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Friday 24 September 2010
Letters: Perspectives on the royal finances
Queen deserves proper justice
The appalling injustice with which the Queen has been treated should be made clear ("Government has wrested control of Palace finances from monarchy", 23 September).
Since 1760, the annual surplus of the hereditary Crown estate has been surrendered by monarchs to Parliament in return for a Civil List and for the Government to meet other official expenditure in support of the sovereign, a bargain renewed at the start of every reign.
But while the Crown estate revenue rose steadily, peaking at £226.5m last year, Her Majesty's Civil List has been frozen at £7.9m for more than 20 years and is now worth only a quarter of its 1990 value.
What does the Government do with the bulk of this Crown estate money; where are the accounts? For years, Palace accounts have been published, and with far greater transparency than the financial dealings of politicians. Do we really want them to have even more power over the nation's finances?
What an abysmal return for the Queen's long years of service to this country which now may only deserve in a head of state the reckless expenditure of the republican presidents of France and Italy.
Jennifer Miller, London SW15
Chopping the head off our Monarch
Is it correct to say it has taken 400 years to wrest control of Royal expenses? I thought Cromwell did it immediately by chopping the King's head off, with disastrous results.
No one liked Britain without a monarch, and by turning the monarchy into another government department we are slowly chopping its head off again.
A total of £15m to maintain the Royal palaces is a fiddling sum compared with other budgets and bank chiefs' earnings. I am not a raving monarchist, but I feel we run the risk of forgetting we are talking about the Monarch.
William Thomas, Totnes, Devon
Before the rise of Cromwell
It's hard to take seriously a historical survey of royal financial rights which commences with a historical howler.
Charles I did indeed order soldiers into the House of Commons to arrest five members, but Oliver Cromwell was not among the five: at that stage, he was merely another obscure country MP.
Gillian Ball, Coventry
Cable, bankers and capitalism
Lord Turner, the chairman of the Financial Services Authority, defends bankers by saying there was a need to "move beyond the demonisation of overpaid traders". Instead, he points to regulation which had failed to recognise and address the dangers in the financial system.
That defence is akin to blaming department stores for encouraging shoplifters by first having goods on display, then by not employing enough security staff.
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex
Business Secretary Vince Cable calls bankers "spivs and gamblers". Coming from a British MP, a body of people who have brought shame on the whole country, that is chutzpah, par excellence.
Dai Woosnam, Grimsby
The Business Secretary's comment about the "murky world of corporate behaviour" has led to cries of indignation from private sector leaders and a backlash from industry, but many businesses will welcome more of a debate about market ethics.
Richard Lambert of the CBI is reported to have said it will be interesting to hear Mr Cable's ideas for an alternative to capitalism. We are already out here. A total of 75 per cent of the people say they see co-operative businesses as behaving fairly, three times the level of trust in PLCs.
The past two years have been tough. But co-operatives across the UK are in rude health. Our latest figures show that co-operative businesses have pushed up their combined turnover by some 15.8 per cent to almost £34bn; during the same period, UK GDP decreased by 4.9 per cent.
Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK, Manchester
Vince Cable's thesis that free competition is a virtue is accepted too readily. Unfashionable they may be, but both monopoly capitalism and nationalisation have benefits for us, both as workers and consumers. Self-exploitation is the name of the game in many a corner shop, where the wages are low, the hours long and the choice poor. Deregulation of buses ruined public transport in several of our cities for decades.
Countries try to manage transport, health and education with a view to equal, national provision. Monopoly capitalism is second best, but give me a good-quality supermarket over that corner shop any day. Mr Cable has a quaint, romantic vision. In reality, what we need is more, not less, monopoly.
Dr Quentin Deakin, Bingley, West Yorkshire
Vince Cable's anti-capitalist credentials remain less than fully burnished, his conference speech notwithstanding. He thinks, speaks and writes as an economist – his original trade – and this shows in his recent book, The Storm.
It is infinitely preferable to be civilised rather than rich. When viewed against a sufficiently long perspective, it is clear that capitalism is a transitional phenomenon between absolute scarcity, when group survival depends on altruism, and a potential future of effectively limitless material availability when means of exchange will become otiose.
Capitalism is not the final solution; it has not "won", but it is a source of immense suffering, inequality, greed and a cornucopia of other undesirable things while we are subject to its uncivilising influence.
Politicians should deal with capitalism in a utilitarian rather than supine manner. Who rules? Paper and its manipulators or the people through their elected representatives?
Steven Ford, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Am I alone in noticing Vince Cable's remarkable transformation from Mr Bean to Stalin?
Simon Clegg, Leeds
Freedom for local councils
We wholeheartedly agree with calls by the 2020 Public Services Trust to decentralise power and enable communities to commission services locally ("Coalition's cuts will not remove need for tax rises, says study", 14 September). We have long argued that local solutions are more efficient than national ones and can deliver significant savings to local taxpayers.
For example, the first and only port of call for anyone claiming benefits should be the local council, with housing, social care and employment services all under one roof. If implemented nationally we believe this would generate around £4bn worth of efficiency savings across the UK. Equally, councils should provide all community care instead of the multiple organisations that currently offer health and social services. By stripping out waste and duplication, we estimate national savings here would be more than £5bn.
To achieve this we have called on the Coalition Government to agree to the creation of "Foundation Councils", a concept that has been jointly developed by ourselves, Hammersmith and Fulham and Wandsworth.
Free from the stranglehold that civil servants have on local authority spending, as a Foundation Council we would have new powers to trade and share services, set business rates and introduce by-laws. We would also be exempt from centrally imposed inspection regimes such as Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.
These may seem like small and obvious steps, but they are key in rolling back the lumbering juggernaut of the central state in favour of nimble and targeted local services.
Councillor Colin Barrow, Leader, Westminster City Council, London SW1
We're still in hock to PFI
The Treasury has come up with a remarkable new definition of value for money. Since the credit crunch, the cost of private finance for public infrastructure has become even more expensive; but rather than reviewing PFI projects the Treasury has judged them "value for money in the context of stimulating the economy".
Government is pushing ahead with a massive increase in these projects, particularly for waste, and has allocated £2bn to seed dozens of (mostly) giant waste incinerators. The National Audit Office reported in July that the costs of the Greater Manchester Waste PFI will increase by 12 per cent per year under the new regime. These extra costs will be met by local taxpayers and will be classed as "off balance-sheet" debt. In a separate report to a House of Lords inquiry last March, the NAO warned that rigid long-term PFI contracts "could have an adverse impact on the budgets available to public authorities for other, non-PFI, expenditure", and that "essential public services in future years [must not be] unduly constrained or jeopardised by such commitments".
It seems the government has learnt nothing from the £65bn PFI hospital debt but are still in hock to the idea of "debt-propelled" economic growth.
Jane Green, Coventry
Real fatherof wi-fi
In "Wandering Wirelessly" (Comment, 14 September) Mary Dejevsky said she did not know who invented wi-fi. There is an excellent article on this in the journal, Physics World (vol 23, no 7, July 2010).
John O'Sullivan, a radio astronomer, is the person who can be credited with its discovery and development, although it has been blighted by legal battles and controversy.
O'Sullivan worked in the field of aperture synthesis, a means of combining the signals from several radio telescopes to create a much larger virtual "dish" to allow radio astronomers to synthesise images of discrete radio sources. The aperture synthesis radio telescope was developed by Professor Sir Martin Ryle over 40 years ago, for which he got the Nobel Prize in 1974.
O'Sullivan worked on the electronic implementation of microelectronics to implement the mathematics of fast Fourier transforms needed in this instrumentation. He took out his first patent in 1992, and from this we now have wi-fi.
Forgive the technicalities, but I feel that it is yet another illustration of how "pure" research, which to many had no relevance, can produce applications which most now regard as essential to modern living. Another relevant lesson when government is again considering savage cuts in pure research.
Don Pomfret, York
BASBO these naughty animals
A badger anti-social behaviour order? Or perhaps Stuart Allen (Letters, 23 September) could try marking his territory as he complains the badgers do? I really can't think what else to suggest to help poor, besieged Mr Allen deal with the invasion of his suburban idyll by these vandals.
Causing criminal damage to his fencing and building new setts without any regard to local planning regulations, they undermine not only the foundations of his patio and greenhouse but the very foundations of decent society by their actions. What can one do when these delinquents don't even respect a wall that is Grade II-listed?
No wonder Mr Allen complains of the unfairness of legislation that prevents him from getting rid of every one of them; these badgers show no respect whatsoever for the laws that govern our possession of land. Shame really, as otherwise they might wish to enforce some rights against him for his damaging interference with the runs and sett entrances that provide egress and access to their food and shelter. Or perhaps they get satisfaction enough from what they do on his lawn?
Nina Grahame, Tarbock, Cheshire
Jesus answered a trick question
Dominic Lawson ("Pope Benedict, an apology", 21 September) is wrong to suggest that Jesus declared the temporal and the spiritual worlds should be entirely separate.
His hostile opponents were told to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's because he had been asked the trick question, "Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?" They hoped he would say no so they could arrest him. He disappointed them with an ambiguous answer.
Mathew 25.31 to the end spells out the need to express love, a spiritual experience and value, with action here and now. In the story he told of the sheep and the goats, the sheep were commended because "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me".
To love your neighbour as your self is a commandment, disobedience to which has uncomfortable consequences for the goats. Such a love is politically effective when it is expressed in just legislation. Unjust legislation is expensive, as we are now discovering. Papal encyclicals have said wise things about the failure of the free market to promote the common good.
The Rev Paul Nicolson, Chairman Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, London SW1
Pop goes his festival tale
Having been too young to go to the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival but having watched Murray Lerner's film, I too raised my eyebrows at Terry Eaton's letter of 20 September. The festivals he describes sound much more like the first two small Glastonbury festivals, which were in 1970 and 1971, with audiences of 1,500 at the first and 12,000 the following year.
The Isle of Wight Festivals started with a relatively small concert in 1968, but by 1969 and 1970, were much larger and headlined respectively by Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Attendances were at 150,000 and 500,000. There was no 1971 Isle of Wight Festival.
If Terry thought he was on the Isle of Wight but was actually at Glastonbury then he had clearly either taken a wrong turning or something very strong indeed.
Charles King, St Albans, Hertfordshire
More credit to the Hurricane
I served at the RAF air traffic control centre Gloucester in the mid-Fifties with veteran aircrew of the Second World War, and some were concerned that authors were already trying to rewrite RAF history.
Further to David Foster's letter (15 September) about the Hawker Hurricane, it is worth noting that it was responsible for three-fifths of enemy losses during the Battle of Britain, and this was not only due to greater numbers of Hurricanes available but also because it was a far superior gun platform and more manoeuvrable, the latter of particular importance because most dogfights were fought along horizontal paths.
The fighter pilot Ginger Lacey's observation that "I'd rather fly in a Spitfire but rather fight in a Hurricane" speaks volumes.
Alan Probert, London E6
Speaking the language of love
Joe Bryan's remarks on multilingualism (Letters, 17 September) are endorsed by the experience of my son, whose knowledge of German and French was the key to obtaining a responsible job at the European Bank in Frankfurt.
As a bonus, he met the French girl who became his long-term partner. And they converse together in German, in which each is more fluent than in the other's native tongue.
Bob Heys, Halifax
To excise Hamlet or not to excise
Michael Coveney (22 September) thinks it fine to solve the problem of interpreting the "haunting" (therefore significant) final episode of Hamlet by excising it: to me, this is a defacement.
Where he sees exciting variation among the productions he mentions I see the same old interpretation, based on abnormal darkness or mercuriality in the main character's mind (just what the excised words cause us to question), relentlessly repeated.
The story is about someone caught in and destroyed by a terrible trap defined by politics and religion, just as so many of Shakespeare's contemporaries were and as so many of ours are.
Martin Hughes, Wokingham, Berkshire
Beam me down
In Star Trek 5, Captain Kirk tried to establish the bona fides of someone who appeared to be God (Letters, 23 September). Bones (Dr McCoy) protested: "Jim! You don't ask the Almighty for his ID."
John Richards, St Ives, Cornwall
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