Letters: Population growth

Of course goverments have a role in restraining population growth
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The Independent Online

Dominic Lawson is wrong to say that governments have no role to play in restraining population growth (Opinion, 15 July). Wherever large numbers of children die of preventable causes such as infant diarrhoea and the diseases of childhood, the rational option for parents is to have as many babies as possible in the hope that at least some of them will reach adulthood. By providing clean water, immunisation, clinics and health education, states could remedy this at a fraction of the cost of current spending on less essential projects.

P J Stewart


Will Mr Lawson please name the "people behind" the OPT who supported India's forced sterilisation in the 1970s? OPT was not formed until 1991, and most certainly does not believe in state control over the right to have children, or in coercive approaches to fertility. Our position is that people should be encouraged to bear sustainability in mind when deciding on how many children to have, and that governments should express a view on what levels of population are environmentally sustainable.

The OPT paper by Carter Dillard, from which Mr Lawson so misleadingly quotes, argues that the rights of parents to have children must be weighed against various other competing rights – including those of other humans, both alive and not yet born. By saying we can have as many children as we like and the planet can go hang, Mr Lawson is making the world a much more troubled and dangerous place for future generations, who may well turn round at some point and curse their ancestors for such opinions.

Sue Birley

Optimum Population Trust,Wanborough, Wiltshire

Nothing radical about welfare reform

Deborah Orr was quite right to point out in her column (23 July) that the Green Paper on benefit "reform" isn't as radical as the Government would have us believe. One thing that has irritated me about some of the coverage on this issue has been the implication that insisting upon work or training from claimants in return for benefits is entirely new. This is very far from being the case; and as a current Jobseeker's Allowance claimant I am unfortunately able to say so with some authority.

I'm questioned closely about what I've being doing to find work each time I visit the Jobcentre to sign on, and am expected to use the databases there to look for work. Should I find a likely-sounding opportunity there and print out its details, I must apply for the job or risk losing benefits – and that isn't necessarily as simple as it sounds, given that a very large proportion of the vacancies on those databases are only available via an agency.

Should my claim continue for 18 months, I'll be placed on the New Deal scheme, where I'll be given three options: a work placement, a training scheme, or the loss of benefits. Not that I'm complaining about that – I wish that the Department for Work and Pensions, or one of the many agencies I've registered with since I graduated from university, would find me something constructive to do right now.

I hope, however, that the distinction between convicted criminals given community-service orders and benefit claimants will be maintained. The glee with which some commentators have seized upon the idea of benefit claimants being made to pick up litter or clean up graffiti has been rather depressing, and personally I certainly wouldn't fancy the latter task. I'd be worried about retribution from the proud creators of the graffiti – and about the danger of inadvertently damaging a valuable Banksy.

Dave Jennings


Peter J Brown (letters, 24 July) points out that employers are often unwilling to take on people with disabilities, and that he doubts that employers in the modern business world can "afford to be sympathetic to disability".

Why should employers need to be particularly "sympathetic"? Why, when you have the qualifications, aptitude and ability, are you singled out for prejudicial treatment because of a negative employer perception of the word "disability"? Why, when many non-disabled people struggle to attain even basic levels of literacy and numeracy, are these people seen as preferable employees ahead of better qualified, but disabled applicants?

I hold a masters degree but am still unemployed. One firm took 14 months to deal with my application for employment after they were informed about my disability on an "equal opportunities form". And yet the Department for Work and Pensions did nothing about this situation.

Will the current Government proposals on benefit reform do anything to address the ignorant attitudes shown by employers towards people with disabilities? Of course not.

Paul D Sutcliffe


The latest welfare "revolution" raises a number of questions. With low-paid, unskilled workers already under pressure to compete with migrant workers, will the new scheme provide another mechanism to drive down wages for those who can least afford it, or encourage employers to replace existing staff with unpaid welfare claimants?

With unemployment rising, and many jobs and even industries moving abroad, there is a growing number of people who are qualified for jobs that no longer exist and who need support to retrain. So why has the Government cut funding for people retraining for qualifications at or below "equivalent level" of their previous training?

Chris Webster

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

A tip from an old East End restaurant

Some 65 years ago, my father would take me to lunch at a kosher restaurant in the East End where, or so he told me, the waiters got no pay at all. They were allocated tables and received a cut from the bill and all the tips.

If it were so it was a fantastically efficient method. The waiters – who were always friendly – came out and shepherded customers to their tables. They made sure they got served quickly, but heaven help those who lingered on over their cheesecake and lemon tea. They wanted the table cleared and new customers sitting down and eating.

A truly win-win situation; the owners had a busy restaurant and the self-employed waiters were well rewarded for their efforts.

How different from so many places today, where the waiting staff hang around together chatting, skilfully ignoring the diners' eyes. Is it surprising that they are poorly paid and badly tipped? A tip should not be a right, but a reward for exceptional service.

Philippe Boucheron

Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

Heartlessness of the metal thieves

It is not only brass plaques and railway tracks that are providing rich pickings for thieves ("Hot metal", 21 July). Primary-school pupils in Monmouth were recently robbed of their end-of-year trip after thieves stole the exhaust system from their new adapted £30,000 minibus, awarded to them by the Variety Club, with half the cost of the vehicle met by Monmouth Rotary Club.

The minibus is being repaired, but the work was not able to be completed before the end of the summer term. These criminals have robbed disabled children of their independence and life experience. Disabling a vehicle whose sole purpose is to empower disabled and disadvantaged children and young people, just goes to show there really is no honour among thieves.

Ken Mustoe

The Variety Club Children's Charity, London NW1

Earthly solutions to violence needed<</b>/p>

Hazel Blears is setting up an independent board of Muslim theologians to promote a better understanding of the Islamic faith, the aim being to challenge violent extremism (report, 19 July). Is not this wildly optimistic?

Why assume that people of faith are bound to be against violence? Many readings of religious texts, both Christian and Muslim, lead to earthly violence against non-believers and against the wrong sorts of believers.

Instead of looking to ancient texts, tradition, and divine revelations, we need to look to our sense of humanity, here on earth.

Peter Cave

Chair, Humanist Philosophers, London W1

Ken Mustoe

Sunshine Coach

Sarajevo is on the brink of tragedy

What a splendid, timely and accurate piece by Peter Popham ("The Sarajevo legacy", 26 July). I am in Sarajevo at the moment and confirm both the mood and the worry outlined in his article.

I am worried , too. Very. I fear this country is now going backwards and tragedy will ensue if the international community does not wake up, get a plan and take a stronger line.

One point: Milorad Dodik did not "fight and win" battles with me. He came into power after I left. What he is now doing is reversing many of the reforms I made – and sadly, so far the international community, which is still supposed to be in charge here, is letting him do it and so threatening the integrity of the Bosnian state. He is, in short, using the powers the Dayton peace agreement gave him to undermine the state that Dayton envisaged in Bosnia.

Paddy Ashdown

Norton sub Hamdon, Somerset

Let's learn from British history in Iraq

Bernard Jenkin (21 July) urges us to stay on in Iraq, "in what will become one of the richest and most powerful countries of the Gulf region". Whether or not one finds his suggestion immoral, it is unquestionably foolish. Does he not know Iraq's history?

Having occupied Mesopotamia in 1917-18, Britain went on to seize the oil, create the Iraq Petroleum Company and begin to rake off the lion's share of income. It gave "independence" to a puppet Iraqi state with British minders. Thus Britain created for itself lasting distrust and resentment in Iraq.

After that regime was overthrown, a new leader wrested the IPC from British hands and nationalised it, becoming an Iraqi hero. His name: Saddam Hussein.

David McDowall

Richmond TW10

No rivalry between Scottish film festivals

The Ballerina Ballroom of Dreams is a piece of holiday whimsy, totally personal and completely independent (Extra, 23 July). It was dreamt up in a teacup and is a child's toy compared to the august and dynamic screen machine that is the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF).

The EIFF is beloved of both Mark Cousins and I, heart and soul. We are profoundly proud to be associated with such an internationally revered and forward-looking festival and enthusiastically support Hannah McGill and her team to the hilt. We are distressed by the implication that the egg might be ungrateful enough to be critical of the chicken. Work it out: we are as close as that.

Tilda Swinton


Mosley victory

I was pleased that Max Mosley won his case against the News of the World (26 July). It is sheer hypocrisy for a newspaper that has traded on sex and sleaze for more than 50 years to set itself up as a judge of private morals.

Doug Meredith


Proms problem

Jessica Duchen is probably right to claim that "the Proms are the perfect place to try a classical concert for the first time" (18 July). But most newcomers are likely to take that first step thanks to the BBC's televised concerts. The problem for them is where to turn when the Proms binge stops.

The sad truth is that apart from the Proms, BBC television gives classical concerts, recitals and operas a wide berth. Having helped create an audience for classical music, BBC TV then leaves them high and dry. Can anyone explain this inconsistency?

Professor David Head

Kingsbridge, Devon

Apostrophic errors

I have read with interest your correspondents' views on punctuation (letters, 25 July). Of late I have noticed a new trend; the use of an apostrophe both before and after the final letter "s".

So far, I have spied a notice in a sandwich shop listing the fillings in "baguettes's" and, at the RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park, I was delighted to see a sign for "The Organisers's Office". However my favourite still remains a board displayed by a greengrocer giving the price of spud'z.

Rod Auton


Oyster card failure

In case those elsewhere in the country feel left out of the recurring Oyster card problems on London's underground (report, 25 July), don't worry. When similar glitches in the operation of the ID-card scheme occur, the mass inconvenience, widespread delays to your free movement and the many arrests that will inevitably follow from the cardholders' innocent inability to legally justify themselves won't be just a London thing.

Andrew Calvert

Ruislip, Middlesex

Tory policies, please

Whenever they are asked to spell out their policies, David Cameron and the Tory leadership have responded by saying that it is too soon, that they will tell us their plans when the General Election is closer. So, now that David Cameron is calling for an autumn election, can we expect some detailed policies from the Tories to be published imminently?

Paul Burall

King's Lynn, Norfolk

Pale is beautiful

Hurrah for snobs, if that is indeed the word to describe acting headteacher Carol Robinson, of the Baines School in Lancashire, in requesting her pupils not to wear "false tans" to school. (Esther Walker, Opinion, 24 July). How encouraging to hear of her positive promotion of natural beauty. The schoolgirl who does not tan easily may find her sense of self and value bolstered by someone taking a stance against our singularly obsessive culture of thin, brown girls and the over-preened world of "Wags" and celebrities.

Janette Davies