Letters: Pressures that drive wages down


The Government should take the Appeal Court ruling on its so-called welfare-to-work schemes as an opportunity for a complete rethink ("Flagship work schemes in crisis after Poundland 'slavery' case ruling", 13 February).

As the cases of both Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson showed, workfare is not functioning to provide useful experience or skills that could help people into a job, but is instead providing free labour for profitable private companies, exploiting and often humiliating people who are already doing their best to find employment (as Ms Reilly was by doing genuine voluntary work in a field related to her studies).

And it's obvious that workfare workers are replacing paid jobs – pushing our low-wage economy down towards a no-wage economy, while large companies continue to record huge profits and often fail to pay their fair share of taxes.

We need to restore our local economies, bringing manufacturing and food production back to Britain, and tackle our pressing environmental problems with a massive investment in the new low-carbon economy – creating jobs in renewable energy and energy conservation, in public transport, in essential public services.

Natalie Bennett

Leader, Green Party of England and Wales, London NW1

Your leading article deprecates "More unseemly rabble-rousing on Romania" (13 February). There is more to come. Next in line for EU entry after restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians end in 2014 are seven western Balkan states followed by, if our political class has its way, Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. This amounts to continuing large-scale uncontrolled immigration into Western Europe.

There is an unwillingness to acknowledge that a necessary condition for getting both the poorly paid and chronically unemployed off benefits is a rise in the minimum wage. Simply curtail immigration, and unskilled pay will rise. There will be a transfer of purchasing power from the "haves" to the "have-nots" as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad become more costly. This is a small price to pay for national cohesiveness.

Time to think the unthinkable, namely an opt-out from the EU accord on the free movement of peoples – come what may. Home solidarity trumps international solidarity.

Yugo Kovach

Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Past mistakes that damaged school sports

Sir Michael Wilshaw is right to commission a comparison of sport in maintained and independent schools ("Schools taking physical out of PE, warns Ofsted", 14 February). What he'll find is that sport is given a very high curriculum profile in private schools that recognise the power of sport to raise attainment across the board. This isn't surprising, of course, given the resources that private schools have at their disposal.

However, what he may fail to recognise is the damaging effects of state schools being forced to sell off playing fields, and the legacy of teachers' strikes in the late 1980s that restricted teachers' commitments to extra-curricular activities.

As a 1970s child educated in a state school in Kent, I remember that our sports teams invariably beat independent school rivals and our academic work received a boost as a result of the confidence that inspired. The tables have turned, and Sir Michael's findings may not get to the heart of the problem: the commitment needed from the unions, teachers and government to reverse the ills of the past.

Neil Roskilly

CEO, The Independent Schools Association, Saffron Walden, Essex

Horse-meat crackdown

I notice the Food Standards Agency is hot on the heels – or hooves – of the processed food industry, carrying out raids with the police while David Cameron threatens the "full intervention of the law".

Why don't we let this FSA deal with the banks instead of the Financial Services Authority, which is preoccupied with closing the barn door after the horse has bolted?

Ian McKenzie


Many people are confusing the issue of whether we want to eat horse meat with the fraudulent practice of selling us products with a false identity. It is the latter that is most concerning.

Adulterated food has been a problem since time immemorial. I do not eat meat unless it is from a local source and not horses. It is what is written on the label that is the issue.

Lynda Everington

Cragg Vale, West Yorkshire

Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing ethical about being vegetarian. Vegetarians such as Tim Symonds (letter, 14 February) should not feel smug about the latest meat scandal.

Cows and egg-laying hens live longer than "meat" animals and are arguably treated worse. They all end up at the same slaughterhouse to become meat anyway. There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk than in a pound of steak.

Only a vegan diet is ethical. It also happens to be better for our health and the planet.

Mark Richards


The Eurosceptic campaign for fewer regulations is now contaminated by horse meat. Cameron should demand tighter Brussels regulations to ensure safe trade.

Derek J Cole

St Leonards, East Sussex

Dr Gerald Freshwater (letter, 14 February) wonders if other contaminants have been absorbed into beef in its travels from country to country. Has any meat been traced to a barber's shop in Fleet Street?

Chris Harding

Parkstone, Dorset

The reputation of Richard III

Guy Keleny (Errors and Omissions, 9 February) was right to pillory the idea that the identification of Richard III's remains could settle the question about the fate of the Princes in the Tower. However, his own opinions about the matter (seized on by the headline-writer) have no place in his article, especially when so loosely expressed.

What "everyone seems to have believed at the time" is hazy evidence at best. His dismissive analogy with the question of the authorship of Shakespeare is trivial: no one's reputation is blackened by the imputation of having written Shakespeare (except maybe in the eyes of the "zealots" of the Richard III Society).

And it is hardly a case of "revisionism": the question has been open, and debated in print, since the 17th century.

Philip Young

Petersfield, Hampshire

Wherever Richard III ends up, it would be a kindness to surround his shrine – because that is what it will be – with hassocks for members of the Richard III Society to kneel in adoration of their saint, who shall miraculously cure them of their diseases and grant strength to their delusions.

Peter Forster

London N4

Jesus' judgement on marriage

Penny Joseph is right in saying (letter, 14 February) that Jesus wanted us "to love our neighbours, whatever their colour, creed or sexual orientation." But she is mistaken in claiming that Jesus neither said nor implied that he "wanted man and woman to adhere to their natural God-given natures".

It is true that Jesus (unlike Paul) said nothing directly about homosexuality. But his reply, when challenged by some Pharisees to say whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife, is revealing. Quoting from Genesis 1.27 and 2.24 he said: "At the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'" (Mark 10.6-8; also Matthew 19.4-5).

Yes, we are enjoined to love our neighbours, but this commandment says nothing about the institution or nature of marriage, which Jesus shows is intended by God to be between a man and a woman. To acknowledge this is not to discriminate against same-sex relationships.

David Lamming

Boxford, Suffolk

HS2 is for everyone

John O'Dwyer (letter, 7 February), by comparing the new rail line to the North with Concorde rather than a 747, ably demonstrates the misunderstanding that many people have about the purpose of the line.

It is unfortunate that someone decided to call it HS2 rather than West Coast Mail Line 2 (WCML2) or even ARC1 (Additional Rail Capacity 1). The existing WCML south of Rugby is already full, and there's not much left south of Crewe.

There is more capacity in a rail line the faster the trains go, so make the new line high-speed; also it's expected that the amount of freight going by rail will double in 20 years – so there need to be fewer passenger trains on WCML1.

Indeed a better comparison for the so-called HS2 is with a 747 not a Concorde. A secondary benefit is that the new line will bring faster journey times.

Ian K Watson


Thanks to The Independent ("Two nations: How house values compare", 4 February) it is now clear that the extension of HS2 to Leeds is not intended to bring economic growth to Yorkshire and Humberside so much as to put affordable housing within the reach of Londoners.

Gordon Whitehead

Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Missing matron

Those of us who qualified in medicine before, say, 1985 will agree entirely with David S H Cannon (letter, 8 February). Ever since the disappearance of an authority figure such as a matron or ward sister, there has been a decline in clinical standards.

That "management" would provide a better environment was, and is, a mistaken belief of politicians. The NHS is not a business. It is a service, for which entirely different criteria apply. Efficient and economic, yes, but not at the expense of compassion and caring.

Dr Rob Caird

Greywell, Hampshire

Happy snaps

So, the wicked Italians have published photographs of Kate in a bikini, strolling on the beach of a "sun-kissed" island. I sincerely hope British newspapers and magazines will also publish them. They will be of great interest to the former employees of Comet, Jessops, HMV and Republic who are now looking for jobs. They will also provide great comfort to the elderly who cannot pay their electricity bills in the depth of winter.

M M Graves


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