Letters: Enough houses? That’s the last thing we want

These letters appear in the Monday 7th April edition of the Independent

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Your editorial (4 April) on house building is welcome, but I think there is a core problem which is tragic and insoluble. Any party which succeeded in getting enough new housing built, in the right places, to dent prices would be committing political suicide.

Those who vote already own houses and would not take kindly to negative equity. Buy-to-let owners, looking for capital gains, would not like lower prices either.

There are those desperate for lower house prices. But they more often than not do not vote. The moment they become home owners and voters, they too will want house prices propped up.

Britain will never enjoy good-quality housing, affordable by nearly everyone.

Trevor Pateman, Brighton

I agree that “Britain’s building rate is pathetic”, but not that “a solution seems very far off”. Your leader and the speeches of the politicians omit the word “productivity”. 

Office blocks use components made off-site on an industrial scale, assembled by crane. Houses are still being constructed brick-upon-brick, using methods unchanged from Roman times. These methods are very labour-intensive, and labour is costly. They are also very slow. 

“Prefab” was a derogatory word after the Second World War, but variety can be introduced by using different colours and materials. Town houses using these methods in the early 1960s were built by Wates in Dulwich and Span in Blackheath, south London, usually grouped around a cul-de-sac where children could play.

Someone, such as the Prince of Wales, should offer a prize for the design of a good house, affordable and a pleasure to look at.

William Robert Haines, Shrewsbury

Your suggestion that more homes should be built may seem the obvious answer to the current shortage.

However we need to consider that Britain is a small island which can’t keep expanding to suit demand. There comes a time when we have to say no to more development of green spaces, no to more airports and infrastructure.

The problem is the population. It needs to be limited so that everyone can enjoy living here.

Martyn Pattie, Ongar, Essex

Your leading article of 4 April gives welcome emphasis to the gap between housing supply and demand.

Could someone in the construction industry please give an explanation of why this gap exists when we have capacity to build, healthy customer demand, ample unemployed people, low inflation and a government desperate to get the economy moving. What is the missing piece in the jigsaw? I would love to know.

Oh, and by the way, we are about to demolish four tower blocks in Glasgow which could accommodate four thousand people.

Rodney Freeman, Harkstead,  Suffolk

Why degrees don’t impress employers

In her letter of 2 April, Dr Maria Gee, senior lecturer in accounting at the University of Winchester, berates employers for only employing Russell Group graduates or those with 300+ Ucas points. As a retired lecturer in accounting, I can explain why this is the case.

The reality is that no more than 25 per cent of the population has academic ability, so with more than 40 per cent of the population going to university it should be obvious that many should not be there. What they should be doing is taking advantage of the many talents they have which are just as good as being able to cope with academic theory.

Now universities are under pressure to publish research and award good grades, and the only way they can do this is to dumb everything down. The result is that, outside top universities, a 2:1 degree is a worthless piece of paper. The real problem is that the difference between a top 2:1 (69 per cent but not rounded up to a first) and the bottom 2:1 (59 per cent rounded up) is vast. One student is intelligent, hard-working and highly employable, while the other has probably not learnt how to get out if bed in the morning. Yet they both have the same piece of paper

When universities go back to setting proper standards, then employers will again believe their degrees.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

Leveson charter for a free press

The events in Croydon described by Andy McSmith (“Long arm of the law leaves another journalist hacked off”, 2 April) have nothing to do with Hacked Off, Leveson or the Royal Charter.

In fact the Leveson/Charter system will increase the freedom of journalists to do their job. It reduces the scope for political meddling in self-regulation and frees the press from the “chilling” effect of bullying litigation by the wealthy. The only freedom it seeks to curb is the freedom of papers to mistreat the public without being accountable for it.

Sadly, the big newspaper companies are still  resisting this.

Brian Cathcart, Director, Hacked Off, London SW1

It is obvious that the Maria Miller furore is being stoked by the print media because she is involved in implementing Leveson. It is a blatant attempt by them to sabotage the process. Most worrying is that politicians know this but are still so intimidated by the press that they dare not say so.

Keith Brawn, Portchester, Hampshire

Israel’s right to east Jerusalem

Gordon Broadbent asks (letter, 1 April) why we are applying sanctions against Russia over Crimea but not against Israel for annexing East Jerusalem. The answer is simple: Jerusalem did not previously belong to any sovereign state.

Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish state of Judea for over 1,000 years until conquered by the Romans, who spitefully renamed their new colony Palestine. It stayed a colony under all successive conquerors until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The San Remo Conference of 1920 resolved to give the whole of Palestine back to the Jews and this was ratified by the League of Nations two years later. Britain was awarded the mandate over Palestine, specifically charged to make it into a Jewish homeland with close settlement.

Instead, Britain sheared off 83 per cent of the territory to create the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, and did everything possible to retain control of the remainder. When, in 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the remainder of Palestine, with Jerusalem “internationalised”, the Jews reluctantly accepted the small consolation of less than 10 per cent of the original Palestine, but the Arabs rejected the plan and five Arab states waged war on the one-day-old Jewish state. Transjordan illegally seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem, throwing out thousands of Jews who had lived there for generations. For the next 19 years, Jordan did not even allow Jews to visit their Holy Sites in Jerusalem  and Hebron.

In annexing East Jerusalem from a regime that had no legal claim over it, Israel was simply regaining its historic rights, in accordance with the League of Nations resolutions. Incidentally, many Arabs who live in East Jerusalem are very happy to be part of a democratic country with full civil rights, rather than being subjected to the tyranny and cronyism of surrounding Middle Eastern countries, or their own Fatah or Hamas.

Alan Halibard, Bet Shemesh, Israel

Gladys, a big name in Bolivia

Linda Grant (“Ask Horace, Cecil, Gertrude or Gladys if there is such a thing as a timeless name”, 5 April) might be reassured to know that linda is in constant use in Latin American Spanish and Portuguese as an adjective agreeing with a feminine noun meaning  “pleasant”, “lovely”. 

She would also be interested to know that Gladys is a popular name in Bolivia. There is even a restaurant called Tía Gladys (Aunty Gladys) in one of the main thoroughfares of La Paz.

I would also like to remind Ms Grant that Prince Harry is officially Prince Henry of Wales, but it was announced soon after he was born that he would be known as  Prince Harry.

Rosemary Morlin, Oxford

The name Gertrude “effectively extinct”? (Report, 4 April) Not in this household. Number three dog is called Gertie, or by her full name of Gertrude when she has hidden my shoes again.

Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey

Eat up your nice spinach curry

I was very disappointed in Rosie Millard’s column (2 April), in which she supports all the prejudices encouraged by the food companies to sell junk food to our children. In particular, her jibe about spinach curry was out of place. A curry of chick-peas and spinach (chana saag) is very tasty, readily available in most Indian restaurants and one of my favourites – and I’m anything but vegetarian. There is a recipe that adds tomatoes and that’s three of your daily portions of vegetables, or you could try aloo saag (spinach and potatoes).

John Day, Lyon