It is despicable that George Osborne should use the deaths of six children at the hands of their violent, equally despicable father to make the case for benefit cuts.
Only 10 per cent of the benefits costs goes to out-of-work families, the rest to families on low wages which we, the taxpayers pay, to top up with working-family tax credits. Housing benefit goes not to the poor but to landlords who in many cases due to housing shortages charge exorbitant rents.
Benefit fraud costs 0.07 per cent of payment less than £1bn; tax avoidance costs at least £70bn a year. To effectively cut the benefits bill, the Government needs to make it mandatory for companies to pay their workers the living – not minimum – wages and bring in regulation of rents so landlords receive a reasonable return on their investment, not an excessive one.
Valerie Crews, Beckenham, Kent
I thought that human beings couldn’t sink much lower. Then I saw George Osborne, on television, using this in his warfare on the welfare state, which could result in the deaths of many more children than six. Using the deaths of innocent children for political purposes is cynical and evil.
John Tilbury, Tingley, West Yorkshire
George Osborne asks why the state is funding the lifestyle of evil people like Mick Philpott. One might ask him why the state is supporting the lifestyle of bankers and their like whose greed and incompetence brought the country to its knees, but who have been bailed out to a far greater level without any apparent change in their behaviour.
Geoffrey Payne, London W5
Nothing mitigates Philpott’s crimes, but very little mitigates George Osborne’s blatant class hatred, which contributes to the impossible circumstances in which people at the bottom of the social pile are condemned to scratch around.
If Philpott is a bit cleverer with money than Osborne, it’s not surprising. He did not have the cushion of millions earned by his family selling wallpaper. Perhaps Osborne could learn from Philpott that it’s smarter to pull the revenue in, to spend it and boost the economy.
David Penn, Kendal, Cumbria
It was predictable that Osborne should try to make political capital out of Philpott but wrings his hands over the wealthy tax avoiders who play the tax system for far greater gain. I don’t hear him calling for a debate in this, which has significantly greater potential to put more money into the coffers than many thousands of Philpotts could remove.
Geoff Griffiths, South Wingfield, Derbyshire
Another aspect of the Philpott story I find shocking is that this violent and abusive man could so easily find successive women so insecure that his control felt like “protection”. All commendation to Lisa Willis, who had the courage to leave and stand up to his threats.
Sarah Thursfield, Llanymynech, Powys
Philpott’s motive in setting fire to his council house may have been to get a bigger one while blaming his former mistress for the blaze and thus getting her into trouble.
Yet he was equally encouraged by his addiction to celebrity, fed over years by the media, with the assistance of celebrity figures such as Jeremy Kyle and Ann Widdecombe. There was even a local reporter tasked with writing regular stories about Philpott for the local paper.
Vaughan Grylls, London WC1
Mick Philpott’s welfare lifestyle may or may not have cost the taxpayer £100,000 a year, but with the average expense of keeping someone in prison estimated at an £50,000 a year, the cost of sending him, his wife and his friend to jail will exceed that by a wide margin. Criminals are supposed to pay for their crimes. Now, whether for banksters or other criminals, it’s the taxpayer who picks up the tab.
Simon Prentis, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Deport danger of Abu Qatada
Consulting my copy of Boswell, I notice that Dr Johnson is a little less sure of himself than Howard Jacobson (“Shoot the highwaymen and send Abu Qatada packing”, 30 March). Boswell quotes Johnson: “At the same time, one does not know what to say. For perhaps one may, a year after, hang himself from uneasiness for having shot a highwayman. Few minds are fit to be trusted with so great a thing.”
Boswell: “Then, Sir, you would not shoot him?”
Johnson: “But I might be vexed afterwards for that too.”
This passage cannot be used to support either the premeditated killing of Osama bin Laden, or sending Abu Qatada back to Jordan; also, rather than being “robust”, Johnson is tentative and thoughtful. Perhaps Jacobson could follow his example.
He might also consider the example of the Duke of Montrose in Boswell’s footnote: Montrose shot one highwayman who attacked him, but told his servant not to follow the other with the words: “No, we have had blood enough. I hope the man may live to repent.”
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
Jacobson is persuasive that we should ignore the judiciary and deport Abu Qatada. He’s an unpleasant fellow and it would be only a small infringement of a legal process that recognises him as a danger.
And there may come a time when it is a handy precedent to ease the removal of anyone else the authorities might think sullies this green and pleasant land. It is just that I’m left a bit worried. Might someone who encourages erosion of the rule of law not be a greater threat to me than Mr Abu Qatada?
David McDowall, Richmond, Surrey
The main argument used by protagonists of Trident renewal is opposed not only to unilateral nuclear disarmament but to multilateral disarmament as well.
The case used to be made that it would be useless at best for Britain to discard nuclear weapons unilaterally, but should use them in the bargaining in negotiations towards world nuclear disarmament. That one seems to have been discarded after the Cold War.
Now the case made is that Britain must retain nuclear arms for ever, not because of identifiable threats at present but because the future is uncertain and “you never know what might happen”.
But that’s not quite true. One thing which can definitely be predicted is that if the existing nuclear powers insist on remaining nuclear armed (and they do), in the end, most other countries will join them (as more and more are doing), in a world where everyone is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, all pointing at one another. Is this really a world in which Britain will be safer?
Roger Schafir, London N21
Trident replacement will not cost £100bn, but £3bn a year for about 30 years, a very different thing, and less than 0.5 per cent of annual government expenditure, and less than 1 per cent of big, ring-fenced budgets like the NHS, education and pensioner benefits.
Scrapping it would make no discernible difference to the overall position of the welfare budgets, but would permanently cost us many thousands of hi-tech jobs, one of our few centres of excellence in advanced manufacturing and our permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
People might desire all those outcomes because they favour unilateral nuclear disarmament and neutrality per se, but the supposed financial benefits are nonsense.
R S Foster, Sheffield
Mr Cameron thinks that North Korea’s belligerence proves we need to replace Trident, so rogue states led by slightly insane tyrants will be deterred if we can threaten nuclear retaliation.
What kind of insanity is deterred by the retaliatory threat of nuclear weapons but unmoved by the devastation that conventional weapons would wreak?
Only ridding the world of nuclear weapons makes nuclear war unlikely.
Stephen Hoyland, Lancaster
If we need nuclear weapons because of the threat from North Korea, the threat to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea must be greater. Shouldn’t we ship some nukes out there pronto? Could that calm things a bit?
Francis Roads, London E18
Stone me! Who’s got all the tickets?
I tried to buy tickets for the Rolling Stones’ 6 June concert in Hyde Park. As a Barclaycard customer, I had priority before 23.30 on Thursday. When I logged in about 20.00, the only tickets left were “hospitality” ones, costing upwards of £700. Now, on a certain “online auction” site, there are numerous tickets at vastly inflated prices. Can someone please explain to me how this process is fair to all? Are laws being broken?
John Schluter, Guildford, Surrey
Fine the directors
No doubt SSE deserved to be fined (report, 4 April). But it seems that fine will be paid either by the customers of SSE in higher bills or by the shareholders through lower dividends. Neither makes sense. If a company is guilty of an offence that any competent board of directors should have known about, then the directors themselves should pay the fine, lose all bonuses paid during the relevant period and stand for re-election at the next AGM.
THC Noon, Tiverton, Devon
Jump too far
Malcolm Howard (letters, 5 April) would need a wonder horse to clear 40 fences. Red Rum looked as if he could do just that, and one of his conquerors, L’Escargot, a class horse with a light weight, looked as if he could go round again. In recent times, Ballabriggs couldn’t do a further 40 paces at the end of the race. Still, I’ll be happy if my selection clears all 30 of the fences.
David Lyons, Stockport, Cheshire
So the Government is sending Pakistan a team from our Revenue and Customs to help them collect their own taxes, because so many people there, including politicians, are failing to pay up (letters, 5 April). Our overseas aid policy is not altruism but lunacy.
David Ashton, Shipbourne, Kent
We’re no awa’ ...
“As I sip on my pint, wary of the fact that it’s barely midday...” writes Will Coldwell as he investigates tank beer at a Balham hostelry (5 April). Good grief, what has happened to the proud traditions of British journalism? The exploits of Lunchtime O’Booze are clearly just a distant memory.
Stephen Dodding, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire