your paper’s headline on the Budget “A speech for . . . drinkers” (20 March) is as misleading as a politician’s spin.

A penny duty off a pint of beer does not result in a penny off a pint. Publicans never change prices by 1p, and never reduce prices, and increases nowadays are 10p minimum, more likely 20p. After last year’s “beer drinker’s budget” I was laughed out of the bar of my local after asking why I did not get a penny off, and two weeks later all drinks went up by 20p.

John E Orton, Bristol

Has the Chancellor factored in a large budget increase for the policing of organised crime, given his gangster’s gift of increasing tobacco duty in the Budget?

It is only a matter of time before violent gang “turf wars” break out in our inner cities, in parallel with the exponential increase in contraband cigarette sales. It is similarly just a matter of time before, because of this ugly phenomenon, Treasury revenue from tobacco starts to drop off.

Nicky Samengo-Turner, Hundon, Suffolk

The new 12-sided pound coin just confirms that the pound today is only worth 3d in old money. And why the long delay to its introduction? It is only a coin, not a hi-tech device.

Colin Stone, Oxford

UK useless in aircraft search

The search going on in the southern Indian Ocean for the Malaysia Airlines aircraft points up the UK’s stark lack of military capability. Such a search can only be done with sophisticated long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

The Australians, the New Zealanders, and, of course, the Americans have provided Orion aircraft, and even the very latest aircraft, the US Navy’s P-8A.

This should be an area where Britain might be able to help. But we couldn’t, even if we wanted to. We used to have one of the best maritime patrol aircraft in the world, the Nimrod. Since 2010, when we grounded our current Nimrods and decided not to carry on with a newer version, this country has had no maritime air patrol capability.

This is an extraordinary situation for a maritime nation such as the UK  – and our inability is sharply emphasised by the absence of equipment that could help in this very sad situation.

Sean Maffett, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire

Am I the only person who is surprised to discover from the disappearance of a Malaysian aircraft that the means of transmission in aeroplanes can be so easily switched off by the pilot or others, or indeed switched off at all? I cannot see any legitimate benefit in planes having this “facility”, and a whole raft of dangerous disadvantages.

Ian Craine, London N15

HS2: most of us pay  but get nothing

Simon Calder, as usual, hits nails on the head (“Expensive and destructive, but also the only way to revitalise the railways”, 17 March). HS2 benefits too few and has a business case that is precarious at best. The environmental damage, especially to woodland, is completely unacceptable.

While it would be nice for Brits to enjoy the same high-speed inter-city rail service that most on the continent have known for decades, there is a far more urgent need.

This morning, I sat in a bus which arrived 13 minutes late and took 40 minutes to fight its way just six miles into town. For every long-distance commuter and business traveller, there are a hundred who face the consequences of road congestion and the failure to deliver rail for local service. 

Now that we see the result of pretending that road transport alone suffices, we need to prioritise the reopening of stations and lines closed 50 years ago, and building new light electric rail systems within towns and out to their suburbs and satellites.

Blowing the budget on a single system for the wealthy few may deliver political kudos, but it will anger the rest of us who pay but get nothing.

Ian East, Chairman, Oxford-Bicester Rail Action Group, Islip, Oxfordshire

One of the biggest benefits of HS2 is the economic redevelopment opportunities. We’ve heard a lot about these opportunities for the major cities connected by the high-speed line, but little or nothing about the potential wins for cities beyond the immediate confines of the HS2 network.

There is great potential through the connections to the east- and west-coast main lines for cities other than Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to benefit from HS2, but the challenges around realising these benefits need to be tackled now if these locations are not to fall behind.

In addition, many of these smaller cities could be reached by HS2 trains moving to the classic railway network to complete their journey. But this will require new or significantly enhanced stations.

We need an urgent dialogue between HS2, Network Rail, the train operating companies and local authorities to fully understand the challenges that the arrival of high-speed trains will bring to the classic railway network.

Jeremy Acklam, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2

Two achievements of Tony Benn

Prue Bray asks what Tony Benn did apart form talking “a lot of left-wing stuff” (letter, 18 March). For full details she should obtain the several volumes of Mr Benn’s splendid diaries, covering 50 years of parliamentary life.

But let me mention two concrete things he did. As the drums of war against Iraq built up 11 years ago, Tony Benn, then and until his death president of the Stop the War Campaign, flew to Baghdad to interview Saddam Hussein. Benn asked Saddam directly if he had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam denied he did, saying, according to Benn’s diary: “I tell you, as I have said on many occasions before, that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever.”

It turned out Benn was right. Benn also, when energy minister in the late 1970s, promoted the biggest ever taxpayer-sponsored energy-efficiency campaign. In so doing, he was years ahead.

Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey

Reasons for Turner’s strange vision

Turner’s eyesight has worried many for a long time (letter, 19 March).

Leigh Hunt in 1831 thought Turner’s “chromatic absurdities” might be the result of an ophthalmic condition. A “lens sclerosis” and secondary astigmatism were also blamed for the distortions of vision that caused Mark Twain to describe Turner’s work as “like a ginger cat having a fit in a bowl of tomatoes.”

The subject is discussed in the eye-surgeon Patrick Trevor-Roper’s The World through Blunted Sight  (1970) and by the undersigned in a biography of Turner. (Standing in the Sun, a life of JMW Turner, 1997).

Anthony Bailey, Mersea Island, Essex

Outsourcing the job of a parent

So the Government is to make £2,000 available to parents to help pay for childcare – just as long as the person providing the care is not the child’s own parent, but a paid surrogate. This will enable parents to fill all those job vacancies around the country, I suppose – perhaps in nurseries?

And yet we regularly hear that there is a “crisis of parenting” in this country. Just who is supposed to be doing this parenting, if parents are being given incentives to outsource it rather than doing the job themselves?

Marjorie Clarke, Totnes, Devon