Letters: Spending cuts

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The Independent Online

Carriers with no aircraft

So the new government thinks it viable to operate a navy without an aircraft carrier? Did anyone in this government ever read any history?

They may as well scrap any remaining Royal Marines assault ships as well, as without effective air cover, indeed air superiority, in any "power projection" (usually involving amphibious operations) they and the remainder of the Royal Navy's fleet of frigates and a few minesweepers may just as well be plastic ducks.

Of course we are going to be talked down to and told there is no "existential threat" (in the favourite contemporary phrase) that needs an aircraft carrier for the next 10 years. Well bullies usually get into action when they discover defenceless targets. It seems Britain always needs a punch in the face before it gets its military capabilities right, and even then just in the nick of time.

"Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum" is the ancient but ever true message for Mr Cameron and Dr Fox, but then they possibly did not study Latin any more than it seems they did history.

Robin P Wilkinson

Ickleton, Essex

To the enormous relief of the Admiralty, me and me mates have saved the Royal Navy from the embarrassment of having two shiny new multi-billion pound aircraft carriers but no planes. In true Dunkirk spirit, to a man all of us at our local microlight aircraft club have volunteered to fly our "trikes" off of the Navy's mighty 60,000-ton carriers.

And what a stirring sight and sound that will be! Their little two-stroke engines buzzing like a swarm of angry lawnmowers these colourful wire and fabric contraptions will leap off the heaving deck of the Queen Elizabeth and soar skywards to strike fear (or at least bemusement) into the hearts of Britain's enemies.

If the sheer spectacle of these little avenging butterflies doesn't terrify those pestilential terrorists then we might paint threatening slogans under the wings or tow banners saying, "Go Away!" or "Stop that immediately!" In the case of really recalcitrant terrorists our brave pilots will buzz in at their maximum speed of 45 mph, shake our fists in their faces and glare at them fiercely.

So just as the "little ships" saved the British Army from Dunkirk so these "little planes" will save the Navy from becoming an international laughing stock.

David H Lewis


If an aircraft carrier is a ship that carries aircraft, what should we call an aircraft carrier that doesn't?

J E S Bradshaw

Southam, Warwickshire

Just money won't fix the NHS

I don't care if spending on the NHS "flatlines", or even if jobs are trimmed (report, 18 October). I just want a health service that delivers rather than throwing money down the drain. Granted, hip replacements and cataract operations – under New Labour, that is – were performed more or less on demand. But in every other respect the NHS has failed.

Why, for instance, is MRSA fifty times more common in UK hospitals than in the Netherlands? And, how is it that patients in Germany can choose their surgeon and the time of their operation while we have to take pot luck, not only with the operator, but also with the day?

Over the past couple of decades nursing has changed beyond recognition. It was a Conservative government that encouraged staff to climb the career ladder. As a result, many nurses came to regard caring for the sick as merely the first step to a more lucrative career. It was also a Conservative government that put hospital cleaning out to tender and exposed patients to deadly infections. Instead of correcting these problems New Labour simply threw more money at them.

If this government intends to maintain the status quo – albeit with less money in real terms – then we will continue having a second-rate health service. To achieve the same standards as some of our European partners will require larger financial contributions but, much more importantly, a return to old-style nursing and ward cleaning, and, last but not least, an end to the cancerous spread of hospital managers.

Alan Aitchison

Wakefield, West Yorkshire

So we read that 15,000 jobs have been slashed from the NHS over the past nine months. Let's hope it's the right jobs that have been abolished. Even a cursory examination of any NHS trust will reveal layer upon layer of managers managing yet more managers, with many impenetrable tiers to be gone through before you reach anyone who deals with a patient.

Keep cutting, I say, but make sure it's management you're cutting, not patient carers.

Ron Gellert-Binnie


My husband needs a hearing aid. He went initially to our GP, who referred him to the audiology department. Unfortunately, they found a problem with the ear and needed ENT input. They could not make the referral to the department in the same hospital themselves, so he had to go back to the GP (a second appointment) to make the referral.

There are places where money could be saved in the NHS.

Penny King

Thurlton, Norfolk

FA must reclaim historic role

Your leading article of 15 October will have been read with delight by football supporters throughout the land. The agonies being experienced by Liverpool supporters are the latest example of football's inability to regulate itself to protect our football clubs.

You are also correct in pointing out the advantages of the ownership model employed in Germany. Even in the United States, where professional sport has developed along a much more commercial business-oriented path, Tom Hicks and George Gillett wouldn't have been permitted to load acquisition debts on to any franchise they purchased there.

Your criticism of the Premier League for its inability to produce a robust enough response to these challenges is warranted. The Football Association must also shoulder its share of the responsibility. It has so far proved unable to reform itself and reclaim its historic role as the governing body of the whole game and become an effective regulator.

I believe we will need the active support of all of those who care about the future of English football including the Government to achieve that.

Malcolm Clarke

Chair, Football Supporters' Federation, Sale, Cheshire

Time to close zoos for ever

Your article and leader on conditions at London Zoo (16 October) hit the nail on the head. Of course, it is important to ensure that standards for animal welfare, conservation and public safety in zoos are met in the short term, but your bigger question remains: are zoos any longer appropriate? It is one that the Born Free Foundation has been asking now for over 25 years.

As delegates to the Convention on Biological Diversity meet in Japan to try to chart a course which will protect the earth's beleaguered species and the fragile habitats they depend on, the role of zoos barely gets a look in. Hardly surprising. Cramped and dilapidated enclosures, compromised animal welfare, dubious educational benefits and a reprehensibly small conservation dividend indicate how out of touch zoos are.

As you rightly say in your leader column, zoos are giving zoology a bad name. The paradigm of conservation in captivity is flawed, and it is time to refocus our resources and energies on the real conservation battleground – in the wild.

Will Travers

CEO, Born Free Foundation

Horsham, West Sussex

What the Israeli oath will mean

What is the intended purpose of the proposed Israeli oath of allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic state" (letters, 18 October)? Surely not to keep out Arab trouble-makers, who will cross their fingers and swear anyway.

The intent of this and other recent laws is to discourage non-Jewish immigrants, so that a Jewish majority is retained. The oath is a political signal saying to non-Jews: "You are not welcome here. Go away."

Robert Sather

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Jacob Amir explains that 20 per cent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish (letter, 16 October). These citizens are excluded by the definition of Israel as either a Jewish state or the nation state of the Jewish people. Democratic nation-states must be for all their citizens regardless of ethnic or religious background.

Janet Green

London NW5

Sorry, it's a small society really

Now 59, I've been involved in voluntary service of various kinds since I was 16 years old, and I've known a great many other volunteers in that time. I've acquired skills, though they don't serve me as "qualifications", and met and helped some great people. I work in the public sector – in education – for around £13,000 a year.

I put in perhaps 15-20 hours a week of my own time designing and creating resources to assist, in particular, challenged learners. This is the Big Society in operation and it's great, but it doesn't prevent my being just one short step away from homelessness and destitution.

The Big Society wants to make use of what should be a genuine moral imperative to serve one's fellow man and woman. The trouble is that it becomes harder and harder to find the motivation in a small society which celebrates and rewards celebrities, "sportsmen", bankers and others whose clear and relentless purpose is, primarily, to serve themselves.

Richard M Thompson

Sutton, Surrey

Dust in the Turbine Hall

I see that the Tate Modern has had to stop visitors from coming into contact with Ai Weiwei's artificial sunflower-seed installation. This is because of health fears in respect of the ceramic dust given off. Apparently, there are around 100 million of these "seeds".

We are told that each has been "hand-sculpted, kiln-fired and then hand-painted by an army of 1,600 workers". I suspect that this must have taken years and cost a fortune. This and the dust problem make you wonder why they didn't just use, er, sunflower seeds. They could have been recycled once the show is over.

Keith O'Neill


Why everybody hates bankers

The Lord Mayor yet again completely misses the point about the scandal of bonuses (letter, 19 October). I, with millions of others, go to work each day and work to the best of my ability for my employer. In exchange I receive a mutually agreed salary. The fact that these City types have to be bribed with the prospect of bonuses into doing well for their employers shows exactly what spivs and chancers they are.

Christopher Anton


Poor remedy

Nil nisi bonum, but I was surprised to read in your obituary of the actor Simon MacCorkindale (18 October) that he spent 12 weeks in Atlanta having "extensive homeopathic treatment and low dose chemotherapy" when his cancer was at its most aggressive. That is to say he spent, in essence, 12 weeks drinking water to stave off this most terrible disease. Whatever else you may find to say about the homeopathic industry, its PR department is obviously second to none.

Stan Broadwell


Pagan stamps

David Foster, commenting on Christmas stamps, is in error (letter 19 October). Nobody knows when Jesus was born; some evidence suggests it was September. The truth is that the Christians made a successful, hostile takeover of the ancient feast celebrating the winter solstice – the turn of the year. Royal Mail is not at fault.

Stephen Gratwick

Sevenoaks, Kent

Perspectives on the spending review

Biggest shake-up in a generation

Wednesday's Spending Review constitutes the most important domestic political event in a generation. The cuts will have profound consequences. Some face the loss of a job. Others face years with inadequate social housing. On a lesser level, I myself find my dreams of pursuing a PhD severely dented as fees sky-rocket.

Rapid and deep cuts only attempt to appease fickle markets. The Government's policies have no clear instrument for job creation and growth, without which it will be near impossible to downsize the deficit anyway.

I therefore hope your readership will support those of us demonstrating in Whitehall on Wednesday.

Ben Waite

London SW2

The Tory war

The spending review to be announced by the millionaire Tory George Osborne is not so much about saving money as an ideological war on the state. For years the Tories have looked to sell off all state assets, in line with their fundamentalist Friedmanite ideology. The Tories despise the public sector and have long looked to sell off the National Health Service.

Osborne's cuts will return us to the 19th century, with religious organisations dispensing welfare to the deserving and undeserving poor. The usual objects of Tory hatred, the poor, single mothers, the working class, the sick and the elderly will pay the most. The Tories will make sure that the bankers with their millions in bonuses will pay no price at all.

Alan Hinnrichs


Town Hall disaster

Recently, residents' associations where I live in Poole were invited to a meeting to look at budget plans. No one who was there will be in any doubt as to the severity of the reduction in council services across the country.

On my reading we can expect, for example. residents cleaning their own roads, the end of bus passes, limited street lighting, closure of libraries and adult education, the end of community policing – and this on top of cancellation of school building programmes. Our council is taking on a 12 per cent cut in budgets.

The Big Society is the front for dismantling vast swathes of public services.

Jeffrey Williams


Tax is fairer

Probably because it seems to have become a taboo subject among politicians of all parties, there has been little talk of the fairest and most evenly spread means of cutting the deficit, namely taxation.

A temporary 5 to 10 per cent rise in income tax would, over the lifetime of the present government, raise many tens of billions of pounds to help pay off the deficit, without unduly hurting any one person or group. It would be paid by those better able to afford it than the disadvantaged who would be worst hit by cuts in public spending.

I believe that the economy is sufficiently flexible to withstand a marginal decrease in spending power across the board, far more so than massive job cuts which would remove the spending power of those affected and would make them an additional burden on the state.

Peter Nixon

Richmond, Surrey

Rich and resentful

Injustices and unfairness come with every attempt to restrict benefits to those who most clearly "deserve" them.

One of the virtues of universalism is that everyone has a stake in the system. Once it is abandoned, the well-off, who don't receive benefits, start to resent the fact that they are paying for other people's welfare. We ought not to give up universalism without a fight.

Anthony Arblaster


Fat cats escape

Congratulations to The Independent for highlighting these fat cat industrialists who are only too pleased to support financial cuts on people with a tiny fraction of their income, in full knowledge that they will not suffer one jot ("Backlash against the big business society", 19 October). Particularly so when they are all on the same executive remuneration merry-go-round which ensures that they all get ever increasing money regardless of real performance.

Tom Simpson



I was intrigued to read that Mary Ann Sieghart considers that "the Coalition has brought a return to civilised ways of doing politics" (18 October). If being "civilised" means what is going to hit predominantly the worst off on Wednesday, then I would prefer to stick with the roughnecks who cut child poverty by 600,000 and reduced cardiac surgery waiting time from two years to 18 weeks.

Peter Metcalfe

Stevenage, Hertfordshire