Letters: Saluting the courage of the Princess of Wales – and wishing her a swift recovery

Prince George, the Princess of Wales, Prince Louis, the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte at Lambrook School, near Ascot in Berkshire, in 2022
Prince George, the Princess of Wales, Prince Louis, the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte at Lambrook School, near Ascot in Berkshire, in 2022 - JONATHAN BRADY/AP/Getty Images
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SIR – I have just listened to the broadcast made by the Princess of Wales, who is being treated for cancer (report, telegraph.co.uk, March 22).

She spoke with such courage, and has no doubt given hope to many others who are suffering.

I offer her and her family my love – and pray for her quick recovery.

Mervyn Maciel
Sutton, Surrey

SIR – It is no wonder that the Princess of Wales has been out of the spotlight, given the news that she is being treated for cancer.

I sincerely hope that she makes a full recovery and that the public will give her the privacy she deserves. Those who have been spreading rumours and conspiracy theories over the past few weeks should be ashamed of themselves.

William Craig

SIR – Some decades ago I attended the University of St Andrews with a delightful girl from Bucklebury named Kate. We both lived in St Salvator’s Hall. We are incredibly lucky to have her as our Princess of Wales, our future queen, one of the greatest ambassadors for our nation, and a steadfast support for our next king as he faces the challenges ahead.

I think I can speak on behalf of all St Andrews graduates in wishing Her Royal Highness a full and speedy recovery.

Dickon Prior
London SE26

A simpler tax system

SIR – I enjoyed the letter from James Masters (March 21) on our disastrous tax system, and how it needs to be “thrown in the bin and started again – in simplified form”.

A team from HMRC should visit Estonia – a country that has, for the past 10 years, been top of the Tax Competitiveness Index. Great Britain currently sits at 30th.

Apart from Estonia’s flat rate of tax, there are many benefits to its system – not least that it takes about three minutes to file an online return.

Mark Macauley
Heytesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – I worked as a subcontractor in industry for many years, with short periods of unemployment between well-paid jobs.

I received a tax rebate of hundreds of pounds on two occasions, years after the payments in question. I was pleasantly surprised by this (even though I didn’t get any interest), but I know that HMRC would never have waited so long if I was the one who had owed money.

Graham Ashen
Horsham, West Sussex

Waspi compensation

SIR – Ben Wilkinson, discussing payouts for “Waspis” (“These women deserve an apology – but not a penny of compensation”, March 22), suggests that we are responsible for our own financial planning, and on that point I agree with him.

You can therefore imagine how angry I was when I received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions about pension age changes in 2011 – 16 years after the legislation, when I was 53.

During that gap I had made major decisions about employment, self-employment and voluntary redundancy. The decisions I took worked well – but I feel incandescent for other women who, for want of a letter, were unable to do the very thing Mr Wilkinson exhorts us to do: take responsibility.

Mr Wilkinson suggests that women should have been paying attention when the legislation was passed. In 1995 I was 37 and a working mother, contributing to an occupational pension scheme and supporting my widowed mother, who was barely managing on state and occupational pensions. I was paying National Insurance contributions; my own state pension was a background issue.

Finally, Mr Wilkinson says that “equalising state pension ages was the right thing to do”. Equalisation is not something that Waspi women have ever contested, and suggesting otherwise simply serves to divert attention from the core matter of maladministration.

Christine Hardisty
Swindon, Wiltshire

Britain’s mental health

SIR – The president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (Letters, March 22) denies there is a culture of using GPs to get a fit note that can then serve as a “get out of work free” card.

Before I retired as a GP, a young woman who wanted extra time in exams instituted a demanding General Medical Council investigation because I did not immediately grant her request or give her medication for anxiety. Honest doctors who try to support the vulnerable by keeping them in work fail under the pressure of the Blob.

The reality at the front line is that the establishment has created a market for the drug and talking industries, often at the expense of young lives. It is refreshing to hear Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, speaking the uncomfortable truth (“Mental health culture has gone too far, says Stride”, report, March 22).

Dr Andy Ashworth MRCGP
Bo’ness, West Lothian

SIR – Mel Stride is right to draw attention to the alarming numbers of people out of work because of mental ill health, but his comments show a deep lack of consideration for the complex set of pressures many people find themselves living under. Moreover, research has shown that, while work is good for mental health, bad work can be catastrophic.

Effectively forcing people to take any work by reducing their benefits is not the answer. This would be likely only to exacerbate distress and mental health problems. What is needed is a more adequately resourced package of support for those out of work, with the recognition that many are employed and have jobs awaiting their return.

Moreover, Mr Stride’s suggestion that “mental health culture has gone too far” is not rooted in evidence. The rhetoric of taking personal responsibility ignores the valid experiences of many people struggling with their mental health and unable to access support, often until it is too late. We need to go down river and provide help through more accessible psychological therapies.

We also need the Government to do more to incentivise good work, and invest in initiatives that help get people into work and businesses back on their feet during these difficult times. Simply removing the safety net for the most vulnerable will not achieve that aim.

Kris Amber
Workforce lead, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
Lutterworth, Leicestershire

SIR – I trace the present mental health culture back to when, some years ago, I read that schoolchildren were being asked to rate their happiness level on a scale of one to 10. Why?

I have never felt the need to ask myself how happy I am. Like most people, I have just got on with life – the good and the bad. If we are encouraged to look inward we can soon convince ourselves that all is not well.

Barbara Smith

Could essential pylons also be things of beauty?

Lone splendour: a full moon setting behind pylons in Larbert near Stirling, Scotland
Lone splendour: a full moon setting behind pylons in Larbert near Stirling, Scotland - PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

SIR – The need for more electricity pylons may be inevitable (“The untenable costs of net zero”, Leading Article, March 20), but why do they have to be so ugly and intrusive on the landscape? Surely there could  be a competition for the design of more attractive pylons that are acceptable to all.

Christopher Barmby
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – It is difficult to disagree with Evelyn Waugh’s comparison of Stephen Spender’s “fumbling” with the beauty of the English language (Comment, March 20) to the sight of “a Sèvres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee”, when one remembers that Spender once described pylons as “bare like nude giant girls”.

I suspect that the 5,000 to 6,000 pylons to be constructed throughout England – some as high as 600ft – will be described in somewhat more basic – and realistic – terms.

Patrick Miller
Seaton Carew, Co Durham

National Trust votes

SIR – The National Trust says that it adopted the “quick vote” mechanism on external advice and that the members “firmly rejected” a resolution calling for an ombudsman (report, March 22).

The introduction of an ombudsman would have provided an independent complaints procedure to tenants who are unhappy with the standard of their properties. The resolution was defeated with a combination of quick votes and proxy votes cast by the chairman. A majority of the votes cast actively and not as part of a block vote were in favour, which makes the rejection less than firm.

By its own admission, Civica Election Services offered no advice to the National Trust on whether to introduce the quick vote, but only on the practicality of how to do it. The quick vote is not standard practice in all large membership organisations, as trade unions are prohibited by law from using block-vote systems in their elections.

Why does the National Trust hold itself to a lower standard of democracy?

Cornelia van der Poll
Chairman, Restore Trust
Morecambe, Lancashire

Old-school local news

SIR – Your Leading Article (March 18) stresses the importance of residents having a say in road schemes. You also argue: “The decline of regional newspapers ... has tipped the balance of power away from voters”.

Having worked for 40 years in what is often described as “local journalism”, I was delighted to see this point being made. For all its flaws, the dilution of vibrant, old-fashioned local journalism has had profound implications.

Harry Keaney
Sligo, Ireland

England’s cross

SIR – With regard to Nike’s modification of the St George’s Cross on the England football kit (report, March 22), I am fairly certain that Americans would be appalled if an English sportswear company dared to alter the stars and stripes in the name of wokeism.

As well as apologising for being English, it seems we are now expected simply to accept the redefinition of this symbol of our national identity.

Susy Goodwin
Ware, Hertfordshire

Freedom to associate

SIR – With regard to the Garrick Club row (Letters, March 22), it is very sad that we have reached the point where people feel they must change their private lives because of political correctness.

Surely, so long as you do not hurt anyone, you should be able to live your private life as you wish, regardless of what others think.

J L Greenwood
London SW18

SIR – In 1971, as a 19-year-old just arrived in Western Australia, I was invited to lunch at the exclusive ladies-only Karrakatta Club by the secretary of the Royal Over-Seas League in Perth. In the magnificent 19th-century dining room, I was the only man.

I seem to have survived all right – and so has the Karrakatta Club, which still has female-only membership.

Jimmy James
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

Easter sweetness

SIR – Christopher Piggins (Letters, March 21) described copious amounts of butter dripping from toasted hot cross buns. Don’t forget the honey.

Jack Marriott
Churt, Surrey

SIR – In recent years, I have noticed a remarkable diversification in varieties of hot cross bun. Last year, I enjoyed a Bramley apple version; less so, half-a-dozen flavoured with Marmite.

Neil Sewell-Rutter

SIR – What is wrong with a hot cross bun simply being a hot cross bun?

Mike Keatinge
Sherborne, Dorset

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