Letters: Reckless lending caused the problem

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The FSA think it wise now that bankers should ask for proof of earnings before granting a mortgage (report, 19 December). Lord Turner says it's time to end reckless borrowing. Surely, it's been reckless lending that's caused all the problems? Who in their right mind would grant a mortgage without checking the borrower's ability to repay?

The bankers in charge are, probably, some of the most incompetent individuals that this country has produced, individuals who have been paid immoral amounts of money, left their employment (some of them) with gold-plated pensions and share issues yet still have the cheek to complain that they will be forced to seek employment abroad. I say, good riddance and I'll join the queue to replace them.

When applying for my first mortgage in 1972, I could borrow only twice my annual salary. My wife's earnings were not even considered. Very sensible, because a lot of women at the time soon left to have children. Their jobs were not left open for them to return to in those days.

British taxpayers have to sit and watch their money being squandered on inflated salaries and bonuses while the majority of us have to make do with either a 2 per cent pay rise at most, or nothing at all. On top of this, they are now asked to work longer, pay more into their pension and get less when they retire. If they are lucky to enjoy any retirement. Of course, I'm forgetting; we are all in this together.

Andrew Cooper

Kimberley, Nottinghamshire

The proposals of the FSA to improve the regulation of new mortgages require lenders to "verify income" and that the "mortgage is affordable taking into account the borrower's net income and, as a minimum, both the borrower's committed expenditure... and basic household expenditure".

For those who are pondering on whether to go to university it would be helpful to know whether the committed expenditure includes the repayment of student loans.

Assuming it does, this places an even greater disincentive for a school-leaver to go on to higher education. Both the repayment of these loans and negotiating a new mortgage will come as the graduate is hoping to start a family, making it ever more difficult to go to university unless one's parents can help pay these costs, which is the bottom 80 per cent of students.

Are these 80 per cent what constitute the "Great Society"?

Mark S Bretscher


With regard to the FSA report into the RBS bailout and the banking industry's claims that it needs to pay vast salaries to attract the best talent, is Sir Fred an example of that talent? If he is, then maybe we could do just as badly with lesser and lower paid talent?

N K Dewar

Newton Longville, Buckinghamshire

Too kind a view of the western democracies

Although Christina Patterson's depiction of the North Korean dictatorship is totally accurate, her Panglossian view of western democracy's political freedom cannot go unchallenged ("If you don't like capitalism, why not try North Korea?", 21 December).

She seems to forget that until very recently our beloved leaders were avid supporters of Gaddafi and Mubarak, and at one time supported Saddam Hussein himself, and they still support an Israeli regime which openly practises apartheid.

As for "saying one thing and thinking another", she forgets the usefulness of our allies. How often have we heard that "the British security services do not use torture"? Ms Patterson might like to read about Abdelhakim Belhaj in The Independent (20 December) to observe how our chickens are coming home to roost.

Finally, she might like to consider that, although we have "free fair and honest elections", all of the senior politicians who benefit from these elections – Cameron, Osborne, Balls, Clegg and Miliband – dine with the bankers and the most eminent press barons, as do the taxman and the policemen.

Trevor Walshaw

Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

Christina Patterson presents us with a stark and uncomfortable choice. But do we really have to choose between the dictatorship of the market and a totalitarian state?

For more than 300 years capitalism has developed through the industrial revolution, into colonialism, imperialism and globalisation. It now seems to be morphing into a financial system for the mega-rich.

After all this time, the world's leading capitalist country, the United States, has probably about 40 million of its citizens in poverty, without proper health provision and many lining up at soup kitchens. Millions more middle-income families are facing an uncertain future. In this country, and the rest of Europe, the prospects look no better. At the same time, the US and other western countries spend vast sums on armed forces used to intimidate or invade other countries.

But capitalism, like socialism, is not all bad. It has lifted people out of agricultural poverty into a freer and more abundant society. Recognising this, Communist China has transformed its industry and agriculture and become one of the world's leading economies.

After the Great Crash of 1929, industrialised countries recognised that there had to be restrictions on the so-called free market. The lifting of these restrictions in the USA and this country were the direct cause of the financial crisis and the austerity now inflicted on the peoples of Europe.

The welfare state, once accepted as a necessary safeguard for the unemployed, the needy, the aged and the disabled, is being undermined at the very time when it is needed the most.

Derek Heptinstall

Broadstairs, Kent

Despite what Christina Patterson would have you believe, repressing fundamental human rights is not necessary in a socialist society (21 December). There is nothing inherent about socialism that makes it more likely that censorship will occur or that prisoners will be treated badly under socialism than in a capitalist state.

Capitalism is not free from information being withheld or altered, as the Bell Pottinger controversy shows, and it is not free from hysterical mourning of "great" leaders such as Steve Jobs. These things are merely dictated by those with money rather than central government.

Capitalism lends itself to child labour and exploitation of the poor in the manufacture of clothes, electronics, sporting accessories and soft drinks. Capitalism lends itself to the whole economy collapsing because bankers gamble with imaginary money in darkened rooms.

It is not a black-and-white dichotomy between evil capitalism and evil socialism. There is a middle ground.

TS Brailli

Reading, Berkshire

Three reasons for poor pensions

Professor Sapsford ("Blame for the pension crisis", 7 December) outlines the oddity of unfunded public-sector pension schemes, but his account is not entirely complete. For many in these schemes, gross pay was set at a lower level than might be obtained for comparable work in the private sector. It was adjusted upwards periodically.

Employees' contributions in contributory schemes were set by an actuarial calculation of the expected pension benefits. For those in the non-contributory schemes, pay was abated by a similarly calculated amount. The contributions and the payments withheld went into general expenditure.

They could be said to have subsidised public expenditure and lessened the burden on taxpayers, who therefore benefited at the expense of taxpayers of the future.

Underestimating longevity has been an aggravating factor for both public and private schemes, but the considerable advantage now seen for public-sector pensioners and employees arises mainly from three factors, changes in accounting rules that put pension funds into deficit, falls in the value of equities resulting ultimately from mismanagement in the financial sector and low interest rates which mean poor annuity rates for those now retiring.

Sydney Norris

London SW14

What the true atheist believes

I agree with most of what Patrick Tansey says (letters, 22 December) about religious belief, but feel that he has somewhat misunderstood the nature of atheism. Atheists are not merely "sceptical", as he suggests. In fact, they firmly believe that there is no God and that organised religious faith has no basis in reality.

A sceptic would be an agnostic and, while strongly suspecting that there is no God, would leave, "wriggle room", for the unlikely possibility that they could be wrong. This is a less arrogant belief system and seems logical given the amount of inexplicable stuff in the Universe.

I agree that the Bible is merely a set of fairy stories, written in more primitive times. I am deeply suspicious of anyone who feels that they need a deity's rulebook to tell them to be nice to other people. And I would wholly reject any god(s) that demanded or even tolerated constant subservient adulation from their followers.

Tim Matthews

Luton, Bedfordshire

Young jobless are exploited

With rising unemployment, especially among the young, and employers cutting their wages bills to save costs, there are some employers who have found a sinister loophole which is destroying confidence among the most vulnerable and desperate.

Many restaurants and bars around the country, and in particular in London, are getting around the law of having to pay minimum wage, by taking on the young for trial shifts, which are unpaid. These venues are advertising vacancies which do not exist and are taking on job-seekers for trial shifts of up to seven hours.

No payment in cash or kind is offered and when their shift is over, they are often abandoned without ever hearing from the establishment again. Restaurants avoid paying employer's NI and keep their wages bill low. Worse, they give false hope to those desperate for work.

Alan Fothergill

London W7

Cheat nations

Eileen Noakes (letters 21 December) may be right that The Market is neither moral or ethical, but it is honest and if anyone cheats then someone will get punished. Not necessarily the right culprit. The recent world financial crash was as a result of cheating by the Chinese government which fixed the Chinese currency.

Avarice in the west by both individuals and governments did the rest. The additional problems in the eurozone can be put down to cheating by Greece, whose politicians hid a large chunk of their debt by a bank sleight-of-hand when they joined the EU.

David Pollard

Salen, Isle of Mull

Alder Hey praise

Your article on Alder Hey hospital (9 December) does not state how many operations are involved, which is only 20 out of tens of thousands. And as the parent of a child who has been a patient at Alder Hey for three years, I can attest to the provision of first-class care. Indeed, my son had major surgery at Alder Hey in September and received superb care from all staff at the hospital. Our praise for the professionalism and quality of care provided by the staff at Alder Hey cannot be overstated.

Andrew Piatt

Warrington, Cheshire