I read with interest your leader article “Assisted Suicide” and “Watts: BRE is on a precipice” (23 July, page 12) on the DTI’s proposal to end the practice of ringfencing money for construction research and development.

Even though I have considerable respect for Graham Watts and his views, the industry as a whole is unfortunately missing the fundamental issue.

The government and the taxpayer have become critical of the slack performance in the delivery of research and development. There is now a need for originally public-funded research bodies to compete and deliver visible benefits that are relevant to the industry and their customers in a cost-effective manner. There are many private organisations competing in the market place who deliver very sound research and development.

The reference to the car industry is also an interesting one. What drove the British car industry into decline, thereby losing out to its international competitors, was not the lack of research and development. The international competition was quietly going about its business finding out what customers really wanted. But the British buried their heads in the sand and told their customers what in the view of the industry was good for them.

Sound familiar?

Robin Whittaker, via email