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Saturday 26 February 2011
Letters: Ex-pats and tax
Ex-pats should pay rescue tax
If expats feel the Government should rush to their aid whenever a crisis looms, maybe they should consider paying some tax towards it.
It seems they want me to pay for their ticket, while they contribute nothing. Why not leave it to the beloved free market? Or better still, the Big Society?
Lewes, East Sussex
With each passing day, the uprising in Libya has become more shocking, and with each new twist and turn the appearances of Gaddafi himself have become ever-increasingly surreal.
When the protests began in Tripoli on Tuesday evening, Gaddafi made a weird appearance that seemed to be based on Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain, sitting in what looked like a cross between an old-fashioned Renault 4 and a Robin Reliant, while holding up an umbrella and wearing what appeared to be a Davy Crockett hat and a leather jacket.
"I'm in Tripoli," he declared. It must have been met with some disbelief by most of those watching that Gaddafi knew where in the world he was.
His next speech a day later, from an even more embattled Tripoli, saw him ranting, in what appeared to be a half-finished home-improvement extension, that he would devolve even more powers to the masses, despite having ostensibly devolved all such powers long ago when he wrote his Green Book, which he brandished relentlessly during his speech.
He then compared himself with the Queen, saying "no one criticised her for invading Iraq" (surely she would have left that to Prince Phillip?) and asserted that Bin Laden was to blame and that the protesters were all on powerful mind-bending drugs.
I was beginning to wonder if it wasn't Gaddafi who had been slipped some mind-bending mickey finn.
Gaddafi appears a cross between Basil Fawlty and Adolf Hitler, dispensing faux largesse by proposing to devolve powers already devolved, while calling on his supporters to kill the "cockroaches" on his streets. Are crazy despots fans of John Cleese?
Newhaven, East Sussex
It is all very well for the Prime Minister to apologise for the delay in getting British nationals evacuated from Libya but it is hardly surprising there have been delays when the contract for the chartering of the plane at Gatwick airport was signed only at 09.30 on Wednesday morning.
If the Americans, Austrians, Belgians, French, Germans, Polish (indeed one Briton got out on a Polish plane), and Russians could get their nationals out, why not Britain? Turkey started evacuating their nationals a week ago. No apology can compensate for the unexplained delay in taking steps to evacuate our nationals to safety.
Why did the Foreign Office not send military planes in to rescue UK citizens in Libya, as did other countries? Could it be because they were outsourcing the rescue to the private sector, which we all know is far more efficient at organising such things?
Listening to radio reports of British warships in Benghazi, fighting in Tobruk, evacuation to Malta and planned SAS raids in the Western Desert, I thought I'd woken up in 1941.
Ancient woods are protected
The claims by the Woodlands Trust that the Government is considering the weakening of planning protection on ancient woodland is simply untrue (report, 21 February). There are no such planning changes being proposed. No government document has ever floated the downgrading of such protection. The Coalition Agreement actually commits the Government to protecting important environmental planning designations.
The Coalition Government is seeking to consolidate the 1,000 pages of Whitehall planning policy guidance into a shorter document. This will not undermine the local environment. Protection for ancient woodland in the existing guidance will be carried over. It will also help make the planning system more accessible to the public.
At present, only full-time planning professionals – from lawyers, to developers, to council officers, to NGOs – are fully able to navigate through these 25 volumes. Pruning such excessive government paperwork may actually save a fair few trees from the paper mill.
Greg Clark MP
Minister for Decentralisation,
Department for Communities and Local Government
Don't blame us baby boomers
Mervyn King's solution for the large rise in inflation is keeping interest rates low, which is all very well if there is anybody taking advantage of it to invest in jobs and producing saleable exports but useless in terms of financial gain. We need government-led investment initiatives to improve our economic situation, not cuts leading to a financial doldrum.
As a baby boomer, I am fed up with being blamed for the present financial state by inexperienced, selfish Thatcherite children. The parlous state of the world is not my fault. I have been educated by the state (thank you very much), had a career as a teacher (payback). I have had a conscience about local affairs and been part of the army of volunteers that David Cameron thinks he invented, and stood and gained a seat on the local council. I have even stood for Parliament.
It is all not my fault. We baby boomers have worked hard, paid tax, contributed to pension funds (where have they gone?) and given to the community. I blame those people who have led us into this sorry financial mess, the establishment with their inherited wealth who think they can govern and can't, and the nouveau generation who believed that using non-existent assets to gain wealth is not cheating and who led us into the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
This country needs freeing up for entrepreneurs, investment in actual products and reform of the property and land laws which lead to such a disproportionate distribution of wealth around the country. And which is the generation who will suffer most from the cuts in pensions, health and care? Why, the baby boomers of course.
As a baby boomer, I am getting somewhat irritated by the media's continued rubbishing of this age group. I grew up in the austere Fifties; it was not great. Yes, I went to university, all fees covered, but at that time very few people went and the country needed to improve its graduate cohort.
I am now retired on a modest pension (I think I am, strictly speaking, living in poverty), after teaching special needs for more than 35 years in schools in deprived areas.
Most voluntary work for my age group demands low-level skills. Any government worth its salt should be looking to utilise this well-educated group who can offer a wealth of experience and skills. Baby boomers are not a rich elite but a force for good overlooked in our ageist society.
Smaller fish are endangered too
Steve Connor's article ("Out with tuna, in with sardines – a recipe for saving the seas", 19 February) actively encouraged readers to "do our bit for the balance of the oceans" by choosing sardines, anchovies and herring over threatened larger fish such as tuna or cod.
Yes: big fish are in trouble, but what your article doesn't make clear is that because of over-fishing, piracy and pollution, we are losing our populations of small fish too. Anchovy stocks in particular are undergoing the depletion predicted by (of all things) Futurama; herring and sild from most fisheries, and sardines from some fisheries, are also becoming rare and should be avoided by the ethical consumer.
Yes, it is one of the biggest idiocies of our time that these delicious and threatened small fish are ground up for fertiliser and farmed fish-food; but aquaculture on its present scale is entirely unsustainable.
The ecological damage of the waste chemicals and super-bugs released from intensive fish farms is huge, particularly in developing countries, and eventually we're going to run out of viable water systems to farm in.
It is also misleading to imply that we're in for a bonanza of tasty small fish because we've removed the predators; experts agree that what we're actually in for is a takeover by simpler organisms like jellyfish, and more toxic areas in which no oxygen-creating plankton can live, which will in turn accelerate climate change.
A pension 'race to the bottom'
I was saddened by your leading article on public-sector pensions (21 February). You seem to be arguing that because wages and pension rights have been driven down in the private sector (apart from in the boardrooms), similar conditions should apply in the public sector.
Thus we become engaged in a ghastly "race to the bottom", with people paying heavily for a pension which will be worth little by the time they come to retire. The Local Government Pension Scheme is viable, with assets of £130bn invested mainly in the UK. We are already having to work longer before we can draw our pensions. This should be enough.
Could do better
Your article, "Teachers 'will face faith discrimination'" (18 February) is inaccurate. The provisions in the Education Bill to which you refer relate to voluntary controlled and foundation schools, yet you assert that they will apply to Catholic schools. No Catholic schools are voluntary controlled or foundation schools.
Catholic Education Service for England and Wales,
Perspectives on Burchill's views
A capital crime at the wrong time
With Julie Burchill for a friend who needs enemies? I refer to the strange travelogue under "Opinion Britain" (24 February), penned by her in capital letters on our behalf.
She advocates travel to Israel in preference to other countries in the Middle East ("gone there because they WEREN'T Israel" and "Dubai – WHAT a dump! and "PATHETIC!"). The article must have raised a few eyebrows in Israel, if, indeed, Burchill's column is read or appreciated there. Her immediate reason are the bloody events in Libya.
Yes, they are appalling as have been others for the past 60 years in Israel/Palestine itself, in the Lebanon and in Gaza.
This is hardly the time to make comparisons and excuses; injustice, persecution and violence are equally unacceptable wherever they occur. But please, no more CAPITAL LETTERS.
Professor PP Anthony
The Arab world is a haven to many
The Arab world awakens hopefully to a new hopeful dawn. But there can be no excuse for Julie Burchill's offensive and ignorant remarks. Whatever ails the Arab world, it has offered over the centuries a haven and a home to waves of immigrants fleeing persecution. Minorities, including my family, who originally came from various corners of the world, Armenians, Circassians, Greeks and others still live there in harmony.
I was not surprised to see Egyptian crowds spilling into the streets to articulate their desire for political freedom, making a point of showing their unity as Christians and Muslims in the wake of the recent disgraceful attacks on Coptic churches.
Those less ignorant of history will know that Damascus is as important to the history of Arab civilisation as Venice was to the European renaissance.
The blame game
Julie Burchill is right, Israel gets blamed for a lot of things, including: bombing Gaza; blockades; building settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, and having nuclear weapons.
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