Letters: Perspectives on taxation

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The Independent Online

A world in turmoil doesn't need income tax cuts

George Osborne is planning to cut the 50p tax rate for high earners (report, 6 August). So that leaves us with lower taxes for rich people; rock-bottom interest rates; tax and regulation havens still thriving; and no real action taken to rein in banks and speculators.

With global markets in turmoil and with an urgent need to minimise speculation and uncertainty, these seem to me to be exactly the wrong measures to take. Governments should call the shots, but instead they seem to have handed power to the big banks, to international corporations and to hyper-rich individuals who then go on to play fast and loose with the whole world economy.

Alan Mitcham, Cologne

Nothing for the 'rich' to be ashamed of

Paul Donovan (letter, 3 August) complains that the "rich" should pay more: "you created this crisis, now pay your share to sort it out".

I am one of his "rich" but only because I have worked hard all my life and been supported by a wife who brought up our children. I inherited nothing, and although I had the advantage of a good education, it was because my parents both worked into their seventies and only bought their first house in their sixties.

From nothing I have earned enough over the years to pay a huge amount of tax to support public services. I feel good about this and believe I have made a positive contribution from nothing by my endeavour. Why should Donovan want to make me feel guilty?

Perhaps his guilt is that he did not work so hard, and so has not made any real contribution.

Phillip Hilling, York

Who will benefit?

Exactly how many people will benefit from the proposed 50p rate of income tax cut? Will one million people receive £750 each, or – more likely – 750 people receive an extra £1m each with which to better protect themselves against the coming storm. Exactly how many people are in this together?

David Miller, Glasgow

In Tottenham, the Tory Big Society has some way still to go

The recent events in Tottenham and other poorer parts of London illustrate the challenges facing David Cameron in building a cohesive Big Society. A local resident in Tottenham interviewed by Al Jazeera news opined that the people engaging in rioting and looting were there because "they had nothing better to do". While some might question this observation, I suggest that if the Government wishes to make progress in its ambitious plans, it needs to think in terms of an "Even Bigger Society".

Let us throw down the gauntlet to the bankers and fund managers, relaxing in Greece, Italy, Spain, the South of France or Dubai, and invite them to join forces with the British Government and invest some of their profits in more voluntary schemes to enable the country's disaffected youth to spend their summers engaged in meaningful activities, under the guidance of mentors, helping the poorest communities in Africa to rebuild their livelihoods and regain their dignity and thus contribute to the sustainable economic development of these countries.

In the process many people might rediscover their humanity and who exactly is their "neighbour".

Patricia Tendi, Rome

A Tory government makes savage public sector cuts; the poor suffer much more than the well-off; deprived urban areas become the litmus paper for social disaffection. Depressingly familiar, isn't it? Don't these people learn anything from their own history?

Christine Butterworth, Penzance, Cornwall

It is no surprise that doubts are growing over the official police story of the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham.

There has been consistent neglect by both main political parties of London areas where impoverished black communities reside, and that disgraceful mantle is now being taken up by the Liberal Democrats in their "coalition" with the Tories. Those communities, in turn, now face an increasingly militarised and violent police force. Only recently, eight out of 13 youth clubs have been shut in Haringey, the borough that encompasses Tottenham, as a result of the punitive austerity agenda of the Government.

All of these factors have conspired to make Tottenham a tinderbox, and it cannot be long before other disenfranchised and abused communities rise up in anger and frustration. They deserve support, not condemnation.

Tom Eyers, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Supporters of Mark Duggan, who was killed by police on the streets of Tottenham, say that his firearm had not been discharged, the inference being that the bullet that hit a police officer was from another policeman's weapon. Those who are advocating this seem to think that if Duggan had not fired his weapon the police wrongfully took his life. They seem to think that this makes everything the fault of the police. Wrong; the mere fact that this thug was carrying a gun means that he should have been shot on sight.

Why was he in possession of a gun? Who was he expecting to use it on? Those who are his supporters ought to feel ashamed they have stood up to be counted as on his side. This is a salutary lesson to all those gangsters on our streets that carry weapons and endanger the lives of the innocent public.

J H Moffatt, Bredbury, Greater Manchester

Murdoch the Christian knight

Alex Salmond's recently published documents, which show that the support of the News International press was just as valued north of the border as south of it, are reported in the media as containing one letter in which Mr Salmond "bizarrely" addressed Mr Murdoch as "Sir Rupert".

While I agree that the incident is bizarre on a number of levels, Mr Murdoch was as a matter of fact awarded a papal knighthood by Pope John Paul II in a ceremony in Los Angeles in 1998. Negative reaction to the knighthood was reported in The Independent on 17 February 1998, although strangely not mentioned in The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times or the News of the World. The Papal Knighthood is bestowed on recipients of "unblemished character".

Although the Catholic Church doesn't have the most impressive track record in recognising the mistakes it has made and acting swiftly in putting them right, perhaps Pope Benedict XVI might want to reconsider this one.

Seb Kramer, Manchester

The Rev Jim Crompton (letter, 1 August) asks us to believe some rather odd things. Rather than quote the Gospels about love, he asks us to follow the teachings of St Paul, a misogynist and a homophobe.

He says that Christians abolished slavery, when the immediately obvious response is that Christians also started and ran the slave trade for centuries. Further, anyone with a decent knowledge of history can tell you that it was mainly Quakers – facing heavy opposition from mainstream Christians – who established and ran the abolitionist movement. It took over 100 years to win the battle, with Biblical quotes flying on both sides.

But the biscuit-taker has to be holding up Rupert Murdoch as an example of secular society. Mr Murdoch is a practising Christian, and his Fox News channel broadcasts content which leans heavily towards Christian conservatism. He is about as opposite to secularism as one can get.

I think, sir, that you have had your leg well and truly pulled – at least, I hope you have.

James Ingram, London SE1

Cycle helmets: a simple test

To Messrs Homer, Hills and Roberts (letter, 6 August) who seem to deride the use of cycle helmets: find a pebble-dashed wall. Put a helmet on and bash your head against the wall. Now take your helmet off and do it again.

Do I really need to equate the wall with the road surface? Still want to ride without a helmet?

Dick Langford, Brighton

Messrs Homer, Hills and Roberts have clearly never fallen off a bike. I have had two accidents in which, on both occasions, my helmet saved me from head injuries, and I have cycled with a friend whose helmet split in two when he hit the ground. His bruised ribs recovered without after-effects; much preferable to a fractured skull, which could easily have been fatal.

Richard Sacre, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Up to us to help the Syrians

The UN Security Council's statement condemning the violence in Syria was a rather weak and late response to the deaths of over 1,000 protesters in recent weeks. It was a bit of collective hand-wringing – an expression of deep concern and sympathy for the victims but with no threat of what the consequences for the Syrian regime would be if it did not cease its attacks on those demonstrating for their democratic rights.

Getting the Security Council to take a more robust position, however, was not going to be easy, because of members who put their vested interests in Syria before the rights of the Syrian people. That is why Britain and others in the EU must do more. The travel bans and asset freezes imposed by the EU on 35 leading Syrians are a start, but it needs a ban on trade, and particularly a ban on the oil exports that fund the regime's brutality, to stop the violence.

Britain and the EU must provide political and moral leadership. They must make it clear that while Syrian tanks fire on civilians, and while demonstrators are detained and tortured, Syria must be excommunicated, both politically and commercially.

Ann Clwyd MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, House of Commons

Time to rethink the drugs 'war'

It is good news that the Lib Dem conference will debate the decriminalisation of currently prohibited drugs. The purpose of decriminalisation is not to send a signal that drugs are OK, but to deal more effectively with their misuse. Resources taken by the police and the criminal justice system could be better deployed in education and treatment.

Even leaving aside our glaringly inconsistent attitude to alcohol and nicotine on the one hand, and prohibited drugs on the other, the case for decriminalising drugs is unanswerable. The arguments for making their use illegal seem to be threefold: they are immoral; the drug-users harm themselves and need to be prevented from doing so; and addiction leads to crime.

On immorality, our society generally took a view that our legal system should not regulate private morality, with the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Many would agree that certain kinds of behaviour are wrong (adultery, for example) but that does not mean they should be made criminal offences.

As to the harm which drug-users do themselves, again legislating against it seems odd. Until the Suicide Act 1961, it was a crime to commit suicide, and those who attempted suicide could be prosecuted. Does anyone think now that "decriminalising" suicide could be held to be a way of encouraging more of it?

Finally, it is true that drug misuse leads to crime, including theft and violence. This is true also of alcohol. But we have separate criminal offences to deal with the consequential behaviour. It seems to be a pointless doubling of criminality to prosecute both the practice of drug-taking and its socially harmful effects, and strange to criminalise a practice because it might lead to criminal behaviour. That would be an argument for criminalising alcohol.

The "war" fought by the law-enforcement agencies and the courts against prohibited drugs has not been obviously successful. There may be some debate as to the impact of criminalising or decriminalising on drug use, but I question whether the claimed benefits of continuing criminalisation take into account the costs, particularly the opportunity costs of the alternative deployment of public resources into education, prevention and treatment. It is time to rethink the approach, without the social and political baggage of the past.

Richard Lawes, Norwich

Jan Huntingdon (letter, 4 August) displays depressing lack of understanding of and compassion for those suffering from addictions.

Perhaps we should tell smokers with lung cancer to fund their own chemotherapy, or people with type 2 diabetes to pay the true cost of their medication, monitoring and treatment of complications (they chose to eat too much of the wrong foods). Jan may think so. I do not.

People with addictions are coping with intense cravings all the time, and are spending any money they have compulsively on the substance of choice. Many have lost their jobs. When they recognise the need to stop, only a small percentage give up and remain sober/clean with the help of AA or Narcotics anonymous. NHS outpatient rehab works for others, but with a high relapse rate. For the majority, the only way legally to fund private in-patient rehab (about the cost of a new Ford Focus), in the absence of generous family or friends, would be to stop the alcohol or drug and somehow save up the money – but if they could just give up they wouldn't need inpatient rehab.

Dr Audrey Boucher, Basingstoke, Hampshire

Jan Huntingdon makes the interesting suggestion that addicts should pay for their own rehab. Perhaps they could raise the money by drug-peddling.

David Ridge, London N19

The London loo dilemma

Jenny Jarvis writes about the difficulties in the way of answering a call of nature at King's Cross Station (letter, 8 August). Before the most recent changes to the station, it used to be possible to bypass the paid-for toilets there by using the free ladies' loo in the tube tunnels under St Pancras.

As regards the advice to use McDonald's for this purpose, I have received and taken that advice in various places. At least they don't seem to mind, unlike establishments which solemnly and short-sightedly declare that their toilets are "for customers' use only", not apparently considering the possibility that anyone entering their premises might decide, "This pub/bar/café looks OK; I might come back for a drink later."

To those, one entirely reasonable response, if only to oneself, is to declare: "I am a customer. Just not right now."

Katharine Sinderson, Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Sex strike in ancient Greece

I am surprised by Nigel Scott's suggestion (Letters, 5 August) that Aristophanes' Lysistrata is based on the assumption that sex is of overriding importance to men and of little or no interest to women.

In the play, the women complain that they do not get enough sex because their husbands (or lovers) are away so long at the war, and no sooner are they back than they have to go off again.

So the women were at first horrified when Lysistrata put forward her plan, but then accepted it for the sake of getting their men back alive and in their beds.

Chris Bolger, Stoke-on-Trent

A chick Keith never knew

Julie Burchill's continued assault on Keith Richards for his comment "I never knew the chick" misses his point (5 August).

We may not be friends with rock stars or actresses but we know them through being fans of their films or music. Princess Diana's death may have been sad but she was famous merely for marrying Charles, not for having musical talent or acting ability. In that sense Keef's remark brilliantly cut through the hysteria.

Steve Lustig, London NW2

The wrong kind of Jock

You report that a postman has been convicted of racism for scrawling "Jock" on posters of Andy Murray (4 August). Surely in this context "Jock" is used in the sense of over-trained muscular athlete of limited intellect. This was certainly the meaning I would attribute to it, although I must make clear I do not share the sentiment!

Sharon Jennings, Sevenoaks, Kent

Petition to end them all

For intelligent folk who worry about "government by Twitter", there is an e-petition listed that might help. It asks Parliament to ban e-petitions. As was said elsewhere; "Vote early, vote often!"

Tim Brook, Bristol