Letters: The Chancellor must save Britain’s economy from its addiction to debt

A cleaner polishes the door of Number 11, Downing Street, UK
A clean slate? An employee polishes the door of Number 11 Downing Street - Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

SIR – National debt stands at £2.5 trillion, a similar level to our GDP, and costs £85 billion a year in interest payments. Unfunded public-sector pension liabilities stand at around £2.6 trillion (report, November 21), yet government spending continues at eye-watering levels.

So much for the Chancellor’s sudden “fiscal headroom”. We are living on unaffordable borrowings, and setting a woeful example for future generations.

David Hutchinson
Nutley, East Sussex

SIR – I hope the Chancellor will be wise enough to adjust inheritance tax in the Autumn Statement (Letters, November 20), not by reducing the percentage taken, but by modestly raising the nil-rate band, thus increasing the amount which can be passed on free from tax.

This measure would be inclusive, not exclusive, and would protect the many who are far from wealthy but are increasingly subject to paying this iniquitous tax because of property price rises.

Christopher Rose
Leiston, Suffolk

SIR – Andrew Cook (Letters, November 19) states that many of the bereaved families he meets are more distressed by seeing their parents’ savings swallowed up in care home fees than by paying inheritance tax.

As a result of illness, my husband requires 24-hour care. Under the current system, we are expected to meet the full cost of his essential care using our savings.

We are then taxed at 20 per cent on the savings we withdraw – an additional £17,000-a-year bill. Tax relief on savings withdrawn to meet care needs would be compassionate, and would potentially benefit many more than the 4 per cent of families who would gain from inheritance tax reform.

Linda Jordan
Stourbridge, Worcestershire

SIR – I have been dismayed by the number of Conservative supporters who have renounced the party on your Letters page (November 20).

As the son of a Welsh coal miner I was brought up on the socialist creed. I cooled when Labour cosied up to the unions, which systematically destroyed our ship-building, car-making, aircraft, textile, mining and iron and steel industries, aided by incompetent industrial management.

My damascene moment came in 1970 when Vic Feather, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, told the workers at a Ford factory that his job was done when the employees drove away from work in the same car as the bosses. Mr Feather was then chauffeured off in his Rover.

I have remained loyal to the Conservative Party since then, because other political groups do not have the same principles as me. Loyalty works both ways, through thick and thin.

Brian Farmer
Braintree, Essex

Covid predictions

SIR – Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser during the Covid pandemic, wrote in his diary that the Treasury’s predictions for the impact of “Plan B” in late 2021 were based on “no evidence”, “no transparency” and “pure dogma”, and were “wrong throughout” (telegraph.co.uk, November 21).

Treasury predictions are necessarily based on mathematical modelling. But so were the accepted epidemiological predictions during the same period. It is ironic that Sir Patrick felt justified to criticise Treasury modellers in such a manner when his criticisms applied equally well – if not more so – to the epidemiological modellers upon whom he relied. Epidemiological models provided the main justification for imposing non-pharmaceutical interventions (including lockdowns) upon the public, many of which proved both cruel and disastrous.

It seems that, in government scientific circles, “using modelling” is one of those irregular verbs – I use modelling that is accurate; you use modelling that is based on flawed assumptions; he uses modelling that is wrong throughout.

Thomas Howey
Buckhurst Hill, Essex

SIR – Rory Stewart would make ministers undergo formal training for their posts (Features, November 21).

We have learnt of the poor numeracy skills of certain members of the Cabinet during the pandemic. I would contrast this with the requirement in recent years for people to have GCSE maths in order to work in pre-school nurseries.

Keith Appleyard
West Wickham, Kent

Short prison sentences

SIR – Rory Stewart is quite right to highlight the ineffectiveness of short prison sentences in tackling reoffending (Features, November 21).

What is often overlooked is the destructive effect that these sentences can have on the families of those incarcerated.
People who are imprisoned for short periods are also prone to being locked up for multiple offences over time. This will result in any children they have being raised in a chaotic environment, deprived of a consistent parental presence in the home.

It is widely understood that the outcomes for such children are very poor. They are more likely to suffer from a range of adverse effects, such as mental and physical health issues, lower attainment in education and a higher risk of becoming offenders themselves.

Stuart Harrington
Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset

Imported calendars

SIR – On Monday I went looking for 2024 calendars. Apart from one (from Northumberland), they had all been printed in China - including that of the National Trust.

The thought of such a volume of paper goods being imported horrified and saddened me.

Joyce Wotherspoon
Morpeth, Northumberland

SIR – Some of my friends have said they will not be sending Christmas cards this year, owing to the cost of postage.

Those who miss out will be the charities which make cards. Is it not time Royal Mail produced a special Christmas stamp at a reduced rate? It would surely benefit from such a move, as would charities and the general public.

Ann Attwell
Bury, Lancashire

Telegraph ownership

SIR – I have to say I’m disappointed to read that the Telegraph may be acquired by the Abu Dhabi-backed investment fund RedBird IMI (Business, November 21).

Would it exercise daily control over content? Surely there must be other options, or does it all come down to who has the deepest pockets?

Rob Lunn
Bearsted, Kent

SIR – Can you guarantee that such a takeover would not inhibit editorial policy?

Donough McGillycuddy
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Heath’s reputation

SIR – Your report (November 20) reiterates Lord Lexden’s call in the House of Lords for an independent inquiry into the false child sex abuse claims made against the late prime minister Ted Heath.

You previously reported (October 27) that the Home Office minister who refused the request on behalf of the Government nevertheless commented at the time that such allegations were “patent rubbish”. Is this not an admission that justice has not been done?

Perhaps an acceptable way forward would be for the present Prime Minister to issue a statement to Parliament and the media that there are no grounds for these allegations, and to make a public apology on behalf of all those who mishandled the affair.

When there has been a miscarriage of justice, resulting as it always does in damage to the reputation of the victim, a prompt and open apology by, or on behalf of, those responsible should follow as a matter of course. It is sad that so many of those in leadership roles, in both secular and faith bodies, are often very slow to do this.

Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Fowl play

SIR – Our dog Roxie, a cavapoo, has a string of bells attached to the handle of the patio door so she can ring them to indicate when she needs to go out.

Recently, while I was enjoying supper in front of the television, she rang the bells. When I went to open the door, she doubled back and gobbled the chicken off my plate before I had a chance to stop her (Letters, November 21). I’m now wise to this particular antic, but no doubt she has other tricks up her sleeve.

Louise Boxhall
Thurlestone, Devon

The gift of a drum should be just for Christmas

Surefire hit? A selection of drumsticks from the German manufacturer Rohema
Surefire hit? A selection of drumsticks from the German manufacturer Rohema - dpa picture alliance / Alamy/Alamy

SIR – Roy Bailey’s letter (November 20) reminded me of the time when my parents thought that my young son would love a drum as a Christmas gift.

After a noisy day, we were about to depart when it was pointed out to me that we hadn’t put the drum in our car. I explained that it was a special present from his grandparents, which would be even more special if it was only played when we went to visit.

Two or three visits later, it inexplicably disappeared.

Noel Radcliffe

SIR – I wanted to buy my musical grandson a drum kit for his birthday, but his parents thought it a bad idea. Undeterred, I bought an electronic drum kit and got him to assemble it in my music room.

He had a very happy time putting it together, and although the sound can be channelled through my superb sound system, he prefers to wear headphones and can plug in his phone to play along with his favourite songs. Everyone is 

Tom Gough
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

How to make the winter fuel payment fairer

SIR – A compromise suggests itself in response to calls to stop “wealthy” pensioners receiving the winter fuel payment (Letters, November 21).

While still making the payment on an annual basis, make it part of the state pension. If someone has an income (including the total state pension) over the tax allowance, they will pay tax on it at their highest rate. Those living solely on the state pension will not.

Tony Foot
Mosterton, Dorset

SIR – John Glen, the Paymaster General, is, like all Treasury officials, completely out of touch with the concerns of the average pensioner (“Hunt urged to clarify minister’s remark about stripping pensioners’ winter fuel benefit”, report, November 21). An army of civil servants would be needed to administer a new system, while many older people could suddenly find themselves excluded and struggling to keep homes heated when faced with major health concerns.

Brian Elphick
Storrington, West Sussex

SIR – You raise the question of whether or not winter fuel payments should be restricted to those who really need them. 
If they continue and the recipient does not need the cash, the answer is simple: keep it and spend it. You will then have spare cash from your other (taxed) income which you can donate to one or more charities of your choice and send the donation using Gift Aid.

John L’Estrange
Billericay, Essex

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