Letters: We're to blame for the banks

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The Independent Online

There is a double standard in our attitude to financial institutions. They were vilified for causing the credit crisis by lending too much too freely, and now they are lambasted for not lending enough. When interest rates were high we condemned them for making mortgages unaffordable; now interest rates are low we criticise them instead for offering meagre rates of return to savers.

The huge surpluses generated by the banks during the good times created excellent returns for investors and helped to fill the coffers of the Exchequer. Few questioned their modus operandi.

The behaviour of financial institutions simply holds up a mirror to the rest of society. Where bankers keep a fraction of capital in reserve and speculate with the remainder, governments borrow vast sums and households over-extend themselves on credit in the Micawberish hope that future income will set everything straight. The fault lies not just with the banks but with ourselves.

Dr Gary Kitchen

Southport, Lancashire

Mary Ann Sieghart's fictional Prudence Flint sounds like she's got her head screwed on correctly (Opinion, 7 November). I'm sure she understands that, as a saver, it was she who had to be bailed out by the taxpayer.

"Spendthrift" borrowers in Britain didn't get us into this mess. We say Britain's banks were too big to fail. What we mean by that is that the liabilities of Britain's savers were too big for their collective gullibility to be allowed to prevail.

David Woods

Hull, East Yorkshire

The St Paul's Report on the City of London implies that the de-regulation of 1986 gave London the opportunity to be a leading global financial centre.

London had, until overtaken by New York, been the leading financial centre in the world for over 100 years. What "Big Bang" did was to demolish almost all financial regulation and with it any morals in the City of London. We had a clear non-regulatory field which was attractive to New York "investment banks", who could not believe their luck.

This was swiftly followed by the invention of derivatives and other perverse instruments of gambling which were of little or no use to increasing the wealth of the country except for a very few people. To become the "number one" financial centre in the world – that is, the number one centre for financial gambling – is a fool's award.

We should take action, at least with the bank we almost own. Reduce as soon as possible the investment banking side of RBS, get in a CEO who is a banker (investment bankers are not bankers; they are gamblers) and prepare for losing a place or two in the pecking order of international financial centres; we are too big in this area for the financial size of the country.

Peter Croggon

Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, London SW16

Yesterday I left the high street bank I have been with for 42 years to move to a more ethical organisation.

If I was leaving my doctor, dentist, mechanic, plumber, accountant or hairdresser, I would have a chat and say goodbye. But in all the years I have been with my bank no one has ever greeted me by name or rewarded me in any way for my loyal custom. Five years ago I was even made to show identification at my branch to prove who I was.

There isn't anyone to say thank you and goodbye to. Who cares? I do, enough to get out.

Jo Bousfield

Stroud, Gloucestershire

So the bankers will move elsewhere, will they? The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.

Peter Bartlett

Worthing, West sussex

Stop trying to pass the buck over M5 accident

I am beginning to find rather tiresome the reporting by the media of the police enquiries at the Taunton Rugby Club after the M5 accident and the insinuation that the Club is somehow "in the frame". I have no connection with the Club but I begin to feel for them. Fog or bonfire smoke does not suddenly jump out and take you by surprise. It is a hazard, but it is there to be seen.

I can see no case for linking this accident to the Government's proposal to raise motorway speed limits. Whatever the speed of travel, if you either fail to look where you're going or cannot pull up within the distance you can see to be clear ahead, you are in effect driving blind.

These are harsh comments after such a tragedy, but it is time we stopped trying to pass the buck.

John Gudgeon

Downham Market, Norfolk.

The accident on Friday on the M5 is dreadful, but for the police to suggest that smoke from a nearby firework display might have been to blame seems to show lack of local knowledge.

The stretch of the M5 between Weston-super-Mare and Taunton is across the Somerset Levels, a low-lying area where mists and fogs can suddenly appear and disappear again. It is no good relying on the motorway warning signs as they are often switched on when the fog has been around for some time.

C A Love

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Every day of every week I see large commercial vehicles weighing many tons, being driven on motorways at 60mph only a few yards behind each other. If someone makes a mistake the potential for death is inevitably high.

Peter Wing

Manuden, Essex

Jackson just did what addicts do

As a recovering addict and, more latterly, a counsellor in the field, my reaction to the Conrad Murray outcome was one of some anger.

As addicts our sole purpose is to persuade, and put under pressure, doctors to prescribe us as many mood-altering drugs as possible. That is what we do. The more money we have, the more successful we are.

The richest drug addict in the world was able to take this situation farther than anyone else has, but in truth it is no different from what is, and has been, going on all over the UK every day. This is just another addict blagging greedy or misguided professionals into doing things that are at best inappropriate and in many cases unprofessional and illegal.

But every time an addict effectively kills themselves, we look to blame someone. Yes, Murray was negligent, but the truth is that this happens every day. Jackson was an addict a long way down the path and the end was inevitable.

The only real guilt should be around those close to him who failed to challenge the pitiable condition he had arrived at.

Nigel Radcliffe

Southminster, Essex

Politicians of the future

I would like to offer a word of thanks to Simon Carr for his impassioned review of the UK Youth Parliament Commons debate (5 November). While we all applauded him on the day in the Commons for his staying power in attending the entire debate, I feel he deserves further recognition.

As one of the MYPs who arrived at Paddington station in a suit and no doubt warmly greeted my fellow MYPs, I am flattered indeed by his description of the performance of my colleagues in the Commons on Friday. We were variously described as: at ease on our feet, the political class, laying the foundations for our future political careers, as articulate and well-informed as our more mature counterparts in the Commons, and, in Simon Carr's words, "the whole package".

As an elected MYP I have pledged to my constituents – sorry Simon if that brings another surge of, er, emotion to your throat – that I shall improve the positive image of young people in the media. It is an image at times characterised by a negative, patronising and at times outright hostile tone. So, thank you Mr Carr for your praise, albeit inadvertent. And don't feel too bad about being old and envious (your words not mine).

Of course, I agree that the full benefits of UKYP won't be appreciable for 10 or 20 years, when we will have a new generation of politicians. But surely that is no reason to sneer now.

Jake Pitt

Member of Youth Parliament for Mendip, Wells, Somerset

The value of human sewage

It is difficult to understand why £3.6bn is to be spent building this sewer to carry 39 million tons of London's human waste miles out to sea (report, 1 November). In many other countries, notably Germany and Sweden, such waste is treated as a valuable source of renewable energy.

Digesting it with enzymes in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen recycles the carbon in it, by converting the organic matter very largely to biogas (mainly methane), while the residue contains valuable elements for recycling as a fertiliser.

The methane can either be burnt to generate steam for driving turbines, or it can be fed into the gas grid, or used as motor fuel. In Stockholm the buses are fuelled by biogas from such anaerobic digestion of sewage.

Elsa Woodward

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Barmy border security lapse

On the same day that I was escorted from the airport security check because I was carrying a small pot of manuka honey, my medicine for bronchial flu, I learn that countless possible terrorist suspects have been allowed into Britain. We are becoming a barmy nation, enforcing petty rules while major threats go unchallenged.

Christine Green

London SW4

It beggars belief that our mainstream political parties still subscribe to Washington's globalisation agenda, which favours an ever-expanding EU. First in line are seven Balkan states, followed by Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia, with all that implies for immigration into western Europe and security issues arising from a Greater EU bordering Syria, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan and Chechnya.

Yugo Kovach

Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Gould's roots

I could have sworn the Labour Party had its roots in the working class, but apparently not, according to your articles on the death of Philip Gould (8 November). Andrew Grice reckons Gould helped Labour to "re-connect" with the "aspiring middle classes", while Peter Mandelson says he championed the "new middle class". Gould and his admirers did not re-connect Labour with its traditional supporters; they broke that connection, with the result that the party does not now offer a radical alternative to the Conservatives.

Shaun Harbord

South Molton, Devon

Pudding plot

It is so out of date to think that Freemasons think only of themselves and are always in secret huddles plotting world domination (Diary, 8 November). They are ordinary chaps who like to meet and have a ceremony, plus a lovely three-course meal, hopefully with a sponge pudding. At every meeting they collect for a charity which is more often than not totally unconnected with Freemasonry.

Anne Williams