Letters: The City destroys jobs in industry

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Recently, I had a letter from George Osborne. One of the points he made was the Tories' plans to train 400,000 apprentices over two years.

I started work in 1962, as an apprentice. I was expected to attain the City and Guilds craft course at the local technical college. Working for British Rail, I was offered the opportunity to go further with more advanced courses. The going rate quoted then to train an apprentice over four years was £40,000. Not a cheap option if it is done properly.

I firmly believe that Great Britain should not have let our engineering industry decline, as it has done. A big reason for this has been the City doing deals and selling UK companies overseas. This often results in the new owner picking out the contacts, customers and technology, and dumping the rest.

Another reason is companies merging with other European firms. In all cases cutbacks have taken place in the UK, not Europe, because it is far more expensive to make staff redundant in mainland Europe.

The City of London has been very successful, earning much tax income for the country. But it has been a sort of cuckoo, pushing all other sections of British industry out of the nest.

So, Mr Osborne, who will train all these people; and when trained, where will they go to work – Poland, Romania, India?

David Carter, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Young blacksmiths hit by funding cut

My son has been fortunate enough to be accepted as an apprentice in one of the many disappearing rural trades. He is an apprentice ornamental blacksmith.

He has been working very hard since 2007, attending Southampton College one day a week to achieve his welding and fabrication qualification, working in the blacksmith forge on the outskirts of Salisbury and attending the Herefordshire College of Technology on the New Entrants Training Scheme in Forgework since April 2008. This is a residential course of 14 weeks spread over a period of approximately two and a half years.

He was devastated to receive a letter from the college recently informing him that the funding for this course has been withdrawn because of government cutbacks. He had expected to be able to complete his course and therefore qualify as a blacksmith. He has worked hard along with his fellow apprentices, only to find that at the end of July 2010 the training will cease.

Where does this leave him, his fellow apprentices on this course and the other apprentices on the courses after his, one of which only began a few months ago?

Surely this type of trade should be encouraged and the young people that have chosen this trade be given support.

L Whordley, Tidworth, Hampshire

Dunkirk? Not quite

As a Dunkirk veteran (and there are not many of us left) I was amazed to read your front page on 19 April, in which the current use of the Navy and other ships to bring back stranded people during the air flight ban is compared to the Dunkirk evacuation. Although I am now in my 93rd year, my memories of the hell of Dunkirk are still vivid.

Long lines of us standing waist-deep in the sea, being regularly dive-bombed by Stukas and strafed by fighter-planes. The raging thirst because none of us had had any water for days whilst facing the full might of the German army, leading some of the men to attempt to drink sea-water.

The stench of death on the beach. In my own case the stench of blood on my battledress tunic, and the stains of the brains from one of my men who had been shot in the head and had died in my arms. The pain in my feet, not being able for several weeks to take my boots off.

These are just a few of the memories of those days. When I read the front page article, I did not know whether to laugh, or just to cry.

Hal Crookall, Brecon, Powys

My partner and I have just completed a five-day journey from Trondheim to Oxford. This involved seven trains, four buses, three ferries, two metros, two lifts in friends' cars, one taxi, one hire car, a 5km walk and finally a 65-mile lift home in my son's 50-year-old Morris Minor.

I am offering two return leg flight coupons from Oslo to Heathrow to the person who can most accurately plot our itinerary.

Nick Bell, Oxford

The aviation industry is now demanding that taxpayers pick up the bill for losses caused by volcanic eruptions.

Why should we? This massively polluting industry already enjoys an effective annual subsidy of some £9bn, in the form of untaxed aviation fuel and other anomalous tax breaks. Isn't that more than enough? Do any of our would-be political leaders have the backbone to reject this outrageous demand?

Mike Wright, Nuneaton, warwickshire

The weather has been unusually kind recently, clear and dry. During the last few days, while all UK flights have been grounded, the sky has been utterly beautiful, astonishingly clear and blue, such as I have hardly ever seen before.

This morning the vapour trails are back, the sky is filling with milky murk, spreading in wide streaks where planes have passed over, dimming the sun. I, for one, shall welcome the end of polluting flight. Roll on the end of cheap fuel.

Desmond Mottram, Combe Martin, Devon

Expect a bizarre election result

I live in a constituency that has been Conservative for as long as I can remember and probably for ever. After last week's debate, I began to wonder what it would take for the Liberal Democrats to win South West Surrey.

In 2005, the Tories won 50.5 per cent of the votes and the Lib Dems 39.5 per cent. A swing of greater than 5.5 per cent would therefore give the Lib Dems a win. It would be remarkable, on historical performance, for the Lib Dems to do so well.

I then wondered, if the Lib Dems were able to achieve such an unprecedented breakthrough here, would this get them near to winning overall power in the country? You would think it might, but the BBC's election calculator provides the answer. A national swing from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats of 6 per cent would give Labour an overall majority of 84 seats, which is larger than the 66 seat majority they won in 2005.

Some advocate voting for the Liberal Democrats "to get them into power" or just voting for who you want to win (letters, 19 April). It seems this election, more than any other, is one where many votes will have the opposite effect from what was intended.

Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey

Recent opinion polls raise the prospect of us facing the most bizarre result that our unpredictable voting system has ever produced.

One poll suggests the Liberal Democrats have overtaken even the Conservatives in terms of popular support. However, even if the Liberal Democrats were to receive the highest number of votes, with the Conservatives in second place and Labour third, it is very possible that Labour would be the winner in terms of seats, with the Liberal Democrats trailing in third place.

Our voting system is quite capable of producing such an outcome because it rewards parties not just on the basis of their total votes, but according to where they are cast. Parties whose support is relatively evenly spread across the country will find it harder to convert votes into seats than a party whose support is more focused on areas of strength. That is why Labour could still find itself as the largest party at Westminster.

Such a perverse result may, however, have a silver lining, in that by demonstrating beyond doubt the capriciousness of our present voting system it might make the demand for reform irresistible.

Dr Ken Ritchie, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society, London, SE1

David Cameron graphically illustrates how lacking in substance he and his party are by saying voting Liberal Democrat will leave the Labour party in power. Had Mr Cameron paid attention to what voters are indicating in opinion polls and on the doorsteps he would realise that his demand for a Tory government elected by a minority of voters as "the only way for change" is exactly what millions of people do not want.

Where is his acknowledgement that the voting system is a disgrace and typical of the outdated, corrupt politics that pander to vested interests? Why does he not accept that if the three main parties all have roughly the same level of support none of them has the right to unfettered power?

Why does he not accept that even in a discredited voting system a "hung parliament" is reflective of voters' wishes and that therefore he and other politicians must work together in the interests of all the people, not their own vested interest?

Change? David Cameron and the Tories have clearly shown change is the very last thing they want.

David Loader, Esher Surrey

It is said that the people get the government they deserve. That could well turn out to be true on 6 May. If the polls are correct the public are not interested in policies or past record; only who has the best visual impact on TV, as if the general election was some sort of game show. Heaven help us!

William W Scott, North Berwick, East Lothian

Assessing the risk from BPA

Richard Sharpe (Opinion, 13 April) clearly is not familiar with the research published on BPA. His statements about how he thinks humans are exposed to BPA, about how much BPA humans are exposed to, and how rapidly BPA is metabolised are directly contradicted by a recent review of human exposure studies published by L Vandenberg et al. in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives and a report from an international meeting to review the decisions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on BPA by the German Federal Environment Agency or UBA.

For example, with regard to the statement "not much of the bisphenol A we ingest ever gets into the blood to cause any effect in the body", does Dr Sharpe really believe that babies have the same capacity as adults to metabolise BPA? The central maxim in paediatric medicine is that "babies are not little adults". The US National Toxicology Program and the FDA do not agree with Dr Sharpe on this issue and are clearly concerned about effects of BPA in foetuses and neonates shown in a large number of studies; the German UBA also expresses a similar concern.

Dr Sharpe calls for "common sense" to guide the public in assessing BPA. It's a very unscientific and ambiguous term. Common sense gave us Ptolemaic astronomy, with the earth at the centre of the planetary system. Copernicus, Galileo and Newton were making claims contrary to common sense when they developed modern astronomy.

A public health precautionary approach requires regulatory decisions to fall on the side of safety and not towards danger when evidence is scant or unclear. However, in the case of BPA there is a substantial body of evidence indicating potential risks, and two large public health surveys indicate that a substantial portion of the population is exposed to potentially harmful levels of BPA.

There is certainly much debate about the relevance of various lab studies to assessments of likely human toxicity. Public health policies should protect people first and not products. Where less hazardous products exist, potentially hazardous substances should not be used.

Dr Fiorella Belpoggi, Ramazzini Institute Bentivoglio, Italy

Dr Richard Clapp, Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University, USA

Professor Vyvyan Howard, Centre for Molecular Bioscience, University of Ulster, Coleraine

Professor Andrew Watterson; Dr Ruth Jepson; Professor Rory O'Neill, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, University of Stirling

Dr Carlos Sonnenschein, Dr Ana Soto, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA

Dr Frederick S vom Saal, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, USA

Don't tax banks, split them up

The IMF proposals to tax the banks will only serve to institutionalise the practices that we all hope to see the back of, by encouraging governments to cash in on the profits. The present freedom of the banks to use the public's assets (savings and loans) as collateral for financial speculation will continue to fuel their asset-stripping activities, which are impoverishing us all.

Surely, it is high time that our politicians were called to account for aiding and abetting the massive upward redistribution of wealth in the pursuit of short-term political and economic gain. The separation of retail banking from investment banking activities that should be allowed to stand or fall without being underwritten by the taxpayer is the only logical solution and would not require a new tax.

David Copsey, Penzance, Cornwall

Tories dismiss the 'Liberals'

Bruce Anderson's article "Don't be taken in by Clegg's niceness" (19 April ) affords yet another example of the practice much favoured by Conservatives alarmed at the Liberal Democrat threat – of resolutely referring to their opponents as the Liberals.

Of course, the standard Tory strategy has always been to ignore the third party as if it didn't exist, but, when changing circumstances make this impossible, the contemptuous use of this misnomer comes into play.

In the last few days on the radio the usual suspects have been at the game, Lords Baker and Tebbit and Ann Widdecombe, to name but three. That the phenomenon is not confined to the Conservatives was shown in a very recent TV interview when Gordon Brown was guilty of the same offence.

To a degree this doubtless reflects the Con-Lab yearning for those dear dead days when the MPs of the then correctly designated Liberal Party could all be fitted into two taxis and their rank-and-file dismissed as sandal-clad, bearded weirdies.

John Platt, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Education without tests

Hurrah for Peter Moss (letter, 20 April). He makes the point that too many teachers and head-teachers ignore: they don't need to respond to the pressure to teach to the test.

I was encouraged in my first teaching post to play down the importance of the Sats to my Year 9 students, and I have always done so since. A few years ago, I told my class that their homework for the Easter holidays was to "relax, have a holiday and do no revision". I was then asked by all the students to sign their homework diaries. Otherwise they were sure their parents wouldn't believe a teacher would say that.

Teachers should get on with the vital job of educating children – and then humour the number-crunchers by putting a few hours aside for the tests, no more. Of course, head-teachers would feel more confident encouraging this course of action if children were allocated to schools randomly (as Amy Jenkins suggested recently).

Catherine Simmons, Sherborne, Dorset

Perilous waters

Steve Richards ("Something had to give", 20 April) perpetuates Gordon Brown's solecism about the economic crisis being in "unchartered" waters. Sadly, these waters are not just for temporary hire but, as we all know and as our politicians are mustering the courage to tell us, are going to be part of our lives for a long time to come. It is the uncharted nature of the waters which prevents us from estimating how long this time will actually be.

Christopher Martin, Kington Langley, Wiltshire

Not very green

The "Green Awards" issue of The Independent Magazine (17 April) came complete with leaflets I don't wish to read and a free CD I didn't ask for, all contained within a plastic wrapping that I cannot recycle. What part of the word "green" do you not understand?

Flo Whitaker, Burgess Hill, West Sussex

Squirearchy

While driving round the country I am constantly amused by the rows of Conservative posters decorating the boundaries of large estates and farms. While their support for the Tories is touching in its solidarity, I would hardly think it goes far to convince us, the great unwashed, that the Tories have now become the party of change in our society.

Pete Parkins, Lancaster

The City destroys jobs in industry

Recently, I had a letter from George Osborne. One of the points he made was the Tories' plans to train 400,000 apprentices over two years.

I started work in 1962, as an apprentice. I was expected to attain the City and Guilds craft course at the local technical college. Working for British Rail, I was offered the opportunity to go further with more advanced courses. The going rate quoted then to train an apprentice over four years was £40,000. Not a cheap option if it is done properly.

I firmly believe that Great Britain should not have let our engineering industry decline, as it has done. A big reason for this has been the City doing deals and selling UK companies overseas. This often results in the new owner picking out the contacts, customers and technology, and dumping the rest.

Another reason is companies merging with other European firms. In all cases cutbacks have taken place in the UK, not Europe, because it is far more expensive to make staff redundant in mainland Europe.

The City of London has been very successful, earning much tax income for the country. But it has been a sort of cuckoo, pushing all other sections of British industry out of the nest.

So, Mr Osborne, who will train all these people; and when trained, where will they go to work – Poland, Romania, India?

David Carter, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Young blacksmiths hit by funding cut

My son has been fortunate enough to be accepted as an apprentice in one of the many disappearing rural trades. He is an apprentice ornamental blacksmith.

He has been working very hard since 2007, attending Southampton College one day a week to achieve his welding and fabrication qualification, working in the blacksmith forge on the outskirts of Salisbury and attending the Herefordshire College of Technology on the New Entrants Training Scheme in Forgework since April 2008. This is a residential course of 14 weeks spread over a period of approximately two and a half years.

He was devastated to receive a letter from the college recently informing him that the funding for this course has been withdrawn because of government cutbacks. He had expected to be able to complete his course and therefore qualify as a blacksmith. He has worked hard along with his fellow apprentices, only to find that at the end of July 2010 the training will cease.

Where does this leave him, his fellow apprentices on this course and the other apprentices on the courses after his, one of which only began a few months ago?

Surely this type of trade should be encouraged and the young people that have chosen this trade be given support.

L Whordley, Tidworth, Hampshire

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