Letters: London Citizens, the archbishop and payday loan companies

We are grateful to Maurice Glasman (Join Welby's Wonga war, 26 July) for registering London Citizens' call for a re-introduction of anti-usury legislation as part of our Citizens' Response to the Financial Crisis. This was launched at a Citizens assembly before 2,000 of our members, including Boris Johnson, Vince Cable MP, Greg Hands MP and senior representatives of the Corporation of London, in November 2009. London Citizens also called for 1% of the public money used to bail out the banks to be invested in strengthening and broadening the infrastructure of the credit union movement across the UK.

We also warmly welcome Justin Welby's challenge to Wonga and other legal loan companies and the consequent publicity it has stimulated. However, we believe that a statutory cap on commercial lending (of about 20%) is the answer and would see off such loan companies. A statutory cap on interest seems to work well for every other country in Europe, particularly Germany, where the economy thrives, unemployment is low and there is no market for loan companies. This would then leave the church free to concentrate on strengthening civil society and correcting other injustices, rather than try to pick up the pieces created by the state's reluctance to intervene and the market's ability to find opportunities for making money whenever and wherever they occur.

Neil Jameson

Executive director, London Citizens

• I welcome the archbishop of Canterbury's comments on Wonga and, as a member of South Manchester Credit Union, was pleased by his intention to aid their growth. I did feel, however, that parliament should urgently regulate payday loan companies as a whole and protect the public from exploitation. The archbishop should have called upon MPs to act in this way as the payday industry is much bigger than just Wonga.

His subsequent embarrassment related to the church's pension fund investment in Wonga, however, came as no surprise to me. Few know where their pension fund money is invested. As a member of Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), I have been concerned by its investments of £114m, on behalf of retired and current employees of the 10 Greater Manchester councils, in arms companies, including seven of the world's 10 largest arms companies. A recent fund publication revealed that BAE Systems, the world's sixth largest arms company, was the 11th largest holding in its portfolio at over £68m. Exports by arms companies can be misused to abuse human rights, sustain tensions in areas of division and hinder development by countries wasting money on arms. Furthermore, five arms companies, invested in by the fund, manufacture, modernise and maintain nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles. Profits from arms companies are wholly incompatible with the fundamental responsibility of local councils and their employees to aid their residents.

A recent appeal to the Leader of Tameside council, who chairs GMPF, the other Tameside and Greater Manchester councillors who also manage GMPF and to the remaining nine Greater Manchester council leaders to end these arms investments, produced no outrage, surprise or embarrassment. I admire Welby's courage and leadership and would welcome such qualities on the issue of those responsible for the pension fund of thousands of people who have worked for or are still employees of Greater Manchester councils.

Mike Kavanagh

Campaign Against Arms Trade

• A further benefit of the archbishop's intervention is a reduced risk of wonga wonga parties at Lambeth Palace.

Kevin Holland

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

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