Letters: An unsustainable number of benefit claimants with no prospect of work (2023)

SIR – I consider myself a subject rather than an employee, so have never liked the expression “UK plc”, but no enterprise with outgoings exceeding incomings can be sustained, be it a household, business or country.

Almost four million people claiming jobless benefits without scrutiny (report, May 25) is not acceptable and certainly not sustainable.

Patrick Kelly
Chippenham, Wiltshire

SIR – Millions claiming mental health issues and joint pain are being paid to sit at home without the requirement to seek work (report, May 25). Yet we are advised by myriad agencies that leaving the house, doing something useful and exercising improves mental health and can help with joint pain.

I don’t doubt there are many genuine claimants, but clearly the taxpayer is now subsidising an unacceptable number of workshy people.

Susy Goodwin
Ware, Hertfordshire

SIR – Dire forecasts of the results of insufficient pension saving (Business, May 25) miss the point. What use is it to scrimp and save for one’s old age – forgoing holidays, new cars, television subscriptions and other things most people regard as necessities?

All around we see the answer: savings are slashed by inflation, and those who made no attempt to save when they had money – who ate, drank and were merry – qualify for benefits as a result. I deplore the dependent attitude we have created.

Shirley Puckett
Tenterden, Kent

SIR – The number of people on benefits is a sad indictment of our society.

Living off the state has become a way of life for far too many. Successive governments let this happen through policies that removed individual responsibility and incentivised victimhood. Employers relying on immigrants is quite understandable.

Mick Richards

SIR – The latest figures showing that net migration has hit a record high confirmed that the Government has completely abandoned any attempt to keep its promises on immigration.

As it cripples the economy with its quasi-religious obsession with net zero, squanders vast sums on HS2 and raises taxes to new heights, this Tory party no longer deserves the support of real Conservatives.

John Hicks

SIR – Dominic Cottrill (Letters, May 17) finds the Home Secretary’s rhetoric on migration disturbing and claims it is not a priority for voters.

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However, the fact that the Government has failed to grip this damaging issue, costing taxpayers millions and straining our already creaking public services is, on balance, likely to make it a priority for a reasonable proportion of the electorate.

Claire Goldie
Winterslow, Wiltshire

Artists’ attitudes

SIR – I wonder if museum staff and curators have given any thought to how many visitors actually read their proselytising labels (Letters, May 24).

Visiting the National Gallery recently, I was struck by the number of people who were more intent on photographing the paintings, and taking photographs of themselves and their friends and families in front of them, than they were in looking at the art itself, let alone reading the accompanying notes.

I read what is written alongside to learn about the artist or the subject, not about the artist’s beliefs or attitudes. Please do not preach to me: I go to galleries to enjoy art, not for a lecture on the rights and wrongs of British colonialism.

Barbara Jefford
Wendover, Buckinghamshire

Brexit and dog travel

SIR – My daughter lives in Dublin and had booked the ferry to visit me with her dog. While she can comply with the rules to bring the dog from Ireland, to return with it has proved extremely difficult and costly.

After multiple phone conversations to various agencies she was told that not only does she have to get a worming certificate from a government-approved vet in this country, but that the dog also has to have a rabies vaccine.

She is not allowed to leave the ferry port in Dublin until the dog has been inspected by a vet. The vets only work certain hours, restricting which ferries she can return on. In addition, if there are any problems with her paperwork she can be heavily fined and the dog put into quarantine. She cannot afford to incur such costs and has reluctantly cancelled her trip.

Previously she had no problems travelling from Northern Ireland, when she lived there, because the dog had a pet passport (which is invalid in the Republic), and she only had to have the dog wormed prior to her return home. It appears that the EU is still punishing us for Brexit, despite us being told that relations are more friendly.

Linda Williams
Bromyard, Herefordshire

Potato chops

SIR – Who buys frozen chips (report, May 22), apart from catering outlets?

What’s wrong with chopping up fresh potatoes?
Patti Page
Lewes, East Sussex

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Quality of the Army

SIR – The Ministry of Defence has no repository of collective knowledge (“Head of British Armed Forces defends plans to cut size of Army”, report, telegraph.co.uk, May 25).

If it had, it would have taken notice of the analysis undertaken 20 years ago, which clearly demonstrated that the quality of the Army could not be sustained at a regular trained strength below 82,000. Below this figure, recruiting, developing and retaining leaders of the necessary quality becomes problematic, and it is this “quality” that is essential to military success.

Equally, the MoD might do well to look at the outcome of the operational analysis of war games concerning resurgent Russia held in the mid 1990s but set in 2015.

The protection of our maritime interests is vital to national security. Given the current state of the Royal Navy, I wonder whether the totality of our defence capability is in safe hands.

Brigadier C J Burton
Director Manning (Army) 2002-2004
Frostenden, Suffolk

NHS waiting lists

SIR – I am one of the “record 7.3 million people currently on waiting lists” (report, May 25) for a hospital appointment – in my case for a high blood-pressure investigation. I was notified at the beginning of May that I had an appointment booked for December 28 at my local hospital. Yesterday I had a letter telling me that this has been cancelled and I will be notified of a new date in due course.

I hope and pray that I keep going until that new date.

Rev Cindy Kent
Barnet, Middlesex

SIR – My late wife was a St Thomas’ Nightingale nurse. During their basic training in 1963, the student nurses were told by a board member that, when the NHS was set up, it was only to run for 30 years, because everyone would be healthy after that.

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The NHS was under strain even then and it was obvious that fundamental change was needed. It is needed even more now.

Harry Wood

Foundation fleeces

SIR – When the “modern” A82 was constructed between Tyndrum and Glencoe in the aftermath of the Great Depression, the contractors had to construct the carriageway over stretches of deep peat bog. This was done by founding the construction on bags of sheep’s wool (Letters, May 25), which were then very cheap, before covering them with gravel and rock.

This road is still used to this day – by far heavier transport than was originally envisaged. Its only drawback is that it is too narrow.

I Spiby
Menorca, Spain

SIR – Avril Wright praising wool (Letters, May 25) will jog the memories of those who enjoyed the London Underground advertisements issued by the International Wool Secretariat in the 1950s, which ended: “There is no substitute for wool.” The public was encouraged to enter poems and winners were awarded £5 for any displayed. The following is typical:

The problem with a satellite
Is where to put the cat at night;
For if you want your mind to ease
How can you let poor pussy freeze?
The answer reads on your computer:
‘A woolly overcoat will suit her.’
From sheep to bleep all know the rule,
There is no substitute for wool.

Sheila Williams
Ascot, Berkshire

How blanket protection of birds is backfiring

SIR – Jamie Blackett’s article (May 23) on how gulls are now protected – after Chris Packham-backed Wild Justice activists pushed through change – highlights the damage being done to native species by a blanket approach to protecting all birds.

Around Wimbledon, it is screeching, raucous, bird-table-looting parakeets that are driving out native species, which are already under threat.

Tony Parrack
London SW20

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SIR – Reading the report (May 24) about seagulls liking crisps reminded me of an occasion at Llandudno Junction railway station some time ago.

I was sitting on a bench awaiting my train, with my rucksack on the floor between my knees, in the top of which was a six-pack of cheese and onion crisps. As I opened my bag, without warning a large gull swooped and flew off with the whole pack. It was dropped on to the nearby railway line, where several other gulls ripped it open and devoured the crisps.

Bill Mason
Eccleston, Lancashire

The pros and cons of harvesting rainwater

SIR – Des Small (Letters, May 25) asks about the negatives of harvesting rainwater to use in domestic settings.

While the reasoning is right – in that the use of rainwater to replace treated clean water in lavatories saves water – this same water still eventually runs down the drains and sewers.

When you add the costs of excavation and installing an accessible storage tank – with a pump and supply system with electric controls – the main negative is the cost of installation, including duplicating the normal system that still has to be installed.

Also, what do you do if a drought dries up the storage tank? A switchover system is required, or buckets from the taps.

Michael Upton

SIR – When we built a new house in Cornwall, we discussed fitting a rainwater harvester with the builder and the architect, both of whom said: “Why would you want a rainwater harvester in a property in Cornwall? This is the wettest county in England.”

Cornwall has now had a hosepipe ban for nine months and there is little chance of it being relaxed in the near future as the reservoirs are still only half full.

I stuck to my guns and there is a 5,000-litre reservoir in the garden. I am afraid that water shortages are here to stay and planners should seriously consider mandating rainwater harvesters and solar panels on all new builds.

Ian James
St Mawes, Cornwall

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