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Wednesday 21 September 2011
Letters: Lib Dems and tax
Vince Cable's latest rant about "fat cats" and their bonuses raises the question of how the Business Secretary justifies his ministerial salary.
When we elected this government we wanted an administration which would repair the damage that 13 years of Labour had done to our economy and rebuild an environment in which business could thrive. That would involve reducing the crippling burden of taxation on wealth-creators, removing the profusion of regulation that severely hinders enterprise and eliminating the plethora of quangos that drain so much resources from business.
There has been precious little of that so far, and consequently our economy is still struggling. Instead of trying to tell business how to operate, Cable should start to do his own job.
Listening to Vince Cable at the Liberal Democrats' conference, I thought it a bit rich for him to plead financial responsibility and fairness.
He has presided over a botched tuition fee redesign which costs the Government, taxpayers and students vastly more than the old system. He also tolerates a system that sees two identical UK citizens being charged nothing and £36,000 respectively to complete the same university course in Edinburgh. It's always interesting to see politicians lose their grip on reality.
South Croydon, Surrey
The Lib Dems say they are employing 2,000 extra tax inspectors to make sure that the super-rich pay their fair share.
This is merely smoke and mirrors because the Inland Revenue, as part of the cuts, is expected to make 13,000 officials redundant by 2015. A recent report revealed that we haven't even got enough inspectors to pursue collecting tax from companies that have failed to register with the Inland Revenue, resulting in hundreds of millions of pounds lost to the Treasury.
This latest announcement by Danny Alexander is a sop to the left of his own party, because the reality is it won't matter how many tax inspectors the Inland Revenue employs to pursue the wealthy if they are utilising legal tax loopholes to avoid paying tax. They are able so because successive governments have ensured that the UK is now a tax haven for the super-rich, and under the Finance Act 2011, George Osborne has made it easier for UK companies to run their businesses through tax havens abroad, thus avoiding having to pay tax on earnings in the UK.
While Clegg may have sought to position himself "on the side of pupils, parents and patients" (Mary Ann Sieghart, 19 September) the facts are that he has hypocritically saddled pupils and parents with hitherto unheard-of levels of debt and at the same time continued to support the Government's unnecessary reform of the NHS.
I, like many, belong to the "anyone but the Tories" sector as a voter. This meant that until Clegg's unforgivable move to support the Tories he could count on millions of votes, including mine. All of those votes have disappeared and will not return for a generation.
Rather than Clegg establishing himself as "the electoral heir to Blair" the more likely scenario is that the Lib Dems will ditch him and he will scurry to the Conservative Party where he belongs. Alternatively they will lack the courage to dispose of him promptly and suffer electoral extinction.
M A Shepherd
Simon Carr's sketch (20 September) reports Clegg's questioning at Conference both precisely and accurately.
As a first-timer at Lib Dem conference (I was the one who asked whether he was embarrassed by Cameron's relaxed attitude to internships for friends' families) I got the feeling that the party leadership was at such odds with us awkward grassroots lot that it held us in outright disdain.
With nearly all Lib Dems in government being Orange Bookers I couldn't help thinking that Nick and the like would be more comfortable addressing a Tory conference. We know how coalition works, we know it entails compromise – we don't need to be patronised on that subject any longer – but please, Clegg, don't be an apologist for Cameron.
The Liberal Democrats say we must keep up the process of fiscal consolidation and not waver from reining in spending.
Given that they have become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tory Party it is surely irresponsible that they insisted on having a separate conference, with all the expense that entails.
Foundations of Israel
John Strawson dismisses Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's statement that Palestinian land "was stolen to create a Jewish state" as irresponsible and dangerous (letter, 19 September).
Yet it has been extremely well documented that a majority of the pioneers and leaders of Zionism considered that most of the biblical lands belonged to the future Jewish state, and that the only effective way to achieve this was the "transfer solution", a euphemism for the organised removal of Palestinians to neighbouring lands. In 1917, at the time of Balfour's promise of a Jewish homeland, the Jewish population of Palestine was only 10 per cent.
Among the leaders who embraced this path were Ben Gurion, Weizmann, Joseph Weitz, and even the more moderate Yitzhak Rabin. The last was a military commander during the fighting in 1948. After taking the Arab towns of Ramleh and Lyddah (both of which had been allotted to the Palestinians by the UN) he recorded that: "I agreed [with Ben Gurion] that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out ... The population did not leave willingly. There was no way of avoiding force." (The New York Times, 23 October 1979.)
Israeli paramilitary groups made it their business to evict Palestinians. News of atrocities such as Deir Yassin spread fast, and many thousands of Palestinians fled through well-founded fear.
Moshe Dayan was later to record: "We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish, state her ... There is not a place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population." (Ha'aretz, 4 April 1969.)
Dudley Dean's letter (20 September) says a lot about the anti-Zionist agenda: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Try looking at the facts: Britain ruled the Palestinian mandate as though it were a colony, partitioned it to create Transjordan, and promised both Jews and Palestinians the same thing.
As for throwing people out, where do you start? Significant numbers of both Jews and Palestinians were displaced as a result of the war that followed the UN decision to create a Jewish state. Legalistic nonsense it may be to Mr Dean, but that does not alter the fact that it is true.
Mums who care about Africa
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes about "mothers who need to keep their problems in perspective" (19 September). I noted particularly her comment that Mumsnet and similar sites barely mention fundraising for famines in East Africa.
Is she aware that right now over 100 parent bloggers are blogging for Save The Children's "No Child Born to Die" campaign – trying to raise 60,000 signatures for two representatives who are are on their way to the UN General Assembly in New York and will be pressuring David Cameron to use his governmental power to help solve the global health worker crisis?
There is a huge community of mummy (and daddy and grandparent) bloggers out there who do feel empowered and passionate to help and raise awareness. But, yes, sometimes we do also blog about cake.
Dreaming of tax at 50p
A great many entrepreneurs are to be found among the small start-up businesses of young graduates exploiting their ideas, often based on up-to-date knowledge of engineering and science. They may ultimately be able to sell their businesses for a significant sum but will mostly earn only what their business can afford from a handful of staff and a small market niche.
Such companies are essential to our economy because they are relatively numerous and because some will eventually become tomorrow's star corporations. But who can predict which?
To believe that the 50 per cent rate of tax is a disincentive or relevant is to fail to understand the motivations and realities of entrepreneurial activity. £150,000 per year is as pie in the sky to most of them.
Dr D J Rhodes
Fight for wildlife
Peter Marren calls for a new focus on wildlife ("Our wildlife needs a voice", 14 September). We agree wholeheartedly with the need for wildlife to have vociferous and effective advocates in the UK, and the Wildlife Trusts deliver precisely that.
Collectively, our 47 organisations focus on our bold and ambitious vision for recovering and restoring wildlife, both on land and at sea, with the Living Landscape and Living Seas initiatives. Guided by this vision we are transforming places for the benefit of wildlife – and people too.
We inspired government to form the Lawton review to look at putting nature on the path to recovery and subsequently to produce its Natural Environment White Paper. In 2009, we led the charge for the first proper wildlife protection at sea and are now rallying popular support to secure protected areas around our coasts.
To inspire the legitimacy for action, people must care about nature. Through our more than 800,000 members and our connections with local communities, we inspire people to value nature in local places and urge them to take action for it. Their care for the wildlife on their doorstep has an immense national impact.
President, The Wildlife Trusts
Champions of recycling
Nicholas Gough (letter, 19 September) claims a record for recycling 1,500 newspapers. I don't think so!
When we moved 15 years ago, I recycled 5,000 papers (calculated by armloads times bootloads) to the special fund-raising Great Ormond Street paper bins. We moved again last year, and this time I had to employ a driver plus vehicle to move a full vanload, number unknown. He photographed the event, as he "had never moved a van of newspapers before". Is this a record?
The beliefs of secularists
I was sorry to discover that your columnist Terence Blacker does not appear to understand the difference between secularism and non-belief (20 September).
Secularists campaign to remove formal involvement of religion in public life, to end state-supported religious privilege and to move to a society where everyone is free to practise their faith, change it or not have one. Thus it is perfectly possible to be a religious believer and a secularist. It is probable that all atheist are secularists, but certain that not all secularists are atheists.
My heart rose when I saw the picture of London Fashion Week on the front page of The Independent (19 September). At last, a model wearing attractive clothes that you could imagine buying and actually wearing in the street. The only thing I didn't like about it was the incongruous dog.
Then I read the caption, and discovered that the whole point of the feature was that the ugly, scowling dog was wearing a little yellow coat to match the model's. My heart sank again.
Westhoughton, Greater Manchester
Dangers at the cinema
A lot of fuss seems to be made about smoking in films and the bad effect it has on viewers, especially the young (report, 20 September). If this is really an issue that needs addressing then I think other examples should also be taken into consideration, starting with murders, especially by firearms. I have noticed that a lot of films depict people being murdered, particularly by gunshot.
This had better be put an end to at once, if ruling out about 50 per cent of American films would be acceptable, that is.
Kew, Richmond Surrey
Girls just want to play football
The "Girls will be boys" feature (20 September) carried a large image of a young girl wearing the eye-black and mouthguard of an American football player. I think that it is time that we dispense with the "tomboy" label for little girls who wish to participate in sports (such as American football) that are traditionally perceived to be male. These little girls do not want to be boys. They want to play football. There is a big difference.
Dr Elesa Zehndorfer
International Federation of American Football
So Rupert Murdoch is donating £1m to charity. More useful than a packet of cheese slices, but no more meaningful as an act of contrition. Another insult to add to the list.
May I join the clamouring throng bursting to inform Pete Barrett (Letter, 19 September) of the majestic "Heads Down, No Nonsense Mindless Boogie" by Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias (Number 47 in 1978)?
Goring-by-Sea, west sussex
Perspectives on literacy
They are axeing the scheme that taught my son to read
When I read that the Reading Recovery Programme is to be cut (report, 19 September), I burst into tears. This wonderful programme is responsible for my son's ability to read. He did not go to reception and thus he was behind his peers in Year 1. I remember when I got the letter that my son would be in the Reading Recovery programme. I burst into tears then because I thought my husband and I had failed him.
I have a degree, I work in a professional job. I've been reading since I was three years old. My husband did well in school and his mother proudly showed me the awards he'd won for literacy as a child. I read to my son from birth. I bought expensive phonics books, flash cards, consulted friends who are teachers (both in the UK and US where I am originally from). My son still struggled with reading.
Once he was enrolled in Reading Recovery, he excelled. He raced through the books he was assigned and he read harder books at home. His teacher said that his vocabulary was outstanding . He is now two years ahead of the reading level for his age.
This government should hang its head in shame for even considering axeing this programme. For all the talk about improving literacy among children, they seem to be bent on destroying it, first by trying to get rid of BookStart, then by shutting libraries and now by cutting the one programme that has a proven track record in teaching children to read.
I wish Michael Gove could have seen the joy on my son's face when he first read a book, cover to cover.
Prestwich, Greater Manchester
Too much, to soon
We are told that "pupils who fall behind in class, usually at the age of five or six, are given [under the Reading Recovery Project] a daily one-to-one reading session with a teacher for between 12 and 20 weeks".
So all children embark upon literacy at the absurdly early age of four, and those who (predictably and in large numbers) fail to cope are then force-fed. And yet, despite the RRP (which is to be axed to save money), British children are disgracefully ranked 25th in the world for literacy at the age of 15. Rather than question current policy, which is both inhumane and ineffective, gullible journalists aver "Scrapping the RRP is not a saving" (leading article, 19 September). Oh yes it is!
The international consensus is that formal literacy teaching should not begin before six, or even seven. To start at four is not only a waste of time and scarce resources, but for most boys is counterproductive. And yet pig-headed educationists, civil servants and politicians persist in ignoring cost-effective practice in countries such as Norway and South Korea, whose children rank way above ours for literacy.
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