SIR – Ben Marlow (“Sadiq Khan is waging war on London’s motorists”, Business, November 29) highlights the financial burden to be placed on public service workers living in the capital by the Mayor’s plan to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) to the outer boroughs.
This does not only apply to residents of London boroughs, however. All those key workers living outside the city but travelling into a borough for work or for voluntary services will be similarly penalised. Public transport is not readily available and switching vehicles is unaffordable for most.
Think again, Mr Khan.
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The Mayor of London’s decision to ignore Londoners’ objections and expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone is undemocratic and a hammer blow to households’ budgets.
Thousands of people and businesses responded to Transport for London’s consultation in good faith – and overwhelmingly said no to Ulez expansion. But Mayor Khan is imposing the daily £12.50 charge regardless, giving people only nine months to prepare. With sharply rising energy bills and inflation, few can afford the charge, let alone buy a compliant vehicle.
Outer London doesn’t enjoy the same public transport as central London. Nor does it have the same air-quality problems. It is also inseparably connected to the Home Counties, with thousands of people driving in to work, shop and visit each day. We need targeted solutions, not a blanket road charge.
The Ulez was never intended to apply to outer London. This is a smash-and-grab raid on drivers’ wallets that has nothing to do with air quality and everything to do with Mr Khan’s mismanagement of TfL finances. And it comes at the worst possible time for household incomes.
We urge the Mayor to cancel his Ulez expansion. It is regressive, unfair and a waste of money. Instead, outer London needs more electric buses, charging point infrastructure, and public transport options.
Boris Johnson MP (Con)
Gareth Bacon MP (Con)
Theresa Villiers MP (Con)
Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP (Con)
Claire Coutinho MP (Con)
Paul Scully MP (Con)
Nickie Aiken MP (Con)
Bob Blackman MP (Con)
Crispin Blunt MP (Con)
Elliot Colburn MP (Con)
Jackie Doyle-Price MP (Con)
Sir David Evennett MP (Con)
Mike Freer MP (Con)
Louie French MP (Con)
Chris Grayling MP (Con)
Stephen Hammond MP (Con)
Adam Holloway MP (Con)
Gareth Johnson MP (Con)
Julia Lopez MP (Con)
Stephen Metcalfe MP (Con)
Gagan Mohindra MP (Con)
Sir Bob Neill MP (Con)
Chris Philp MP (Con)
Dean Russell MP (Con)
David Simmonds MP (Con)
Henry Smith MP (Con)
Dr Ben Spencer MP (Con)
Bob Stewart MP (Con)
Laura Trott MP (Con)
SIR – I live outside the proposed new Ulez but my local Tube station is Northwood. It is too far from home for me to walk (I am 83), and there are no buses. The station car park is at the end of a 200-yard cul-de-sac, all of which will be just inside the new Ulez.
At present, if I want to go to London I park my “dirty” old car there and catch the Tube. But from next August it will cost me £18 (Ulez plus car park) before I even get on the Tube that the Mayor would like me to use. Hardly an incentive to travel by public transport.
An honourable lady
SIR – I am shocked by what has happened to Lady Susan Hussey (“Lady-in-waiting resigns in palace racism row”, report, December 1). I have been acquainted with her for many years, as we attend the same church in London.
Lady Hussey is a modest, kind and devout Christian who would not intentionally offend anyone. At our church, which is very ethnically diverse, she has always got on extremely well with parishioners of all origins. I can say categorically that she is not racist. I am quite sure that her intentions have been misconstrued, and that she was doing nothing more than taking an active interest in the lady involved in this debacle.
What shocks me even more is that she has effectively been “dumped” by the Royal family after decades of loyal service, given gratis.
Taxing public schools
SIR – Sir Keir Starmer is using overly emotive language in stating that the Government is “handing taxpayers’ money” to independent schools (report, December 1). In fact, it is not taking the money in VAT from them, which is not the same thing.
Taxing independent schools would result in closures, fewer schools paying the tax, fewer places for disadvantaged children, and greater cost to the state system. More pupils in the state system would increase class sizes, and class size has a direct correlation with the quality of learning. Creating additional classes to keep size down requires considerable resources, far beyond any notional gain from the extra tax.
No doubt this is all crafted to appeal to voters and attack “privilege”. However, as a former pupil of a fee-paying school (Reigate Grammar changed from selective-state to independent while he was a pupil), and with an Oxbridge education, Sir Keir is a product of the privilege he seeks to curtail.
SIR – The Mosquito (Letters, December 1) was an amazing plane, constructed largely of plywood sourced by my father, who worked as a materials buyer for de Havilland.
Anyone interested in learning more should visit the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Shenley.
Woburn Sands, Bedfordshire
SIR – Whether or not we agree with strikes (report, December 1), their timing, in the run-up to Christmas, says more about the unions than the need for action.
In addition, there is a war taking place in Europe, and Britain is a major player in helping Ukraine. Surely, at this time, the country should be pulling together to improve productivity and help pay our way out of the problems caused by the pandemic, the recent political upheavals and the conflict in Ukraine.
SIR – Many members of the University and College Union who have been taking part in strikes (report, November 29) include scientists and researchers. These careers involve years of training, often with no early pension provision.
To compensate, pensions in later career have been secure and generous, despite generally low salaries compared with other professions. A cut of 35 per cent in guaranteed pension income, which will disproportionately affect younger and mid-career scientists, is likely to decrease the talent pool in the universities and reduce the United Kingdom’s competitiveness.
This cannot be a good outcome for a country that intends to lead in technology and innovation.
Professor Nick Evans
University of Southampton
Crusading in Qatar
SIR – Charles Moore (Comment, November 29) suggests that the Crusader outfit worn by some England supporters in Qatar is as offensive as an SS uniform would be on the streets of Britain. I believe he is wrong for two reasons.
The first is that the passage of time should surely have softened the animosity of the Crusades. We would not, I think, be offended by someone wearing a Kaiser-style Pickelhaube.
The second is that Qatar’s involvement in the Crusades was limited. The peninsula was lightly settled during that period and is more than 1,000 miles from the Holy Land – further, in fact, than Gibraltar is from Great Britain.
SIR – I, too, am bemused by the difficulty of buying a glass of sherry when out (Letters, December 1).
I recently asked for one in a popular pub, and the young barman had clearly never heard of it. He had to ask a colleague and was told that, if they had it, it would be with the port. After searching, he came up with a bottle of cherry brandy.
What is the world coming to?
Lewes, East Sussex
SIR – When visiting the Scottish town of Ardrossan in the 1980s, I asked for a gin and tonic in a pub – only to be told in no uncertain terms: “That’s a lassie’s drink.”
I had a pint of special instead.
SIR – My father decided to monitor the quantity of whisky he and my mother drank every night, so bought a proper measure.
The first time he poured my mother a single she handed the glass back, saying that it wasn’t a drink, just a dirty glass.
He never used the measure again.
Protection for a proud emblem of Wales
SIR – The emblem of Wales – the Welsh leek – is back (“‘Majestic’ Welsh leeks win protected status”, report, November 30).
My father was an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. On St David’s Day the regimental goat, clad in full regimental dress, would lead the foot soldiers on parade, all proudly wearing the leek badge on their berets and caps. The pedestrians, too, wore specially made broaches representing Welsh leeks.
The regiment has since been amalgamated with the Royal Regiment of Wales, but the Welsh leek is now back in the limelight alongside Melton Mowbray pork pies, Cornish pasties and Scotch whisky. I know which I prefer.
Consequences of the health visitor shortage
SIR – The Princess of Wales spoke passionately about improving the lives of under-fives (report, November 26).
One of our greatest failings in this regard is the decline in the number of health visitors – a drop of almost 40 per cent since 2015. Most mothers will remember those first weeks at home with a new baby – the uncertainty of how to care and look after a small and often crying child. Family help can be far away.
This is where a health visitor can give much-needed advice and support. Without this, is it any surprise that there has been an 81 per cent rise in perinatal mental health problems in the past year, and a 71 per cent increase in child safeguarding concerns?
Mothers and families need help and support. A good health visitor can provide it. There should be more.
SIR – Your report (“The doctor will see you now ... 265 miles away from the surgery”, November 29) fails to mention that the practice in question delivered 93 per cent of its appointments in October face to face.
Practices work in different ways to meet the needs of local communities, depending on factors such as patient choice and population differences. At a time of severe staff shortages, new ways of working can be the difference between having a GP working for the practice remotely or less than full time, and having no GP at all.
Singling out individuals is unfair. It hurts morale just when GPs are leaving at an unsustainable rate. The ultimate losers are patients, who will wait longer for care as their GP has quit.
Dr Kieran Sharrock
Acting chairman, British Medical Association England GP Committee
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