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Letters: Food banks are part of Tory plan

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 3 June, 2013
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The various charities who report that half a million people now depend on food banks seem to believe that if only the Government realises what is happening, it will reverse its welfare cuts.

On the contrary, we need to wake up to the fact that this is all part of Mr Cameron’s idea of the Big Society, in which, just as in our Victorian past, welfare-funding for the lower orders was at the discretion of their more affluent neighbours.

Then there was no significant fiscal-based support for the poor, but merely an obligation on the part of the better-off, as Christians keen to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to feed the hungry, tend the sick, house the homeless etc.

It is this, the compassion of the giver, whether driven by religious duty or slick conscience-tugging TV adverts, that is to be the mainstay of our future welfare provision, with lower levels of provision coupled with lower direct taxation, which will put available money into the donors’ pockets.

As your report “Hungry Britain” (30 May) points out, Mr Cameron has stated that the increase in food banks is proof that the Big Society is working and his government, with little opposition from Labour, is assessing, through a process of trial and error, just how much state spending on welfare can be replaced by charitable giving. We can expect more cries of alarm from charities as more and more responsibilities are pumped into them until their “pips squeak”.

This is the Tories’ brave new world, “compassionate” in giving, “conservative” in lowering taxes, a system that failed miserably in the past and will condemn millions to penury in the future.

Colin Burke, Manchester


Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty are right to produce evidence of destitution in their report, Walking the Breadline. There is no need to create hunger in the UK in order to reduce the deficit. But there is one further recommendation they could have made.

At the heart of growing poverty and inequality is the absence of any coherent affordable housing policy for the past 30 years. Housing benefit increased because landlords profited from increasing demand for rented property in a market in short supply. Instead of curbing rents the Coalition has embarked on slashing housing benefit and leaving claimants to pay rent out of incomes in work and unemployment which are steadily diminishing in value.

Without an affordable housing policy food and fuel poverty will increase; so will the cost of poverty -related ill-health and educational underachievement to the taxpayer.   

The Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty, London N17


Muslim anger and the roots of terrorism

I have visited the West Bank, and stayed with Palestinian families living under the control of people who consider them a lesser, or at least “other” racial group. I have never quite been able to express what real bigotry, reinforced by a sense of power, really is. I’m not eloquent enough, and I always thought you have to see it in person to know it.

In regard to Muslim (and liberal lefty) anger, Howard Jacobson (1 June)  says that he “gets it”, and goes on to equate anger against the murderous sanctions against Iraq (perhaps 500,000 dead children before the subsequent invasion, with all the carnage that followed), the similar intentions against Iran and the ongoing brutality against the Palestinians with the belief that Western women have lax morals and The Satanic Verses should be banned.

This is a vile slander that should not be allowed to stand. Opposition to racism and wars of aggression do not equate to opposition to feminism or literature – good or bad.

Qasim Salimi, London SE16


Howard Jacobson beautifully exposes the absurdity of blaming ourselves for the radicalisation

of Islamic terrorists. I don’t much care for Saudi, Russian or Chinese foreign or domestic policy, but I have no wish to murder their citizens.

In a democracy an aggrieved minority does not have the right to undermine the parliamentary will of the majority. And this is why British involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan is an intellectually vacuous  way to “explain” terrorism.

Stan Labovitch, Windsor 


In the wake of Boston and Woolwich, the Western world braces itself against Muslim extremism and the Islamic community obviously feels vulnerable. Few politicians will focus on a main source of this problem: the active missionary zeal of Saudi wahhabism, financed by black gold. 

After the miseries we Western nations have inflicted on the Middle East we tend to forget that the majority of the 9/11 suicide pilots were Saudis. Many Muslims would abhor this puritanical exaggeration of their religion.  

Fr Christopher Basden, London SW12


In her article “Why do Muslims have to keep explaining themselves?” (27 May), I believe Yasmin Alibhai-Brown uses a false analogy. She compares the expectation of condemnation from Muslims of terrorist attacks made in the name of Islam, to asking why white Britons are not asked to condemn the use of drones that massacre innocents. 

These drones are not the fault of “white” Britons but of Britons; she is as complicit as I am, and yes we do both condemn the use of them in our name.

Carol Curtis, Holkham, Norfolk


How to curb payday lenders

James Moore in his Outlook column (29 May) observes that there is a simple solution to the problem of payday lenders, namely an interest-rate cap. What a sad reflection on those in power today that, as the headline says, “Regulators and politicians not ready to be courageous and set interest rate cap”.

Many decades ago, the politicians and regulators administering the British colony of Hong Kong had the courage and sense to enact the Moneylenders Ordinance, which made and still makes it a criminal offence to charge an effective rate of interest of more than 60 per cent, and determined that any rate above 48 per cent is prima facie extortionate.

An obvious law to address the excesses of an industry and protect its victims. The failure to introduce such a law in the UK in 2013 leads one to yet again ask the question as to whatever happened to the notion of responsible capitalism.

Nick Eastwell, London SE 10


Boots pays its taxes

Simon English’s Outlook piece (30 May) gives the misleading impression that Alliance Boots pays £2m tax on £2bn profit.

Last year we paid £114m tax, of which £64m was paid in UK corporation tax, more than double the previous year. This is even though more than half of our revenue is now generated in countries other than the UK.

Alliance Boots is fully committed to the UK, where we have a large retail pharmacy presence, a pharmaceutical wholesaling business and manufacturing operations. We employ around 70,000 people. In addition to paying corporation, employment, property and sales taxes in the UK, we have contributed over £1bn to our pension funds (which receives tax relief).

Yves Romestan , Director of Group Communications, Alliance Boots, London EC2


Driving round the bend

Your review of the Fiesta ST (30 May) is worthy of comment. You may think you have covered yourselves by advising that it is driven within the speed limit, but you are certainly advocating that it can be driven in a dangerous, irresponsible and reckless manner by suggesting that driving it at high “legal speeds down a bendy B-road” is OK.

This sort of macho review, straight from the Jeremy Clarkson school of motoring, has no place in The Independent. You are just boys who have been given toys to play with.

You may believe that anti-lock brakes and air bags will get you out of trouble, but that will be no consolation to the cyclist or horse rider just around the bend. You should not be encouraging such hooliganism.

Bob Stephens, Bovey Tracey, Devon


Long massacre of our wildlife

Patricia Lloyd (letter, 31 May) may be relieved to know that, contrary to what Michael McCarthy asserts (30 May), the decline in British wildlife began well before the advent of the baby boomers. 

The State of Nature report says: “It is well accepted that there were considerable (albeit largely unquantified) declines in the UK’s wildlife prior to the last 50 years, linked to habitat loss.”  The loss of British wildlife over the past decades has indeed been dreadful, but invoking the baby boomer myth yet again is misleading and unhelpful. It’s up to all of us to act more responsibly, regardless of our date of birth.

Lesley Riddle, London SW6


Range of opinion

Ben Chu’s article of 30 May told us that the OECD gave its backing to the Coalition’s deficit reduction schedule, that the IMF recommended the UK put its deficit reduction programme on pause, and that the European Commission advised that the Coalition should speed up its cuts to bring down the deficit. I wonder which of these authorities Ed Balls and David Blanchflower will call upon next in support of their critique of Government economic policy.

Nick Collier, London N5



The correspondence about “actress” and other gendered job titles reminds me that in the 1960s I was working at a girls’ secondary school in Sheffield. The day after Barbara Castle was appointed to  be in charge of transport, the head announced in assembly: “Girls, I know that you will be delighted that we have a Ministress of Transport.”

David Battye, Sheffield


Rape is rape

Is it time that men and boys learnt that, as with goods at a self-service shop, just because it’s on display doesn’t mean you can take it? Enough of blaming women for (some) men’s inability to know when to stop (letter, 30 May)

Sue Thomas, Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria



Nick Griffin and his supporters paraded outside Parliament on Saturday waving BNP placards proclaiming “HATE PREACHERS OUT”. Has nobody told them about irony? Or hypocrisy?

Martin Wallis, Shipdham, Norfolk