Letters: Child benefit cap welcomed



The idea announced by Iain Duncan Smith that child benefits should be capped at the first two children in a family is to be applauded. We have a major demographic problem in the UK, with our rapidly burgeoning population, which causes immense strains on housing, medical, education and transport services, along with increased pollution.

The suggestion frequently mooted that we need an expanding young population to support the pensioner population is nonsense. The retirement age is set to rise and many like myself in our late 60s are more than happy to take up some of the slack by part-time employment, when we are not busy digging our allotments or doing voluntary work.

No doubt there will be howls of anguish from people who believe that capping benefits would increase child poverty. However, if we look at the third world, we see that poverty is directly related to rapidly rising populations.

Chris Dacke


We can no longer go on in the Labour way of encouraging and allowing people to live off benefit. It is time that all in our society started to take responsibility for themselves. If one cannot afford any more children, then one should not have any more.

We are hard-working, taxpaying middle-class people, who every day have to make decisions about our lifestyle choices and what we can and cannot afford. We are sick and tired of paying for those who choose not to act in a responsible way,

The two-child benefit cap will finally send the clear message that individuals are responsible for themselves.

Laura Maher

Hythe, Hampshire

Iain Duncan Smith is correct to challenge the moral principle of making welfare payments for children beyond the first two.

Contraceptives are widely available. To have children, and the number to have, is a lifestyle choice. In what other area of our lives do we expect others to subsidise our lifestyle choices?

The world's environment is being visibly destroyed before our eyes by an explosion in the number of our species, a 10-fold increase in the past 300 years alone. Yet most large environmental and humanitarian agencies remain in a state of denial of the underlying single cause of ecological ruin: too many people.

Alan Stedall


Is Iain Duncan Smith going to apply the same logic to the Civil List as he is for poor families, so that only two children per monarch can be awarded taxpayer money?

C Johnson

Brigg, North Lincolnshire

Mysteries of voting for police chiefs

I have received my leaflet about the elections for police and crime commissioners. It says that if there are more than two candidates in my area I have two votes: I put a cross against my first choice candidate in the first column and another against my second choice in the second column (though I don't have to express a second choice).

But nowhere does it tell me how my second vote will be used and in what circumstances. I am directed to a website where a small amount of information is available, though not straightforward to find.

This is a deplorable situation. Most UK citizens will not have encountered this (discredited) supplementary vote system before, and failing to provide comprehensive information on it can only deepen the apathy regarding these elections.

Professor Ron Johnston


You are mistaken in supposing that the wider electorate takes a keen interest in how their local police force is supervised (Comment, 24 October). The present system works well enough in most areas, so I can't see the point of the forthcoming election of police commissioners. Why should I bother to vote for a candidate I don't know and who is supposed to do better?

In the vain hope of registering my protest, I intend to spoil my voting slip.

Howard Fuller

Steventon, Oxfordshire

Bird poison already illegal

The article "Minister's astounding refusal to ban deadly bird poison" (18 October) did not reflect the fact that the substance in question, carbofuran, has not been approved under the relevant pesticides legislation since 2001. That means that it is already a criminal offence to advertise, sell, supply, store or use it for any purpose under the Plant Protection Regulations 2012.

The committee asked me to introduce a specific regulation on carbofuran, which I am not minded to do at this time. We already have laws in place to prosecute people who store and posses this substance and these have been used to successfully bring people to justice.

The assertion that I have ever refused to ban this substance is inaccurate, as is the suggestion that I have made this, or any other policy decision, based on my own personal circumstances.

Richard Benyon

Environment Minister, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London SW1

Private schools? Abolish them

John Newton, head of a private school (letters, 17 October), makes a long-winded argument for the privatisation of the British school system. This is of no advantage to society. Instead, abolition of private schools is required.

They are socially divisive, decoupling a disproportionately wealthy and influential portion of the population from the rest. Entrenching wealth, privilege and social advantage, they contribute to the creation of a section of society with no conception of how the majority live. Worse, private education seems to encourage in them contempt for the most disadvantaged members of society.

Privately educated pupils dominate the top jobs in business and politics (their private school connections easing their path through life), leading to the enactment of legislation that hacks away support for the weakest, while protecting and feather-bedding the lives of the wealthy and powerful.

Private schools also have a deleterious effect on the state education system. The creaming-off of bright pupils is often highlighted as a problem. But the creaming-off of wealthy, influential parents who take an active interest in their children's education is far more damaging. These are often the people with the attitude, desire, connections and influence who would be able to push for, and attain, greater improvements in state education; but once removed from it, they have little or no interest in its state or improvement.

Finland abolished private education in 1970. Their reward: joint top of the World Education Index, 30 places above Britain.

Barry Richards


Proper names for foreign places

Guy Keleny's comment (Errors & Omissions, 20 October) on "the relentless march of geographical correctness" usefully draws attention to recent place-name changes, and to the importance of keeping abreast of them. Equally, he demonstrates his own obliviousness to obsolescence and an amount of "unreason".

The "creeping geographical correctness" through "the spread of English as a world language through the internet" worries him. "More recently the madness has even reached Europe, with Leghorn and Corunna [the English conventional forms] replaced by Livorno and La Coruña" [Italian and Spanish forms], he writes. But the latter region in Spain is now recommended to be cited first in its Galician language form as "A Coruña", with Spanish as the second "national" form.

All this is not necessarily a case of former English name forms being "binned in favour of supposedly authentic local [sic] names, free of any taint of linguistic colonialism". It's also a matter of foreign nations, and major regions, wishing to promote their independence or uniqueness by using their own official languages, and expecting respect for this from other regions and nations.

Foreign place-names policy for British writers is well explained on the website of the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use.

Francis Herbert

(Former Curator of Maps, Royal Geographical Society)

London SW15

Energy: the cost of switching

On Friday, millions of people were hit with a whopping 10 per cent rise in gas and electricity prices, courtesy of EDF. Within hours, Number 10 was reported as calling for the public to "get a better deal by switching energy supplier". No wonder people think this government is out of touch. Switching costs.

The Big Six energy companies force customers to pay up to £100 to switch to a cheaper supplier. The two cheapest options of the four tariffs on the EDF website included "early termination fees" of £35. The Government should change the law and make it free for customers to switch energy supplier.

Steve Reed

Leader, Lambeth Council, London SW2

In view of yet another price rise it is time to find out once and for all the best way of using gas central heating. As with most people, we have our central heating and hot water on a programme, to come on morning and evening. I have been told from time to time that it is much more economical to leave the heating switched on all the time, fairly low. This keeps the house warm and the heating ticking over, rather than having to work hard each time it comes on to heat up cold water and a cold house. Is this correct?

Mary J Baines

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Savile victims

So sorry to hear that "this Jimmy Savile business" is getting up the nose of David R Williams (letter, 27 October) Maybe if one of the "accusers" was his sister, wife, aunt, niece, daughter or mother, he might not feel quite so sceptical about the genuineness of the " alleged accusations". And he might empathise more with the trauma of the victims.

Susan Denning

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Loyalist victory

It is reported that the SNP government in Scotland is investing millions in a new visitor centre at Bannockburn. Will they also invest millions in a new visitor centre at Culloden? Surely there is no shame in commemorating in style an English, Scottish, Irish, German and Austrian Loyalist (to the Crown) army's victory over a Scottish, English, Irish and French Jacobite rebellion, 432 years more recent than Bannockburn?

Richard Davis

Devizes, Wiltshire

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