15 MAY 2004, Page 34

Does Nanny know best?

From E. Bruce Shaxson Sir: Of course Toby Church is right (`More nanny, less tax', 8 May). How did we ever come to swallow the notion that the NHS consumer has an inalienable right to receive costly treatment for continued selfinflicted poor health? Banning anything merely diverts it to an area behind the garden shed and is highly undemocratic to boot, and would clearly indicate that our politicians trust us even less than we trust them.

One answer surely lies in encouragement; the tax rebate we used to get for health insurance subscriptions, plus rebates on subscriptions for regular gym attendance, etc., should be given in the next Budget, even though they would stick in our socialist Chancellor's craw.

Perhaps healthcare should be charged for at the point of service, and our insurance companies shaken up to provide everyone with health cover at acceptable cost as in Switzerland — one of the very few democratic countries left in Europe. with the highest living standard of any. Our daughter, a professional musician in Zurich with the required expensive but excellent insurance cover, is rebated for excess on the value of claims, attending health/gym sessions regularly and further subsidised by her employer. Thus the annual premium of Sfr2000 (800) per year is very considerably reduced because she is serious in trying to maintain good health, as all in Switzerland are encouraged to do.

They do almost everything far better than we Brits, in spite of the howls of protest from the Brussels commissioner Pascal Lamy and other vociferous Brussels sprouts. Maybe we could with advantage take a long hard look at Switzerland's national health service.

Bruce Shaxson

Grayshott, Surrey

From Michael Lawden

Sir: Toby Church's analysis of the cost of the burger classes is faulty. He has left a first-order term out of the economic equation. The burger classes may be costing us a fortune in health charges, but they are saving us a fortune in pension and nursinghome costs. They are also helping the nation by paying enormous sums of tobacco and alcohol duty. A proper cost-benefit analysis might show that the burger classes are actually subsidising the health fanatics.

You've got to die of something. The burger classes get it over and done with fairly quickly. The health freaks linger on and on, causing bed-blocking and intractable problems for pension-fund managers.

There is also another cost to consider. This is the demoralisation and infantilisation caused by the nanny state subverting one's personal responsibility for one's own life. The nanny state creates a two-class society: the 'guardians', who are (in their own estimation) wise and responsible, and the 'proles', who are treated like cattle. This may appeal to Plato, but I suspect it will lead to the (further) moral and cultural degeneration of society.

Michael Lawden,

Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxon

From Allan Massie Sir: Toby Church's article was disgusting. What next for the poor? Compulsory physical jerks to be performed every morning in front of CCTV cameras?

Incidentally, the poor pay taxes too, punitively high on the cigarettes they smoke.

Allan Massie