Letters: Save for the future

Save now, or our children and grandchildren will suffer
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The Independent Online

As a charity that helps many pensioners in financial hardship, we support any measure that helps retain dignity and alleviates distress in old age (leading article, 13 February).

But we strongly believe that if Gordon Brown's proposal to set up a National Care Service were to become a reality it must operate along with measures that ensure people of working age are making their own provisions for their future care costs.

Our recent national poll showed that one third of young professionals had made absolutely no provision for their care needs in old age, with 55 per cent assuming their care costs will be covered solely by the state. These are worrying statistics.

In the long run, unless the Government steps up its efforts to encourage people to save and take personal responsibility, our children and grandchildren are very likely to bear the brunt of woeful under-provision and heavily increased taxation.

The Government's adult social care Green Paper states that individuals would need to take responsibility either through a "partnership approach, which shares the cost between the individual and the state" or an "insurance approach, which would enable people to choose to take out protection against the risk of support costs".

Rob Tolan

Head of Policy & Research, Elizabeth Finn Care, London W6

Britain also guilty of Palestine terror

In blaming "Jewish terrorism" for the creation of Israel, James Snowden (letters, 13 February) forgets that the British were ready to end the Mandate after trying to suppress a three-year rebellion by the Arabs of Palestine. It was the 1939 Peel Commission, years before the King David hotel bombing, which recommended the partition of Palestine.

The Arabs assassinated Commissioner Andrews and attacked Jewish civilians. The British pioneered imprisonment without charges or trial, curfews, and the destruction of much Arab property. The brutality of British forces included beatings, torture and extrajudicial killings. A surprisingly large number of Arabs were shot "while trying to escape" and about 40 were hanged. The main Arab leaders were arrested or expelled.

Snowden invokes Dir Yassin, but the British perpetrated massacres of Arabs at al-Bassa and Halhul. By the time the revolt was over, more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews and 200 Britons had been killed and at least 15,000 Arabs wounded.

Funny how memory can play tricks on one, throwing Irgun and Stern Gang atrocities into focus while whitewashing British and Arab actions.

L Julius

London SW5

I have the feeling that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ("Still no hope of common sense in the war against anti-Semitism", 8 February) was too afraid of wandering off the beaten path for fear of what lurked in the undergrowth.

Her fears are understandable, since the supporters of Israel and Zionism are more than ready to brand any prominent critic as anti-Semitic. When Israel's Finance Minister, Yuval Stenitz, brands lifelong Zionist Richard Goldstone an anti-Semite for telling the truth about what happened in Gaza, then no one is immune from this scurrilous accusation.

Understandably, Ms Alibhai-Brown treads warily for fear of bringing the wrath of the "Israel right or wrong" brigade down on her head. Such caution often ends up as self-censorship. But like the boy who cried wolf, most people have become immunised to what is really just a variation on McCarthyism.

There is no evidence whatsoever that there is an increasing tide of anti-Semitism in this country. Anti-Semitism is hatred, violence and discrimination against Jews, not opposition to Israel and Zionism. Zionism, which represents an abandonment of the fight against anti-Semitism, with its belief that Jews are "strangers" in other peoples' lands, is a political movement. We oppose Zionism for the same reason that we opposed apartheid in South Africa.

Tony Greenstein

Brighton, East Sussex

Martin Sugarman's claim (letters, 10 February) that an EU definition of terrorism declares that comparing Nazism and Zionism is anti-Semitic is untrue. A Working Definition, written by the American Jewish Committee, and published by the European Union Monitoring Centre in 2004, made suggestions about what anti-Semitism might include.

That's as far as it went. It has not been ratified by the EUMC's successor organisation, the Fundamental Rights Agency. Like Mr Sugarman's letter, it was an attempt to stifle debate which has clearly failed. Comparing the Israeli government with the Nazis may or may not be a silly exaggeration. It is not anti-Semitic.

Charles Moore


The Independent is absolutely right to call on Israel to live up to its democratic credentials by allowing credible, independent investigations into alleged war crimes committed by its forces during the Gaza conflict (leading article, 3 February). This is something the Israeli government should willingly accommodate, to fulfil its obligations under the UN's report on the Gaza conflict, to provide a forum for justice and accountability, and, in the long run, to help in bringing peace to the region.

All of this would have been true without fresh claims from members of the Israeli military that they operated under dangerously permissive rules of engagement. The case for an independent investigation is starker still. Israel should stop digging in its heels and grant the investigation that would unlock this situation. The onus then would be on Hamas to prove itself capable of similar action.

Kate Allen

Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2

According to Maggie Foyer (letters, 10 February), if as a Jew in this country I am "threatened by anti-Semitism", I should "think myself lucky" I am not suffering a pogrom as are the Palestinians. I do indeed think myself very lucky to live in this tolerant, enlightened country, and not to know Ms Foyer.

Paul Mendelson

Pinner, Middlesex

Whether it is anti-Semitic in itself to oppose the existence of the State of Israel (letters, 10 February), it is certainly the case that by far the majority of people who do oppose Israel are anti-Semites.

Andrew Lee-Hart

Wallasey, Merseyside

Tory threat to our 1st Armoured

Liam Fox wants to remove the Army from Germany (report, 7 February), saying British forces are not needed there in the 21st century, and that those Army units can be sited on redundant RAF bases. Whitehall is protesting that this will cost hundreds of millions of pounds. But the real issue is the future of heavy armour and artillery.

Our principal unit in Germany is the 1st Armoured Division, which has heavy tanks and artillery. Like all military units, it must conduct exercises regularly to maintain its fighting proficiency. There are no open spaces in the United Kingdom available at present for such manoeuvres.

And the idea that redundant RAF bases with their hangers and runways could be converted for the use of an armoured division at little cost shows little understanding of the building requirements of such a unit, and its impedimenta.

Whitehall citing the costs of building family housing as the principal argument against the move from Germany is a red herring. The real costs would be the new buildings on the RAF bases for the tanks and artillery, and the cost of finding room for and funding tank exercises in our countryside.

In my view, moving the 1st Armoured to the UK would sound the death-knell of British heavy armour and artillery, because the Army could not afford the move without making drastic cuts in other areas. Dr Fox appears to lack the intestinal fortitude to announce that the Army no longer can afford to operate heavy armour. So he is killing 1st Armoured indirectly by making it financially impossible to keep the unit operational.

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

Impartial inquiry is needed on torture

The Government covered up the infamous seven paragraphs in Binyam Mohamed's case for two years (leading article, 13 February); when the Court of Appeal ordered them released, it covered up the most scathing part of Lord Neuberger's judgment; and now Kim Howells MP has taken to the airwaves to assure us that, as the chairman of the "completely objective" Intelligence and Securities Committee, he has seen all the classified evidence, and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) has "no case to answer" on the issue of torture.

Well I, too, have had the privilege of seeing the classified evidence, albeit in America rather than in the UK. Obviously, I cannot describe what I have seen. But British judges identify a "vast body" of material that remains secret, apparently including "effectively unchallenged evidence as to ... the knowledge, involvement, and assistance in that mistreatment by [British security] officials".

Howells was also a minister at the Foreign Office in 2008 when we sued the Foreign Secretary (who oversees SIS) over these alleged crimes, and can hardly be an objective arbiter. It is surely past time for an impartial inquiry into all these allegations of torture.

Clive Stafford Smith

Reprieve, London EC4

The abject grovelling of politicians faced with "intelligence matters" suggest that the MPs bent over themselves. With emerging court papers in the UK and US showing intelligence officers were fully aware of what the Bush government did, Mr Howells merely makes himself more ridiculous with his assertions of robust oversight, as does Alan Johnson.

And what made Mr Sumption QC think that an attempt to censor a judgment would not be discovered? Alas, the Government now shows itself to be incapable of organising even a mild cover-up, and reacting viciously when their activities are brought to light.

Adam Walker


You are illegally held and repeatedly tortured in foreign prisons. Your government finds out. Does it (a) demand your immediate release and repatriation and insist that the perpetrators be brought to book, or (b) take this useful opportunity to assist your interrogators with background information and ask a few questions itself?

We know what Mr Miliband's government decided, and we judge people by their actions. I trust the voters will remember Mr Miliband's shabby behaviour come election time.

Giles O'Bryen

London N1

Arresting thought

Robert Scott (letters, 12 February) is quite right to suggest that requiring our prospective top police officers to name Bart Simpson's mother is evidence of dumbing down. At the very least, they should be able to identify Police Chief Clancy Wiggum.

Steve Dodding


Simple life-saver

Professor James Lindesay warns the NHS against Toyota-style "lean thinking", given the motor giant's recent embarrassment (letters, 11 February). I would gladly accept Toyota's rate of error rather than the present NHS rate. UK hospitals are estimated to injure one in 10 admitted patients and to kill nearly 4,000 a year from medical errors. Yet there seems to be continuing resistance to ideas on improvement, even basic ones. For example, simple pre-surgery check-lists, cheap and easy to implement, are estimated to reduce error rates by between 30 and 50 per cent.

Dr Stephen Black

Biggleswade, Bedfordshire

What price glory?

Good news, bad news. Your front page (12 February) says it all. Mandela's release 20 years ago struck a great blow against racism, but in football, homophobia rules. With the great man of world politics, we see integrity, decency, humanity, courage; with the little men of English football, greed, self-interest, corruption, cowardice. And given the experience of these 20 years, can anyone foresee anything different?

Michael J J Day

Settle, North Yorkshire

Spare the rod

Andreas Whittam Smith tells us in "How to make government work again" (12 February) that, confronted by the overload of non-stop 24/7 news, "... they try to make the entire government machine move at the same lightening (sic) speed as the news cycle". I am confused. Were "they" trying to act as lightning rods, or were they trying to lighten the load?



Beware of white stuff

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, says they plan 2,000 drug tests during the Vancouver Games. Is this is so that downhill skiers can compete on a level playing field?

Robert Davidson


Saddled with debt

Will the Greek bailout be a "Trojan horse" for the euro?

K Nolan

Carrick~on~Shannon, Co Leitrim