Letters: Tax and the economy

What crisis? The rich are doing fine

Share

John Kampfner asks: "Which politician will be brave enough to tell voters the days of abundance are over?" and describes the need for a new paradigm (Opinion, 18 June). Can I suggest that with nearly $2trn secreted "offshore" in 2011 alone the new paradigm starts with closing all the offshore tax havens: the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Jersey, Isle of Man, Luxembourg, Monaco, and ending the rights of Swiss citizens to travel freely in the EU.

If there is to be any semblance that "we are all in this together", equality of taxation has to be a priority. If the period of "abundance" is over then we can no longer afford the self-indulgences of the untaxed rich who choose to reside here free of their proper responsibility as citizens.

It is perhaps not astonishing that this aspect of "sustainability" seems to be entirely overlooked by the 50,000-strong "professional village" that has decamped to Rio+20.

Peter Hack

Bristol

While the banks will be thrilled to receive another £80bn bonus from the Government this year any belief that this will trickle down to the high street to stimulate the economy is a joke.

The core economic problem we face isn't just high-street lending and high-street spending, it's in the creation of new enterprise, new jobs and new opportunities. That means taking risks on business lending and making new business investments, and banks don't do risk or investment.

Once again the Chancellor and his advisers have misunderstood how to get the economy working for everyone but the London banks.

Michael Bond

Stockport, Cheshire

Chief executives and senior management in big business received an average increase in remuneration of 12 per cent last year. Are these the people that George Osborne had in mind when he cut the top rate of income tax in the Budget, to stop them leaving the country in droves because their salaries and perks were so inadequate? Looks like they had sorted their financial problems anyway.

So long as this unashamed greed continues, there is no hope of unity of purpose across the country to battle our current economic woes.

Barrie Frost

Bedford

In the current financial climate is not the word "billion"' (and its contraction "bn") being bandied about so ubiquitously that the value it represents means very little to people? I suggest that The Independent sets an example, and bans the use of the word in its columns for at least a month: "£10 billion" would have to be expressed as "£10,000,000,000". We might then be shocked into a better appreciation of the huge sums involved.

Peter Ward Jones

Oxford

 

Can we live with our birds of prey?

Michael McCarthy ("A badge of honour: the fight to save the whale" 13 June) highlights some of the successes of the conservation movement including the moratorium on whaling and the saving of the Mauritius kestrel and New Zealand's kakapo from extinction. These were important achievements and there are many more that conservationists can take great pride in, but we should be vigilant to the threats that wildlife continues to face both here and abroad.

It was recently revealed that not a single hen harrier bred in England this year despite there being suitable habitat to support over 300 pairs. This is believed to be due in large part to persecution carried out in the interests of grouse shooting estates.

We were promised the "greenest government ever" when the Coalition took office; surely we have a right to expect them to act decisively to prevent this kind of persecution and allow one of our most charismatic bird species to return to the moorlands?

Jonathan Wallace

Newcastle upon Tyne

I was disappointed that so many ostensibly sensible people missed the point in such spectacular style (Letter: "Safeguard our birds of prey", 13 June).

Birds of prey, like other top predators such as tigers, wolves and bears, occupy a very special place in the public psyche. The rescue and recovery of birds of prey after the impacts of pesticides were understood is one of the most important conservation successes.

The big issue is how to cope when top predators clash with legitimate concerns about human livelihood and welfare. Reacting with "horror" about "imprisoning buzzards" is unhelpful. People need answers which require research and practical solutions. Media rhetoric will cause more damage.

The idea that "our countryside is a place where people and wildlife can live side by side" sounds terrific – until you do it with tigers, wolves and bears, or feel your very livelihood is being threatened by a rapidly expanding buzzard population.

John Swift

Chief Executive, The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Rossett, Wrexham

 

Reasons to learn a language

It seems to me the critical question to ask when insisting all school children learn a foreign language (as Michael Gove is considering doing) is what for?

If we want students to go to university and read literature in the original language or become translators then we have a perfectly good system. If we want young people to use languages, to enjoy them and particularly to speak them then I am afraid we absolutely do not have a system in place which will enable this to happen.

My experience (of not learning French at school and 30 years later having two children go through the same experience) is that the curriculum is not designed to make children able to communicate in a language – certainly not orally. It may well happen if a particular teacher in a particular situation chooses to focus on communication, but across the country this will not happen.

If children do not see a communicative reward they will not want to study. Clearly the minute the Government stopped language being compulsory at GCSE a generation of children gave a huge sigh of relief and got on with other subjects.

Making them study languages without addressing the motivation and the curriculum is hardly likely to suddenly make them want to learn a language. And of course while it is undoubtedly true that the younger they start the better, it is also true that the sooner you put them off the more difficult it is to ever get them back again.

David Wilkins

Director, UIC London

Your recent correspondents (16 June) state that language training in primary schools has failed in the past because of a lack of qualified teachers. This is still true, for there are relatively few people who can currently teach, say, German, and the required training takes time.

But suppose we think of the problem not as "how many native English speakers can teach German?", but as "how many native German speakers might be eligible to teach in our primary schools?" This opens many opportunities: what might happen, for example, if Michael Gove were to fund a scheme whereby those studying to become primary school teachers in Germany – most of whom are likely to be proficient in English – are invited to spend a year in the UK teaching German to our primary school pupils?

Dennis Sherwood

Exton, Rutland

It is easy to cast doubt on the feasibility of Michael Gove's laudable intention to place foreign language study firmly in the primary school curriculum because of an assumed shortage of qualified language teachers.

However, a good number of such teachers were shaken out of secondary schools when Estelle Morris, during her short and ill-starred period as Education Secretary, decided for the weakest of reasons (by her own admission later, to reduce truancy) that it should no longer be compulsory for 14- to 16-year-olds to study a foreign language. That was in 2002.

Quite a few of the numerous language teachers who fell victim to Morris's damaging blunder are therefore probably available to be coaxed back into teaching their subject, this time at primary level, even maybe out of retirement. It would certainly be worth trying to persuade them.

Professor David Head

Dean, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Lincoln

 

Patronising perks for pensioners

Am I alone in thinking the present system of pensioners' perks rather insulting (letters, 13 June)?

Our household is entitled to a free television licence (we do not have a television), a free bus pass (with one bus a week within walking distance), free prescriptions (I have needed one in the past two years) and free eye tests.

If the state pension were reasonable we would happily pay for these ourselves and would have the choice of how we spend the money. We could decide to buy books, have a taxi to the theatre, pay for a gardener or go clubbing all night.

Next they will remove the VAT on bedroom slippers and provide free cocoa vouchers.

Penny King

Thurlton, Norfolk

 

Place your bets like a grown-up

Terence Blacker (12 June) berates some shops who try to inveigle online customers into gambling. If you fall for this ploy and get into trouble with gambling debts, the responsibility is primarily yours. Nobody forces you to shop online, no one makes you place a bet. These are your own choices and unless you're a juvenile, you must take

the consequences.

Maybe it's time to stop making excuses, to stop blaming others, to act like adults and to treat other adults accordingly. When you use "society" as the scapegoat, you are insulting members of society, as well as stretching morality to breaking point.

Mike Norris

Dublin

 

Just impediment

I was very interested in the statement by the Rev David Perry (letter, 18 June) about the table of kindred and affinity for marriage in the Church of England. Last year I discovered during a family history search, a marriage in 1852 between a man and his niece, strictly forbidden of course, but dependent upon the declaration of the couple. Under the proposed legal changes to allow gay marriage, would it then be possible for a man to marry his nephew?

Margaret j Adderley

Cheadle, Cheshire

 

All together

I have just listened to a discussion about people's weight on the BBC's Today programme. One of the contributors remarked: "We are all getting fatter." I regularly hear that "we all" have, or do, something. I object to this idea, as I have been between nine and 10 stone for most of the past 40 or so years.

David Sparrow

Syderstone, Norfolk

 

Nasty turn

Can I claim the prize for being the first to spot the next U-turn? I refer, of course, to the proposed withholding of working tax credits from strikers. Apart from being expensive and unnecessary it is also immoral and of dubious legality. Let's see what happens next ....

Jim Bowman

South Harrow, Middlesex

 

Now, see here

Michael Fishberg is worried about how one would spot a fake at the Hayward Gallery's exhibition of "invisible art" (letter, 15 June). No problem. If you see anything in it, it's fake.

Richard Bryden

Llandudno, Conwy

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A still from the BBC's new rap about the outbreak of WW1  

Why give the young such a bad rap?

David Lister
Israeli army soldiers take their positions  

Errors and Omissions: Some news reports don’t quite hit the right target

Guy Keleny
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice