From A-levels to Brexit: Our readers respond to this week's top stories

Telegraph Readers
Students celebrate their A-level results at Brighton College in East Sussex - PA

A-level exam results and the housing crisis were some of the main news stories that got our readers talking this week. We're also looking at Ruth Davidson's piece on taxing internet giants and what you think about calls for a relaunch of the Brexit campaign.

See what your fellow readers had to say and then join in the conversation below. Simply scroll down to the comment section, log in to your Telegraph account (or register for free here) and share your views on the week's most contentious events.

Boris Johnson urges PM to cut 'absurdly high' stamp duty

Boris Johnson branded housing “the single biggest and most urgent crisis we face”, on Monday and said that Theresa May must slash “absurdly high” stamp duty and abandon affordable housing targets to get Britain building. 

Most of our readers agreed that stamp duty isn't the main reason that affordable housing is unavailable to first-time buyers - some argued that it's about demand and supply, and others that houses are being bought up by people on better wages.

'Prices are so high because of increased demand and limited supply'

@Richard Phillips:

'In the UK, since about 1960 or perhaps even before, buying a property was the conduit through which have-nots became haves. The present difficulty that people unable to access the so-called Bank of Mum and Dad have in buying property poses an existential threat to those of us lucky enough to own our own homes. Unless something drastic is done we will become a shrinking group whose interests will matter less and less.

'Stamp duty has definitely curtailed activity in the million plus market but it is not the principal problem.

'Prices are so high because of increased demand and limited supply.

'We need a massive increase in the supply of low cost housing which means first, relaxing planning restrictions, second, some building on the green belt, third, much more innovative building methods - factory built for instance, fourth, tax incentives to diminish the incentives to horde land and fifth to make it worth the while of developers to build low cost housing.'

Stamp Duty Calculator

'Little houses that used to go to first-time buyers are being sold to rich city-dwellers'

@Diana Kimpton:

'There are two other issues that are having a big effect on house pricing and availability. One is the lack of anywhere to invest money at a decent rate of interest. This means that older house owners are reluctant to trade down from houses that are too big because they have nowhere to put the money freed up where it will be protected from inflation.

'The second is the growing tendency for the better-off to own more than one home. I live in a tourist area and, over the years, I've seen the number of second homes rocket and the little houses that used to go to first-time buyers being sold to rich city-dwellers. As a result, many houses stand empty for a large part of the year while young people dependent on local low wages struggle to find anywhere they can afford to live. ' 

Ruth Davidson on why we must tax online behemoths such as Amazon

Ruth Davidson argued in her comment piece this week that there must be a level playing field between large internet giants and small shops in the UK when it comes to tax. She discusses how countries can ensure the big players play by the rules and exactly what rules should apply.

This sparked a fierce debate among our readers, with some arguing that the problem is with our tax laws not the big internet giants, while others said that the high street is no longer a suitable alternative to online shopping.

'If there is a problem, it's with our tax laws'

@Lexi McGregor:

'Amazon pays its due taxes. If there is a problem, it's with our tax laws.

'I am a fan of Amazon. As well as appreciating its vast range of goods and low prices, I like that it has enabled me to self-publish and sell a lot of my books. I also sell items I make on Amazon Handmade, a new venture that gives a selling venue to many small businesses.'

A worker prepares packages for delivery at an Amazon warehouse in Brieselang, Germany Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty 

'The high street is no longer the desirable outlet for merchandise'

@James Martin:

'There may well be a case for Amazon to pay more tax. But this should not be linked to subsidising the High Street. That is a separate matter. The high street is no longer the desirable outlet for merchandise it once was and property values and business rates need to reflect this by dropping substantially. Or another use must be found for them. It's called market forces and I am surprised to hear Ruth Davidson talking like a 1970s Tory happy to prop up inefficient industries.

'Even if online outlets were taxed substantially more I suspect increased prices would not stop people shopping online. It's a fundamental shift in behavior driven as much by convenience as cost.

'Embrace the success of online shopping and allow our towns and cities to evolve from essentially a Victorian model to something more relevant to the twenty first century. Subsidies have no role to play. You can't buck the market.'

Asa Bennett on Angela Merkel's Brexit influence  

The Telegraph’s chief Brexit correspondent Asa Bennett wrote in his comment piece this week that German chancellor Angela Merkel is keen for a Brexit deal but is pushing for one that could meet her own needs.

Mrs Merkel’s influence within the EU has made her a key name within Brexit discussions, which could leave some to speculate that her own interests persist over that of the UK and the EU.

Readers have noted that every country involved would certainly be expected to prioritise their own needs and that perhaps the UK cannot afford to look any further than themselves when explaining slow negotiations.

'Slow negotiations still stem from the UK’s own need to prioritise'

@Paul Sheppard:

'With so many parties, each with their own vested interests, involved in the negotiations and behind closed door discussions, as well as the EU’s concerns around avoiding exits in other member states, it will be a miracle if the UK can secure a deal that will work for all.'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Thursday, Dec 14, 2017  Credit: Oliver Matthys/AP

'No other country agrees with Britain's demands'

@John Smith: 

'So Merkel wants it on her terms? 26 other countries agree with Barnier's negotiating strategy and haven't contested a comma. No other country agrees with Britain's demands. So who exactly is trying to impose on Europe something that they don't want?'

Highest number of top grades for six years despite 'tougher' exams

It was reported on Thursday that despite ‘tougher’ A-level exams, grades are at a six year high with 26.4pc of students awarded either an A* or an A.

The report has found that just 55pc can secure an A grade in the new OCR Advanced Biology A-level, while 66pc can achieve an A in the reformed Mathematics A-level.

Some Telegraph readers have suggested that top marks in A-level exams are now far too easy to achieve, while others have noted that new grade boundaries reflect tougher exams. 

'This is absurd. How can the top grades be awarded even if the candidate only gets 55pc?'

@Pradeep Chand:

'We have made no progress in lifting standards or reducing grade inflation. With more lenient marking and only 55pc required to gain a A grade we are still making students feel "everybody is a winner". This is absurd. How can the top grades be awarded even if the candidate only gets 55pc? You had to score over 70pc 50 years ago to get an A grade at A level and 75pc for GCSE "O" levels - less than 5pc of students gained a grade A.'

'Many critics would struggle if tested with a current "dumb" exam paper'

@Rob North:

'Many of us are too ready to criticise the education system because we forget that our own knowledge was mainly gained after school, in the world of work. I recall that the best bit of going to school in the 1950s and 1960s was leaving, unless you were one of the tiny handful who were encouraged to stay on for "O" and "A" levels - this was only in Grammar Schools and by invitation only.

'Many critics would struggle if tested with a current "dumb" exam paper, but I would guess that it has always been the case.'

'The goalposts are continually being moved'

@Karen Harrison: 

The reason the pass mark for the Biology A-level was lowered is because it was an extremely hard paper with some ridiculous nonsensical questions, not seen before in past papers with many students walking out of the exam hall in tears and I have that on good authority.

The answers to A-level questions these days have to be so convoluted its absurd, there is no definitive right or wrong. There is no comparison between generations or indeed within generations as the goal posts are continually being moved. The students who received their grades yesterday and scored highly did so because they grafted throughout, likewise with university students of today, you can no longer party your way through uni and cram at the last minute to get a good grade. I’ve been there, seen it and done it and as a parent of three children I’m currently there, seeing it and have done it!

Richard Tice and John Longworth call for a relaunch of Brexit

Richard Tice and John Longworth, co-founders of Leave Means Leave, have labelled the next six months as 'a battle for Britain'. 

Mr Tice and Mr Longworth have noted 'public anger is palpable' due to the way that Brexit negotiations have unfolded and have lamented that their new campaign will look to  'take our campaign to the people.'

While some of readers have expressed support for the campaign, others simply do not feel it will be worth the cost. 

'Very little chance of seeing any return'

@Gary Gould:

'Giving money to the save Brexit campaign is like betting on the national lottery: very little chance of seeing any return.

'We were always told that Brexit would make us poorer, and some Brexiteers have already started that process. They are poorer as soon as they make a donation.'

'It will be very similar to what we have'

@Alan Smith:

'Battle for Britain? Whatever Brexit comes, it will be very similar to what we have now after a few years. That's the geopolitical, economic, cultural reality.'

'I'm ready to do my bit'

@D Walker:

'Thank goodness.  It should never have been left this late to fight-back.

'I'm ready to do my bit.'

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