Letters: Wildlife and cuts

Related Topics

High price of spending cuts

Dominic Lawson (29 June) argues persuasively that if it is a choice between unproductive public expenditure and expenditure based on personal choice the latter should prevail. However, that is not the choice the Government is making – it is seeking to reduce debt by reducing public expenditure and increasing taxation, thus also reducing private expenditure.

The effect will be deflationary. If public sentiment were favourable it could be tempered by an increase in personal and corporate expenditure funded by debt, but there is no sign that the sentiment will be there or the banks will lend.

The Government has a difficult balancing act that can go seriously wrong. Not only is it unlikely that personal and corporate indebtedness will increase but sentiment is vulnerable and fear of unemployment can rapidly reduce elective expenditure, adding to deflation, as it did in 2008/9. Unemployment from cuts will increase public expenditure, reducing the net saving.

The Government needs to be more subtle. It needs to talk the economy up, not down; it needs to find out how much it can borrow if it can show a more buoyant economy; it needs to reduce expenditure by spreading the pain thinly in reduced benefits rather than an immediate reduction in headcount, and spread the pain of tax increases widely. The desired reshaping of public expenditure and distribution of wealth can follow when the private sector is better able to absorb the labour that is released.

Jon Hawksley

London EC1

As Simon Hughes gets cold feet over the Budget ("Hughes threatens 'trouble' for the coalition over treatment of poor", 25 June) what is more worrying is the consensus between all three major political parties over disability benefits and welfare "reform".

Most people understand very well that the banking and debt crisis was caused by the absurd situation whereby investment banks and hedge funds could gamble on toxic investments with capital they never actually possessed. In most businesses this would have been known as fraudulent trading, but when it came to the bankers it was expected that the rest of society would make the sacrifices necessary for them to indulge their addiction once again.

Yet the attack on welfare benefits proceeds apace. The higher unemployment is and the fewer the jobs that exist, then the greater is the need for sanctions and penalties in order that claimants fight harder for the jobs that aren't there in the first place.

New Labour abolished incapacity benefit, and its green paper on care raised the prospect of the abolition of disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance for the over-64s. The Tory-Liberal Budget has merely put flesh on New Labour's proposals.

Eligibility for incapacity benefit used to depend on one's own GP, until medical tests by private companies were instituted as a means of cutting the numbers qualifying. Because not enough people were disqualified, New Labour decided to abolish incapacity benefit. Instead, people were supposed to be judged by what they could rather than couldn't do. Because there is no onus on employers either to take on or retain disabled people, the result has been that sick and disabled people are still unemployed, but receiving a lower benefit.

The reason why DLA is so popular is that it is not means-tested or subject to taxation or the overlapping benefit rules. It is a genuine addition meant to compensate parents and carers for the additional costs of looking after someone who is disabled. As someone who cares for an autistic child receiving DLA, I know that the alternative to DLA for many thousands of people is to put someone in care, at much greater expense to the state as well as the personal distress that this will cause.

There should be a simple message to governments which seek to interfere with this, the most basic of disability benefits: hands off and deal with bankers' bonuses first.

Tony Greenstein

Secretary, Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre

Budget will cost Lib Dem votes

Having read the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis of the Budget I can see that there is very little in it that will be warmly welcomed by core Liberal Democrat supporters. The pain will come to the fore when cuts to frontline services provided by local government and benefits agencies are introduced.

Nick Clegg and parts of his leadership appear to have forgotten that their support is primarily drawn from individuals to the left of centre who have been unable to support Labour owing to its reactionary civil liberties policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Liberal Democrat economic policies have often been to the left of Labour's in their redistributive aims.

Policies in this Budget and the subsequent spending review announcements will lead to a massive loss of Liberal Democrat support at the next election.

In the Midlands and southern England there are many places where the Lib Dems hold very small majorities over the Conservatives. Lib Dem support is going to fall away as people wondered why they bothered voting for them and fought the Conservatives so hard at the last election.

In the North and Scotland, where I suspect Lib Dem support is more fragile, people will no doubt go back to supporting a reinvigorated Labour Party. I foresee the result will be the Lib Dems returning to a 1980s level of parliamentary support.

Philip Norman


Those who criticise Nick Clegg over the VAT rise in the Budget are ignoring a fact. The Lib Dems didn't win the election. If they had done so the Budget would have been different.

The Lib Dems have done well to achieve the increase in the tax threshold, the safeguarding of the value of the state pensions by the "triple lock", the rise in capital gains tax and the levy on banks. Many would like to have seen the rich and the banks making a greater contribution, but the essence of coalition is compromise.

Political journalists are having a hard time adjusting to the notion that we no longer have a two-party system. They need to be reminded that in coalitions no party gets everything it wants.

Betty Harris

London N1

Moving house to find a job

Iain Duncan Smith's proposals to encourage the long-term unemployed to move to areas where there are better job opportunities have been greeted with a mixed response. But they do shine a spotlight on a major problem for many social housing tenants – the difficulty for people to move within the social housing sector.

In a recent survey conducted by our house exchange service, the UK's only not-for-profit mutual exchange service for social housing tenants, almost 10 per cent of people looking for a house swap cited employment as their reason for wanting to move. Moving into a larger home or downsizing, being closer to family and friends and caring for family were other key reasons respondents gave.

There is a will is among many people to relocate for work, but in the absence of a nationwide house exchange scheme that all landlords are obliged to sign up to, we will struggle to create the fluid, free-market of house exchanges that would help so many people. The Coalition has highlighted the problem – we hope it also encourages and enables the right solution.

David Williams

Executive Director Strategy and New Business, Circle Anglia

London N1

England team deserve support

If you are feeling let down by the pathetic display put on by England in South Africa, do not despair: I know of a national team you can follow.

They play with passion, commitment and pride. Last year they reached the finals of the European championships and lost to Germany after a spirited performance. This year they are in the World Cup qualifiers, sitting second in their group after an exciting comeback against Spain in their last match to draw 2-2.

Yes it's the England women's team. Dust off your vuvuzela and come along on 29 July to Walsall, for their next World Cup qualifying match against Turkey. They would love your support, and you know what? This team actually deserve it.

John Burgess


I'm so relieved that England are out of the World Cup. Like the mercy-killing of a terminally ill patient, this was the most humane way of alleviating the suffering of team and fans alike.

Stan Labovitch


Buildings for a modern city

If Bruce Anderson is to achieve any success in his argument for architectural stagnation and against Modernist architecture he is going to have to come up with more than simply labelling it "ugly". (Opinion, 28 June). Personally, I find the anachronism of pastiche both ugly and depressing, but I understand that that in itself is not a case.

Like all successful world capitals, London's population is rapidly increasing and its shortage of housing is a significant problem, and yet Prince Charles and his ultra-conservative supporters oppose building above the height constraints imposed by the technical limitations of 19th-century building materials and methods.

Perhaps they feel that London's population shouldn't be increasing, in which case they should have the honesty to say so. Otherwise, perhaps they could explain to suburban green-belt residents why sprawling faux-Georgian "villages" need to be built in their neighbouring fields, and then explain to environmentalists and other taxpayers why expensive transport infrastructure is needed to bring these populations to work.

I would find the Prince's notion that all architectural progress ceased circa 1800 both depressing and nonsensical even if its logic was only applied in rural or suburban environments, but to apply it in central London constitutes a threat to the city's viability as a world leader. This bizarre nostalgia is a cultural, environmental and economic millstone around our necks, and as Mr Justice Vos rightly stated, the Prince's interference is unwelcome – not to mention unconstitutional.

Benjamin Counsell

London E5

Presumably the "traditional" architecture that Prince Charles espouses was once "modern" itself and presumably subject to the same criticisms that he himself now uses.

Tom Simpson


Religious rules for slaughter

Your article "New EU rules require compulsory labelling of halal meat" (21 June) draws attention to a new EU regulation which will result in the discriminatory labelling of all meat and meat products derived from animals that have been slaughtered by shechita, the Jewish religious humane method of slaughtering permitted animals and poultry for food.

The Jewish community is fully supportive of providing consumers with information about the origins of their food and we urged MEPs that if they wanted to label meat and meat products, labels should include those killed by electrocution, shooting, gassing or clubbing as well as the many millions of animals that are mis-stunned during the stunning process. But to single out one method is suspicious, troubling and discriminatory.

It is a popular myth that shechita is a painful method of slaughter. There is ample scientific evidence to the contrary. The shechita process requires the rapid uninterrupted severance of major vital organs and vessels, which produces, inter alia, an instant drop in blood pressure in the brain. This abrupt loss of pressure results in the immediate and irreversible cessation of consciousness, followed by immediate death.

And shechita accounts for only 0.03 per cent of all animals slaughtered each year for food in the UK. The real concern for animal welfare activists should be the far greater numbers of animals mis-stunned by captive-bolt or electricity every year. Both Defra and Compassion for World Farming recognise that 9 per cent of animals are mis-stunned.

Henry Grunwald QC

Chairman, Shechita UK London NW5

Good causes

Liz Hoggard ("What sport teaches us about men", 28 June) wonders why she has only ever encountered women and gay men doing the work at the causes for which she has volunteered. May I propose that the projects that she has supported "from HIV and Aids to feminist causes" may have something to do with it? People give up their time for causes with which they most strongly identify. Had Ms Hoggard been volunteering for, say, Help for Heroes or the Testicular Cancer Fund I dare say that her experiences might well have been different.

Guy Hollamby

London W9

Yew fruit

Janet Pearson (letter, 29 June) takes the crossword compiler to task for calling the yew a conifer, on grounds that "yews have berries". Wrong: they have an aril, a kind of false fruit which bears a superficial resemblance to a berry. The yew belongs to the genus taxus in the family of taxaceae, all of which are conifers. Yew "berry" is merely popular, not botanical, usage

Francis Beswick

Stretford, Greater Manchester

Perspectives on wildlife in danger

Where have all the insects gone?

Michael McCarthy's article about vanishing insects (25 June) reinforced my own observations.

When I came to Leicestershire from Yorkshire 40-odd years ago I noticed a change in the flora, as I moved from a limestone area to an area on clay. However, there were a few mind-boggling differences that were definitely man-made. For example, walking by a local river I was struck by the enormous dock leaves growing in the muddy shallows. Dock leaves where I came from grew no bigger than around 25 centimetres long, but these Leicestershire ones grew – and still grow – to almost a metre in length, and there are many such clumps. This is attributable to run-off from heavily fertilised fields, but I had never seen it before.

I soon began to notice a curious lack of wildlife. Sitting down by a canal or a river to observe the passing fauna was a total disappointment. There was nothing much either to see or to hear. It didn't take me long to spot the reason, because as I sat on the grass I was not bothered by the usual collection of small creatures. Nothing moved. No spiders, ants, earwigs; no beetles, grasshoppers, moths or butterflies.

Yet whenever I have mentioned the lack of insects to people around me they don't react with horror. It's as if insects are an inconvenience. And the rows of insecticides in our local garden centre bear this out.

This loss of diversity is indeed tragic. Leicestershire is a haven of agri-business and is incredibly boring to walk in. As a child I lived in a Yorkshire village where as we walked we passed hedges with nests in and fields where there were wild flowers and butterflies. Bees and grasshoppers were noisy in the meadows and gardens. Birds sang.

So has this gone for good? Has anyone noticed?

Jenny Westmoreland


Acid rain damage is still with us

Michael McCarthy is right to draw attention to the probability of an acid rain comeback (23 June). But what he doesn't say is that some of the greatest damage it caused in the UK has never gone away, even though it has long since disappeared from the agendas of environmental NGOs.

In the west of Britain, thousands of kilometres of idyllic-looking upland streams remain fish-dead because of acid pollution over the last few decades. Most of these streams have their sources on high moorland peat bogs, themselves naturally slightly acid environments. Their waters were rendered even more acidic by sulphur dioxide air pollutants dissolved in rain, outstripping what little buffering capacity these peaty soils naturally had.

The result? Kills of stream invertebrates and, thereby, no minnows, brown trout and other fish. Few stream birds such as grey wagtails and dippers are able to survive, simply because there are so few invertebrates for them to survive on.

Schemes led by the Environment Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales to add lime to some of these stream headwaters and peat bogs – many of them very difficult to access – is starting to return them to some semblance of normality.

Ships continuing to burn sulphur-rich fuels at sea (from which westerly winds blow airborne pollution our way), and vehicle nitrogen oxide emissions outside any regulatory control are likely, as McCarthy rightly suggests, to bring back the acid rain scourge that has fallen off almost every environmental agenda and out of public thought.

Dr Malcolm Smith

Colwyn Bay

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'