A promise about climate change, Britain needs more immigration and others

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Yet again, a promise to do something about climate change

Yet again, a promise to do something about climate change

Sir: Meeting the Climate Challenge (report, 24 January) is the latest in a long line of reports warning of the global catastrophe to come unless we radically change the way we produce and consume energy. Like its predecessors it will generate worthy words and add increased urgency to the rhetoric of governments claiming to be committed to averting the crisis.

The trouble is, we've heard it all before. Tony Blair promises to use his presidency of the EU and G8 to galvanise international action on climate change whilst announcing the biggest expansion to the aviation industry - the fastest-growing contributor to climate change causing CO 2 emissions - in a generation.

He knows what to do, and the prescription becomes more urgent every day. The Government must begin to treat climate change as a security issue - it threatens far more lives that terrorism - and expend at least the same resources and political capital on averting the coming catastrophe as it has on prosecuting an illegal war in Iraq. Otherwise, we humans will be taking another step towards going down in history as the species that spent all its time and energy monitoring its own extinction rather than taking steps to prevent it.

(Green, South-east England)
European Parliament, Brussels

Sir: Global warming is likely to affect the most disadvantaged people earlier than the currently prosperous. It may already be having an impact on sub-Saharan Africa as the rains fail, with the consequent damage to crops and health. The outcome is death and poverty.

While the political agenda is beginning to change, poverty and climate change seem to be treated as separate topics in campaigns and political statements. In reality they are inextricably entwined and the urgency all the greater. Whether the developed world can ever change is the big question, given the reliance of our economies on carbon fuels and the requirement for continual economic growth.


Britain needs more immigration, not less

Sir: I can think of no other justification for Michael Howard's malign immigration and asylum ideas than that we would not have had to suffer his presence in this country if they had been in place in the early part of the last century.

As an international headhunter of senior talent for one of our biggest export sectors I see that we need more immigration of talent into our economy, sport and the arts to maintain the UK's current successful run, not less. Who is to judge the net worth of human beings or their offspring to this society? Michael Howard?

His views, however couched in mealy-mouthed platitudes about welcoming the talented or the deserving asylum-seeker, reverberate round the world as the less-than-honest or honourable attitudes of a senior British figure that reflect society at large.

It might reflect the tabloid-driven angst of some "little Englanders" but history suggests we are much better at assimilating newcomers than any countries other than the US and Canada and growing stronger for it.

Vice President and Managing Director Europe
Bench International

Sir: During a recent lengthy illness, I was cared for by nurses from the Philippines, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, India, USA, South Africa and Hong Kong. I had Indian, Palestinian, Finnish and Australian doctors. Radiographers came from Germany, South Africa, Canada and Zimbabwe. Care staff came from Peru, Korea, Russia, Swaziland and Nigeria. I'm sure that my very able English surgeon would be have been unable to help me without their assistance.

I wonder which of these staff Mr Howard would like the NHS to do without. Might I suggest that an immediate cure for xenophobia would be treatment in English-only hospitals, assuming one lived to tell the tale.

Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey

Sir: Immigration policy requires joined-up thinking, encompassing areas such as foreign policy, charitable contributions and social housing.

Skilled rich immigrants entering this country are able to support themselves, and immediately benefit the nation. Admitting asylum-seekers, on the other hand, is a special form of charity. We grant asylum based solely on the fact that these people will be persecuted if they return to their own country, regardless of whether or not they will make a positive contribution to Britain.

Unless additional funds are made available to provide housing and other benefits to the new arrivals, it is the existing poor people of this country who feel the consequences of this settlement. If you are the one pushed down the waiting list for a council house, you may not be so welcoming towards newcomers.

One way to reduce asylum applications to zero is to work towards ensuring that every country respects human rights. This means we must have an ethical foreign policy, which does not support dictators, even if it harms our economic interests. Similarly, if we wish to deter economic migrants, we need to target aid to ensure living standards improve globally, and not just in the privileged West.

It is legitimate to raise the issue of immigration, and provided you address all the causes and effects, you need not be accused of being a xenophobe or a racist. However, simply shutting the door and saying "no more" is not good enough.

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Sir: The Independent has fallen into the usual trap of liberal commentators considering the immigration issue. Immigration is encouraged by the establishment because immigrants are willing to work for lower wages. This means the Government can keep public sector pay down and businesses can afford to compete against third -world rivals.

Because of the history of the issue the political response is bizarre. Left-liberals take a line in support of the exploitation of third-world labour at the expense of third-world economies and for the benefit of our government and businesses. Meanwhile those on the right support the people the left should be standing for, but probably for different reasons.

Reducing this issue to a romantic story about Kelly Holmes (25 January) over which liberals can indulge in self-righteous hysteria seems a little trite.


Childhood cancers

Sir: While your report "Pollution during pregnancy is linked to childhood cancer" (17 January) is an accurate summation of the original paper by Professor Knox, I fear that it may cause unjustified anxiety and self-reproach by parents of affected children.

The pollution data referred to in the study is from the National Airborne Emissions Inventory 2001 update, but is being correlated against births which occurred up to 40 years earlier.

Even if the results reported are correct, the association is not with a child developing cancer but with a child dying of cancer - it would not be possible to rule out poorer survival for those from lower socio-economic groups, who are more likely to live near such pollution sources. Furthermore, there has been a dramatic decrease in the forms of pollution which Knox believes to are implicated and yet childhood cancer rates are stable or possibly slowly increasing.

The LRF does not feel that this paper has demonstrated convincingly that atmospheric pollution causes any significant proportion of childhood cancer. There is specific evidence from the Czech Republic that in the post-communist era the standard of living rose, pollution was reduced yet leukaemia (the most common childhood cancer) increased; this is at odds with the pollution theory but highly consistent with the widely accepted theories that childhood leukaemia is a rare response to a common but yet unidentified infection(s).

The general consensus among epidemiologists is that it is unlikely that industrial pollution plays a significant role in causing childhood cancer. This paper does not justify causing alarm and distress to parents.

Clinical Information Officer
Leukaemia Research Fund
London WC1

Pledge of allegiance

Sir: So teenagers may be asked to pledge allegiance to the Queen? I suppose this means that my 16-year-old daughter will be able to join in family traditions. I was part of a school rebellion in California against saying the daily "Pledge of Allegiance" to the US flag; I have also not applied for British citizenship as I balk at the hypocrisy of pledging loyalty to the House of Windsor (although I have no problem with committing to British law and customs).

In the 1950s my father was hampered in his choice of graduate school, as many required students to sign the McCarthyite oath against un-American activities, which he refused to do; and my grandfather left Germany in the 1930s, as he was unwilling to swear fealty to Hitler's Third Reich.

Obviously if my daughter refuses to swear the oath she will have an intense lesson in politics and ethics as she argues her case. However, I wonder what penalties she will be subject to - will those who refuse to swear be sent to prison? Will they be tagged? I await with interest.

Uppermill, Oldham

Sir: British passports now describe us as "British citizens" but in 1956 my Anglo-Irish father was informed by the passport office that he was a "citizen" of Eire and a British "subject". Without our consent Government has changed our status on passports: the Queen has been deprived of her subjects by creeping bureaucracy.

As a confirmed royalist I bitterly resent this, and having to call myself a "citizen" on our electoral registers, as if I were some ghastly crone knitting on the steps of a guillotine.

London SW15

Sir: I believe that Charles Clarke's plans for 18-year-olds to pledge their loyalty to the Queen will have a beneficial effect. It will allow young voters to register their republican sympathies. Can I, at 50, also have a mechanism to do so?

Stockport, Greater Manchester

Mortgage mess

Sir: James Daley's piece in Saturday's Save and Spend is really warped ("The 130 per cent mortgage offers hope to a stranded generation", 22 January).

The reason that graduates cannot afford mortgages is because property is too expensive. The reason it is too expensive is 90 per cent down to irresponsible lending. The reason that they have to pay a landlord is because their landlord bought the house with no capital and a 100 per cent mortgage, thus preventing them from buying it.

The institutions have no moral agenda; they just have to lend more and more money to make their bonuses and prevent implosion. If they had loaned people only the amount of money that they could afford to repay and not funded the speculative buy-to-let market we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

Kings Caple, Herefordshire

Wasted century

Sir: Old films in The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon, now showing on BBC 2, show life in Edwardian England. Crowds of workers emerging from cotton mills of the North look well-dressed and healthy. Children play in empty, tree-lined streets. Everybody looks extremely happy. What went wrong?

Wigston Magna, Leicestershire

Politics of the right

Sir: Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance makes a case for religion in politics (letter, 25 January), but it doesn't stand up to examination. He says: "What is morally wrong cannot be politically right." But who decides what is "morally wrong"? Some evangelical ayatollah might want gay people executed for their "immorality" - and if he's got power then it becomes "politically right" to do it. It already happens in Islamic countries where religion is politics. For all our sakes, let's hope that religion does indeed remain privatised.

Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association
Kenilworth Warwickshire

Besieged by drunks

Sir: James Brown (Opinion, 24 January) declares: "The consequences of binge-drinking are revoltingly anti-social, but you can sidestep these alcoholic mobs by not venturing into their drinking zones." Not if you live there you can't.

London NW1

For your own good

Sir: George Bush says he wants to "bring democracy and freedom to all of mankind." Not an ignoble ideal. However, he gives the game away when he says this is necessary for the security of the USA. He is not advocating it for the benefit of mankind, but for the benefit of the USA! No doubt he believes the two are linked, but this is the classic language of imperialism : "We are invading your country both for your good and also for ours."

Whitchurch, Shropshire

Exiles in England

Sir: It's nice to read of "Rab" McNeill's gratitude in highlighting Scottish civilisation from the comfort of Woodford Green (letter, 25 January), but he's in a better position to note that if the rapid depopulation of his native land continues then any future talk of "Scottish civilisation" would be an oxymoron. This from a fellow immigrant (Welsh) to England, but when I moved I shed the nationalistic fervour.

Wallington, Surrey