Cabinet ministers back Bill to allow same-sex marriage because they are …

Attitudes towards gay people have changed. A substantial majority of the
public now favour allowing same-sex couples to marry, and support has
increased rapidly. This is the right thing to do at the right time. We will
be among the Conservative MPs voting for this Bill today.

William Hague MP (Con)
George Osborne MP (Con)
Theresa May MP (Con)
London SW1

SIR – On whatever side of the fence you sit in this debate, it is the 600 or
so MPs who will decide on the matter in perpetuity, for 60 million or so
citizens. For this they have no mandate. We should all be worried about this
undemocratic process. Is it any wonder that fewer people vote when MPs do
what most of their constituents dislike?

Martin Hooper
Staplefield, West Sussex

SIR – As chairman of Witham Constituency Conservative Association, I am
astonished by Mr Cameron’s determination to proceed with this Bill despite
objections from his party – and from the Church.

It is reckless of him to go out of his way to divide the party. Although
tempted to leave the party I shall stay (unless asked to leave on account of
this letter) because I am confident that gay marriage is viewed with disdain
by the sort of Conservatives I respect. I hope that Mr Cameron does not
drive too many of them away.

Tom Foster
Kelvedon, Essex

SIR – Does David Cameron think he can buy a huge gay vote with his promotion
of gay marriage? The gay electorate is not an old-fashioned Left-wing union
block vote.

They are not all the same age, colour, or size. They each have their own
concerns about the economy, the EU, immigration, health and welfare, just
like heterosexuals.

Mr Cameron should address these concerns, and if he succeeds he will get
support from people of all sexual orientations. His present course trades
potential gay votes against existing core votes, condemning his party to

I shall not vote again for my local Conservative marginal incumbent, if she
does not oppose the Bill. If we get Lib Dem policies, I might as well let a
Lib Dem win.

Michael Austin
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – Would a fish be a chicken because Cameron’s Government said so? Could a
man marry his horse? However they dress it in the guise of “equality”,
the fact (even after today’s vote) is that only a man and a woman can become
one in marriage – the Creator designed it so.

Fr John McLoughlin

SIR – I cannot vote for a party whose leader is prepared to overturn this
centuries-old cornerstone of our society, which will allow the European
Court of Human Rights to make criminals of people of conscience.

Lucy Turner
Porthcawl, Glamorgan

Overcrowded MoD

SIR – The Ministry of Defence procurement department is awash with manpower
(Letters, February 1), a situation exacerbated by two factors.

First, the MoD has always been disinclined to buy “off-the-shelf” equipment,
which increases staffing levels, not only in processing a requirement but
also in research and development.

Secondly, asking some 250 staff officers their opinion on what the end result
should be for a particular piece of equipment results in cost inflation.
This is because career enhancement flows from submitting ideas, rather than
from offering no comment.

So it was that our procurement branch grew to 24,000 personnel.

Michael Nicholson
Dunsfold, Surrey

SIR – In my interview with Elizabeth Grice (February 2), when I said: “I would
like to line up the civil servants in the MoD on a wall and push every 10th
person off”, what I meant to say was five out of every 10.

Major Sir Michael Parker
Wherwell, Hampshire

SIR – I wonder how much Switzerland spends on defence compared with Britain?
On a recent visit, I was impressed with how well-to-do the country looks. It
seems that it spends its money on the people and the country, rather than
policing the world.

Pat Gosbee
London SE9

Stars over Timbuktu

SIR – The French put the EU flag beside the Tricolour whenever a photo
opportunity allows. This occurred in Timbuktu. Is this an EU-endorsed
project, not just a French initiative? Was the action in Mali in our name,
as members of the EU?

John Dewhirst
Shipley, Derbyshire

Addressing a problem

SIR – I sent two letters (Letters, February 1) from Florida. One, to London,
UK, arrived via UKraine. The second was addressed to London, GB, and arrived
via GBralter.

Diane Minkoff
Edgware, Middlesex

SIR – When living in Swaziland, envelopes had to be marked “via Johannesburg”
or they would be sent to Switzerland.

Michael Ogden
Amesbury, Wiltshire

Booming litter fines

SIR – It’s quite simple: if people didn’t litter they wouldn’t get fined
(“Former soldiers on litter patrol fine tens of thousands in a year”,
report, January 29).

Our residents supported the introduction of fines for littering (92 per cent
of those surveyed), and some requested we name and shame offenders. In
response, the council introduced a fixed-penalty notice scheme for litter in
partnership with Xfor Local Authority Support.

The council does not aim to make a profit. Income from penalties helps to fund
the running costs of the scheme.

The cleanliness of Hillingdon’s towns has improved since fines were
introduced, and the money saved on unnecessary street cleaning of litter can
be better spent on services that residents want.

Cllr Jonathan Bianco
Hillingdon Council
Uxbridge, Middlesex

SIR – When walking my dog, I used to pick up roadside litter and put it in two
litter bins. The bins have since been removed by the waste management
company used by the council, which said that somebody was depositing too
much rubbish in them.

Christopher Weeks
Wareham, Dorset

Immersed in Chinese

SIR – The British Council is right to highlight the importance of Mandarin for
the future of our children, and the British economy (report, February 4).

That is why we are not only teaching Mandarin as an option at my school, but
also introducing it as an immersion subject. From September, children will
be taught a third of their curriculum (for example maths or drama), as well
as receiving tutor time every day, in the language.

Immersion teaching in French and Spanish has already had a profound effect at
our school, with children on the third year of the programme almost a year
ahead of their peers across all subjects.

Neil Strowger
Head teacher, Bohunt School
Liphook, Hampshire

Gunning for sexists

SIR – On BBC news bulletins the word spokesperson is often to be heard, but
not gunperson. Are criminals the only ones without the right to be described
in non-sexist language?

Peter Doble
London W2

Overseas talent needed to plug British skills gap

SIR – Nick de Bois, the Conservative MP, is correct to say that emigration is
creating a skills gap in Britain (report, January 23).

Our restrictive immigration policy is preventing businesses from plugging the
skills gap with talent from overseas. Since 2007, work-related emigration
has risen by 16 per cent while work-related immigration has fallen by 24 per

We at Randstad, the recruitment firm, forecast that the country faces a
workforce shortfall of 3.1 million people by 2050 if this mismatch continues
– nearly 10 per cent short of the workforce required to support the
population expected in the coming decades.

World-beating organisations need highly skilled staff in order to succeed.
The Government has proved in the appointment of Mark Carney as the next
Governor of the Bank of England that sometimes the best candidates are from
overseas. We must ensure this approach is allowed to run smoothly across the
entire workforce, not just at the very top.

Mark Bull
CEO, Randstad
Luton, Bedfordshire

SIR – Nick de Bois is right to highlight the loss of British talent to

The outlook for current undergraduates is not encouraging. If they establish
themselves with a successful career, pension and family in Britain, they
will find themselves on marginal tax rates of more than 75 per cent (income
tax 40 per cent, National Insurance 2 per cent, university loan 9 per cent,
child benefit clawback 24.6 per cent) once they earn over £50,000, with
three children and university fees to repay.

After 45 years’ work their pension will be taxed at up to 55 per cent and when
they eventually die their estate will be all but confiscated by the state,
based on current taxation trends.

People should be able to benefit from their study and labours. The policy of
successive governments has redistributed the tax base in such a way that
hunger for success is diminished and the rewards for success are taken away.

I fully expect my children, faced with a lifetime as a potential government
cash cow, to follow my brothers and emigrate.

Martin Whapshott
Frimley, Surrey

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