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The management of WH Smith’s outlet at St Albans City Station have chosen to remove the large purpose built ‘honesty box’ which has for years been located by the till.

The money box has allowed many travellers the chance to pick up and pay for a newspaper speedily without waiting on either personal service at the till or using the one and only automatic payment machine.

As you will know, the City Station is not only one of the busiest stations in the UK but also the WH Smith’s outlet is quite small and cramped for such a large station, making it difficult at times to make a quick purchase.

The honesty box was therefore an invaluable facility for travellers to make a quick purchase and reduce pressure on the tills.

When I arrived at the station recently I tried to pay my 65p for the paper I had taken from the rack.

The till was unmanned as the only member of staff on duty was temporarily away in the back stockroom and another passenger was struggling to pay for his newspaper on the one and only automatic machine and after some difficulty and delay eventually did so but left the machine frozen on ‘Do you want a receipt?’.

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I had to press the ‘help from staff’ option on the machine which caused the staff member to come out to the till.

When I challenged him why the honesty box which I have successfully used for years was no longer there he said: “Obviously the management did not think the local people were honest enough.”

With hindsight I should have guessed that something might be about to happen when a fresh-faced young man with a clipboard was standing in front of the large honesty box, took the coins that I had ready in my hand for my newspaper and said “That is just right sir, thank you”, before depositing my coins into the honesty box.

Little did I realise that this exceptional and very personalised customer service was to be the prelude to removing the large and purpose-built plastic honesty box altogether.

Sadly I feel that the decision by WH Smith’s will prove to be counter-productive as by relying on people to only pay at the till or through the automatic machine will cause more delay that may well lead to some passengers walking away without buying a newspaper.

And what a shame that they feel that the honesty of local people can no longer be relied upon.

Certainly if the honesty box is not replaced I for one am likely to buy my newspaper elsewhere instead of adding to the queue of people waiting to pay for things in WH Smith’s.

PETER SWINGLER Flavian Close, St Albans

A call for Julian Daly to step aside? But have you seen the available alternative politicians of any complexion? Who would you chose?

More importantly the council chief executive must bear a lot of responsibility for the largely procedural and documentation failures of the district plan (so far), and for its ineffectual defense by junior council staff.

Who else in the council planning chain of command deserves hard questions?


I have always had a keen interest in the press since I started my first paper round about 75 years ago. I have read newspapers of the widest political persuasions on four continents – even picking up the occasional newspaper in Beijing and understanding not a single word, and yet still being fascinated and usually puzzled by it.

But I have never been so puzzled as I was when I read your piece (December 15) on the suggestion that the government might invoke Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act which would force newspapers to pay the costs of both complainant and defendant even if the complainant lost the case

To quote Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist, “ if the law supposes that, the law is a ass – a idiot”.

I am sure that Mr Bumble would repeat the same comment were he to learn of the utterly ridiculous, and grossly unjust proposition that is now being suggested.

One can envisage a malicious litigant making repeated false claims against a newspaper knowing that it won’t cost him a brass farthing if he loses.

It reminds me of Roy Thomson (Baron Thomson of Fleet) who on learning of the probability of starting commercial television in Britain described it as a licence to print money.

Some sections of the national press are suggesting that in the event of Section 40 being invoked then lobbyists will appeal and even though common sense and natural justice should prevail there will always be the fear that some nut case might chance his arm and try to make a case against the press.

This could inhibit journalists from legitimate and necessary investigation of malpractices many of which they have a commendable history of exposing.

The truth must come out and Section 40 must not be invoked as a free press as we know it will do untold harm to honest and fearless reporting.

I urge all your readers to follow your advice on objecting and I hope you can find space to keep reminding them how to do so until the closing date for objections.

PHILIP WEBSTER Townsend Drive, St Albans

Harpenden Lions Club are delighted to report that their annual Christmas Charity Street Collection in Harpenden and Southdown raised £1,174.

A further £293 will be added to this from Gift Aid tax relief. 90 per cent of the proceeds will be donated to ‘Young Carers in Herts’ (part of the charity ‘Carers in Herts’) and the balance to other Lions charities. Costs incurred amounted to only £40.

There are as many as 8,000 young carers and more than 115,000 adult carers in Hertfordshire and Carers in Herts would like to connect with more of them – please visit

Thanks to all the generous donors who contributed and who support Harpenden Lions throughout the year, including our major event of the Highland Gathering held in Rothamsted Park each July.

Harpenden Lions Club members undertake service and charitable fundraising activities in our local community and are seeking new members – more information at

DAVE PRICE Harpenden Lions Club