Letters: Cheap labour from the young

These letters appear in the Friday 4th October edition of the Independent

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The Coalition policy of removing benefits from under-25s if they are not earning or learning is seriously flawed. The experience of similar TOPS and YOPS schemes in the Thatcher years showed that it was impossible to stop employers replacing existing employees with subsidised labour from the ranks of the unemployed.

It did nothing to reduce long-term unemployment then and will not do so now. The balance of power in the workplace will swing toward the employer, allowing them to reduce wages and change the working conditions of existing employees with little chance of opposition while a ready pool of cheap replacements is available.

The only people who will benefit from this scheme are those who wish to maximise profits at the expense of their workers. This government is appealing to the basest of instincts without thought for the consequences.

Pete Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolk


The Conservative Party conference has highlighted the disconnect between these politicians and the public.

The Conservatives are privatising our NHS. They are getting rid of public services, and think people should not care for others worse off than themselves. We should only care for ourselves and immediate family. If you’re poor, old, or disabled, and have no savings or family to help you, then tough! That’s the neo-liberal way, and the Conservative way.

No matter how slick their speeches are, or how passionate they appear to be, Cameron, Osborne and May belong to a government who are tearing this country apart. They’re gutting our welfare system, turning our NHS into a despicable American-style health system, and are helping to redistribute the wealth of this nation into the hands of the few.

Mr Cameron wants another term to finish the job. I say, leave now while you still have a choice!

Colin Crilly, London SW17


Democracy is for the frail elderly who have played their part in building the country, the managerial workers who are earning buckets, the unskilled on a minimum wage, and the yet-to-make-a-bean youngsters who need to believe it’s on their side if they are to contribute to it.

The 18-25s need help to believe it’s worth joining in a fair democratic country where their vote will make a difference to their life chances. We’ve now created a society so in thrall to material success that it feels fair to many that if you’ve made it you deserve more power, more say. That is not democracy. In a democracy, citizens are gifted their equality by virtue of birth, not by merit of success. We are running out of ways to convince the under 25s that there’s a shred of truth in this.

No wonder the ruling party can take the risk of putting their nose out of joint by taking benefit entitlements away from them. They are becoming the unseen, disposable minority.

Andy Thornton, Chief Executive,  Citizenship Foundation,  London EC1


Miliband hit  by US-style smear politics

Once again the worst from America has come to Britain. The Daily Mail attack on Ed Miliband’s father is nothing more than a homegrown version of the Republican Party’s lunatic fringe and their visceral hatred of Barack Obama, with birthism and questioning his allegiance to America. One can only wonder what will next cross the Atlantic.

Sam Semoff, Liverpool


Regarding the recent exchanges between the Daily Mail and the leader of the Labour Party I note that Ed Miliband has been invited to repudiate the writings of his father. I wonder if Viscount Rothemere would care to similarly repudiate the activities of his great-grandfather, in his promulgation of Nazi ideology and the funding of the Nazi agent Stephanie von Hohenlohe.

Ralph Miliband served his country in the Second World War, as did my uncle, buried in Bayeux after losing his life during the Normandy landings. On behalf of the dead and wounded of the Second World War I would appreciate an apology for the first Viscount Rothermere’s “evil legacy”.

Richard Beckett, Birmingham


Will the Daily Mail now do a hatchet job on the sons of the Fascist blackshirts whom it tacitly supported in the 1930s?

Ed Miliband’s father was not in government, and had the right to hold whatever views he wished, as have we all.

Collin Rossini, Dovercourt, Essex


The Daily Mail condemns plurality of political expression at the same time as opposing any regulation of the press on the grounds of its being an attack on the freedom of speech.

Michael Rosenthal, Banbury, Oxfordshire


At last, some clear polarisation back in British politics! The Tories clearly wrong, Labour clearly right!

John Healey, Coventry


Wind of change from Denmark

I work for a Birmingham charity addressing fuel poverty, providing advice to tenants, and although recent proposals to make switching energy companies easier are welcomed, there is a much deeper problem with our energy system.

With production and supply so tightly monopolised by a few large companies, there is little competition to reduce prices.

Through tax incentives, communities in Denmark own around 20 per cent of the country’s energy-generation assets. This has produced a world-leading wind industry which supports tens of thousands of jobs. It has also helped to stabilise energy prices, as there is less reliance on international commodity markets.

Crucially, it raises awareness about energy issues, as individuals take an interest in the system. This approach could easily be applied in the UK, with the right support.

Stuart Bowles, Birmingham


Trains pay the taxpayer

David Lindsay (letter, 2 October) is wrong to say that franchised train companies “cost the taxpayer colossal sums in subsidies and have abysmal levels of passenger satisfaction”.

Figures published by the Office of Rail Regulation on 22 August show that net payments by train companies to Government were £256m in 2012-13.

According to a survey of almost 30,000 journeys by the independent watchdog, Passenger Focus, satisfaction with rail travel is at  82 per cent, a near record high. Combined with passenger  growth, there are now  500 million extra journeys a year rated “good” or “satisfactory” compared to in 1999.

Competition between train companies in bidding to run services incentivises them to expand rail usage and contain costs. This encourages a focus on providing passengers with a better service, helping passenger growth in this country to outstrip that of major state-owned European railways.

Rail franchising is producing a financial dividend which benefits passengers and taxpayers by helping to maintain investment in the network while Government support declines.

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive, Association of Train Operating Companies,  London EC1


Outrage in the hospital car park

Among the many reprehensible ways of exploiting the vulnerable which are increasingly a feature of our society, I have recently encountered one of the more despicable.

We now accept that it will cost to park at a hospital but I am sure that not everyone realises the draconian charges (£100!) for an excess charge for a minor overstay (less than an hour!).

I did have cause to wonder what goes through the mind of an attendant trained to follow company policies as they issue one of these tickets. Do they consider the possibility that the driver could be a patient whose treatment has overrun or been delayed or a parent accompanying a child undergoing a stressful procedure or an individual trying to come to terms with distressing news? No! Far better to assume that it is an irresponsible individual wantonly enjoying spending more time than necessary in the hospital.

John Dillon, Birmingham


Railway to  the Vatican

Andy McSmith (3 October) might be right about David Jones but he is wrong on railways. The Vatican has a railway. It is not electrified, so a recent pilgrimage train required a diesel engine to haul it across the border from Italy.

On 4 October 1962 Pope John XXIII used Vatican City station for his trip to Assisi. Sadly, Pope Francis is travelling there on the very anniversary by helicopter.

Leigh Hatts, London SE1


Sub-prime thinking

Most people who don’t swallow the Tory line that it was all Gordon Brown’s fault believe that a major trigger for financial meltdown was that too many people were given mortgages they couldn’t afford to repay.

The Tories’ big idea to improve our situation is to guarantee mortgages for those who can’t normally afford them.

Huw Jones, London N3


Marriage tax

In these days of state handout carrots for just about anything, I see that Mr Cameron is proposing a married tax break to encourage couples to tie the knot. This will no doubt be paid for by doing away with bus passes and winter fuel payments for those of us who have been married for 45 years. Another well thought-out gimmick.

Ray Willey, Birmingham


Big lies

Now that we have an Environment Secretary who refuses to take the threat of climate change seriously, as well as a Chancellor whose motto seems to be “Rob from the poor, give to the rich”, I’m finding it difficult to decide which is the bigger lie: “All in this together” or “Greenest government ever”. Tough call.

Mike Wright, Nuneaton, Warwickshire


All-day GPs

Mr Cameron suggests that GPs should extend their surgery consultation hours to benefit those in full-time employment or with family commitments. Is it not logical that dentists, opticians, pharmacies, hospital out-patient departments and even barbers and hairdressers also extend their hours?

Sydney Aynsworth, retired general practitioner, Gosport,  Hampshire