Letters. Friday, April 11, 2014

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West growing ever more totalitarian

DESPITE the propaganda justifying the imperial expansion of the European Union into Ukraine, we are not re-entering the “Cold War”.

 Russia is not the communist empire of the USSR and indeed is well on the way to becoming a “westernised” country.

 The Russian banking system did not collapse as did the British and American banks, and today Russians, unlike the British and Americans, can earn a reasonable seven per cent on their savings.

 So Russia is in some ways more capitalist than the West, which is destroying people’s savings at a record rate.

 Russia has turned its back on the atheism of the Communist era, and those professing Christianity has risen from 32 per cent in 1990 to 72 per cent today – almost exactly the same as the 73 per cent of Americans who claim Christianity.

 By the time the USSR collapsed and the Russians were looking for the prosperity and open institutions, which they were told characterised the West, genuine democratic capitalism had largely disappeared from the western democracies, just as parliamentary democracy was in its dying throes.

 Today it is the West which seems more like the expanding totalitarian state.

Rodney Atkinson,

Stocksfield

Tobacco sale fears

I READ the article “Raids reveal haul of illegal goods” (March 30) with interest.

 Members of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents 5,500 independent forecourts, are increasingly concerned about the amount of illicit tobacco on our streets and the direct impact it has on their businesses.

 A survey carried out of PRA members this month has shown that 73 per cent believe that illicit trade hurts their business and decreases their annual sales revenue, with almost two thirds believing that the problem is getting worse.

 Retailers are also increasingly opposed to Government proposals to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products. They think it will harm honest retailers because it will fuel illicit trade and people will buy their cigarettes from the black market.

 Our contemporaries in Australia, the only country in the world to have introduced plain packaging, show these concerns are well founded.

 The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) says 70 per cent of retailers have been negatively affected by plain packaging, with 67 per cent saying that the growth of the black market has had an impact on their business since plain packaging was introduced.

 During the same period, the sale of illegal branded cigarettes has increased by 154 per cent, according to KPMG.

 Tobacco consumption has remained constant.

 The more retailers hear about the impact of plain packaging in Australia, the more opposed they are to seeing it introduced in the UK.

 Retailers are unanimous in their belief that the Government should evaluate the Australian experiment before implementing plain packaging here.

Brian Madderson,

Chairman of Petrol Retailers Association, London

Burden of the singles

IT is ironic that the legislation intended to remove discrimination against gay men and women has created even worse discrimination against those of us who are single, but not gay.

 We are burdened with an iniquitous council regime and hardly assisted by income tax law. Nothing has been done to ameliorate such inequity.

 At a time when neither Labour nor the Lib-Dems has a leader suitable to be Prime Minister, David Cameron also appears not to have the sureness of touch essential to strong, moral leadership.

 The gay marriage issue is dwarfed by the absurd debacle of legal aid.

 It is beyond belief that the Conservative party, committed to preserving individual freedom, should be in danger of destroying the very basis of its philosophy. Neither God, nor our essential rights, are considered important – be careful what we wish for.

George E Brown,

Sunderland

Need to think local

AT a time when the council has to save money, can someone explain why it continues to waste money sending homeless families out of the city?

 Surely, we have enough B & B owners in the city who would welcome the cash generated in housing these families temporarily while they get sorted?

 The associated costs of transporting children back to their schools, professional out of area visits to the families etc make this practice an expensive business.

 But instead of looking for local solutions, the council housing department carries on wasting cash, time and resources doing what it always did as that is the accepted norm.

 Are they so blind to not see that solutions such as leasing whole B & Bs come at a cheaper cash and resource cost than doing the stupid thing of shipping homeless families to Whitley Bay?

 Now is the time for the politicians to get a grip of this housing problem and question why these housing officers aren’t coming up with solutions to the savings other than just to cut services.

 If they, the officers, are not up to the job, is it time they were replaced by people who can think differently and by people who care about local people and services. This service is led after all by a man who said they would eradicate homelessness in Sunderland – a story the Echo printed, if my memory serves me right.

George Craig

Memories will live on

WE would just like to say a big thank you to all my dad’s workmates at B&Q Washington.

 You have all been amazing and very generous.

 My dad’s death was a huge shock to us as well as to you, but I can see he made some wonderful friends in his 20 years working there.

 Thank you for all your help and the stories about my dad.

 His memory will always live on with friends like you!

Gemma and Margaret Ward

and the rest of the family

Thanks for support

I WOULD like to thank everyone who supported Sunderland University during their Rag Week and their street collection in the city centre.

 The collection, under the permit granted to myself, Karen Maclennan, raised £167.87 on February 13, and was the amount donated to Grace House Children’s Hospice.

 Thank you to Sunderland University and to all who donated.

Karen Maclennan,

Grace House Children’s Hospice