Lord Heseltine makes a fair point in suggesting that in Britain “people may be too rich to push” (Interview, 25 March). Where he misses an essential point is in suggesting that it is a problem of the “British people”. Most of those British people have seen their incomes flatten or decline over the past 15 years, while their debts and job insecurity have increased.
Meanwhile, a very small proportion have grown their share of Britain’s wealth enormously, and they have little incentive to change the economic model. They also have immense political influence, shown in government policies that have favoured the rich, penalised the poor and neglected the real investment needed to rebuild Britain’s economy.
In the past, Lord Heseltine has shown more understanding of the needs of industry and the urban poor than most of his colleagues have. It would be good to see the old “Tarzan” in action again.
The reasons why rich economies tend to grow more slowly than some poor ones are rather more banal and measurable than any lack of will adduced by Michael Heseltine.
There is simply less scope for growth if productivity in most industries is close to state-of-the-art – as it is in much of Europe, North America and Japan. Less scope is not no scope, but growth much in excess of 1 per cent a year per hour worked is implausible.
Even that modest growth may be worth having – though not at any price. Currently, however, labour productivity appears to be falling in the United Kingdom. The most plausible explanation is that the cheap-money policy may be keeping a lot of inefficient firms in business. If so, the gradual liquidation of “zombie” firms will be the essential precondition for a return to modest but statistically significant economic growth.
Lord Heseltine has as poor an understanding of the British people as does the Chancellor.
“It’s a question of whether the national will is there.” All I have heard from friends and work colleagues in the past five years is that government has no idea how stony broke we are and has no intention of standing up to the bankers and newspaper barons.
The “national will” is to hear a politician, any politician, tell the truth about money and the NHS.
It should be obvious why our economy is so sluggish. Michael Heseltine is half right in that rich people have everything and have no desire to spend, but the real problem is that after food, rent and ever-increasing energy costs, those earning below the national average have no money to spend.
The solution is to increase salaries and wages by a minimum of 15 per cent for the low-paid. The resultant small inflation will be a good thing, as long as interest rates move in line, thereby allowing pensioner savers to have some money to spend. But the real gain will be the gap that is created between earners and those on benefits.
Stop foreigners hijacking British ideas
The Coalition Government has pinned its hopes on small business exports leading the economic recovery – but these words must be backed up by more protection for enterprises entering the global marketplace.
While e-commerce may bring boundless possibilities for independent UK firms, the dangers can be just as big. Young, innovative companies need a protective arm around them as they do business in new territories – particularly with regard to their intellectual property.
My company, www.blackwhitedenim.com, is a Cheshire-based fashion boutique and e-commerce retailer, and recently we have become embroiled in a “David and Goliath” fight to stop our identity being stolen by a multinational distributor in South Africa. We discovered that our name and entire concept were being hijacked, and we are now battling to assert our rights to our IP and the reputation that we have built up over three years of trading.
Like most small business owners, we have invested everything into making our company a success. We have carved a livelihood by establishing a niche through a well thought-out, hard-won concept. We want other SMEs to avoid the same trouble.
While the Government’s Intellectual Property Office has been proactive in offering online IP healthchecks, there must be greater access to IP services when young enterprises are getting off the ground because once business is in full flow and the order book expanding, this is an area to which few have time to devote.
Although the numbers experiencing IP problems abroad are still relatively small, this will surely grow as more SMEs trade in the global marketplace. To give young companies such as ours the confidence to attract customers from all corners of the world, the Government must make the full weight of its powers easily available to all.
Managing Director, Black White Denim, Wilmslow, Cheshire
High cost of press regulation
It is ironic that you have accepted, albeit reluctantly, the need to comply with the proposed system of press regulation. This is because The Independent would not exist had this system been in place when the funds were raised for its 1986 launch.
The money required was raised in the City. Financial markets can make a good stab at pricing commercial risk. What they cannot do is price regulatory risk.
The proposed system will have regulatory bodies dominated by people with no association with the press but who can be lobbyists, members of political parties and PR people. The press will be encouraged to accept binding arbitration of disputes with only limited rights of appeal.
If they do not submit, they may face exemplary – what Leveson calls punitive – damages, although a co-operating party doing exactly the same wrong will not face such damages. They may have to pay the legal costs of losing complainants.
For the first time in our legal system, the party that makes the law will judge both whether it has been breached and the punishment for a breach.
What pension fund manager would want a company in which he or she was invested to run these risks?
I was the merchant banker in charge of raising the funds for The Independent and was a director of the company for the first seven years of publication. I wouldn’t have bothered if this Royal Charter and its accompanying statute changes had been in place.
Attlee justified many times over
Richard Humble’s assault (Letters, 19 March) on Clement Attlee ignores most of what matters.
Labour sacked George Lansbury, a pacifist leader, in 1935 and replaced him with Major Attlee, who favoured intervention against Franco.
Indian independence was the only possible decision, one justified many times over by today’s flourishing Indian state. The deaths at independence were the doing of the vain, prejudiced and incompetent man on the spot, Mountbatten.
Bread rationing and other post-war hardships were chiefly the result of the peremptory cutting off by the US Congress of Lend Lease; an instance of our special relationship.
A pointer for our Prime Minister: Mr Attlee returning from a foreign meeting was asked by journalists, “Prime Minister, have you anything to say to us?”
He replied, “No.”
The fourth R: retiring at 60
I think the teachers planning to go on strike should say to my children, who won’t be taught that day: “We want to be able to retire when we are 60 and we want a good pension. The Government says it doesn’t have enough money for us to be able to do this but we don’t believe them.
“We think that when you go to work in 10 or 15 years, you should pay more taxes than people who are working now pay and also work for longer – at least until you’re 70 and maybe 75 – so that those of us who are working now can stop when we’re 60.”
Wind power beats pretty scenery
Imagine the smug feelings that have come over me now that the digger in my frozen 40-acre field has begun preparing the groundwork for the micro-turbine shortly to be erected on my small farm.
Of course energy security should trump pretty scenery, as Francis Roads states in his letter (25 March). It has, however, taken 10 years for me to obtain planning permission in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where, if good sense were to prevail, every farm with wind to spare should have a turbine to make at least some contribution to our fragile energy supply.
P A Reid
Francis Roads misses the point in arguing that the threat of gas rationing will convince rural Nimbys of the need for wind turbines. In truly rural areas where a wind turbine might be sited, there is no gas supply and power cuts are considered a normal part of life.
No Tory whip at the BBC
Chris Bryant’s comment that “it’s odd enough for the Chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, to be a lord and take the Conservative party whip” (Voices, 23 March) is wrong.
I resigned the Conservative party whip upon taking up the role of BBC Trust Chairman nearly two years ago. I felt it important to set the record straight on this small, but significant, point.
Chairman, BBC Trust
At last we have found the cause of all our national problems of recent years. Judging by the current frenzy of activity around immigration, it would appear that foreign people coming here to live and work are the cause of everything. Once we enact all the half-baked laws being proposed to limit immigration, we will be saved.
I notice the BBC is blaming the recent spate of bad weather on high pressure coming in from Europe. Nigel Farage must be rubbing his hands in glee.