Sir: Michael Nicholson’s story of a boat-owner finding contraband aboard from the previous owner (Letters, 22 November) reminded me of being compromised in Paris. As leader of a teenage school party, I suspected one or more of them of being in possession. As staff we searched suitcases and bedrooms with fingertip detail and found nothing for most of the trawl. I had warned the party in advance of the impending swoop and fully expected this outcome. But you can never guarantee no surprises, and we did find a stash of the substance tied in a waterproof bag, deep inside one toilet cistern. We dispatched the culprit home on the next Eurostar but that left me with the goods.
What should one do? Throw it away — but I wouldn’t be able to prove it; hand it into the police — and risk the whole party being banged up for a weekend; or bring it home for disposal (doesn’t bear thinking about). Finally I posted it to the British embassy from a box in the Champs Elysées. Now the truth is out and I sincerely apologise for the astonishment which must have accompanied the opening of the parcel there the day after. Sorry chaps.
Sir: The figures for national insurance that you published in your leading article (22 November) are incorrect. Unfortunately, employees have not paid a rate of 4.85 per cent on their annual earnings for many years. The current figure is 11 per cent. Also, the figures you quote for the lower and upper bands relate to 2007/08. The earnings figures for 2008/09 are £5,460 and £40,040 upwards respectively. Having written this, however, the points you make are very true. You have, if anything, understated the burden.