Armed forces, EU constitution and others

What place for Trident in Hoon's new armed forces?

Sir: At least one major hangover from the Cold War has escaped the Defence White Paper revamp of the armed forces ("Hoon aims to restructure armed forces to fight terror", 12 December).

The Trident nuclear submarine force is likely to be the "ultimate guarantor of the UK's national security" for up to 30 years and "decisions on whether to replace Trident are not needed this Parliament but are likely to be required in the next one".

Exactly how Trident is going to play a role in new counter-proliferation and counter-terrorist planning is not explained. The question of the legality of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states is seemingly not an issue. The contradiction between the projected indefinite retention of nuclear weapons and the UK's commitment to global nuclear disarmament is not addressed.

Is this decision to replace Trident - or not - going to be subject to democratic debate or is it going to be conducted behind the closed doors of Whitehall?

NIGEL CHAMBERLAIN
Nuclear analyst
British American Security Information Council
London N1

Sir: Geoff Hoon's White Paper on Defence is amazing in its fidelity to Donald Rumsfeld's managerial view of defence. For those not up to date with this major step backwards in defence theory, the oxymoronic "Network-Centric Theory" assumes war can be prosecuted at a distance with maximum reliance on information technology. As a business plan this may work well for Wal-Mart but it's not a way to run a military. It's a plan based on a highly efficient military operating towards a minimum of manpower.

This is fine as long as everything goes to plan but when it doesn't there is not the margin for error that over-engineering, over-manning and redundancy provide. The effectiveness of the American military in Iraq was enabled by the Clinton administration's policies, not the present one. The Rumsfeld military will be easily overstretched and liable to sudden failure.

The other reason the White Paper evokes dismay is that it shows a minister, prime minister and government operating in lock-step with the military and foreign policy objectives of an aggressive, unilateralist US administration. This government is already supporting America's National Missile Defence plan. Now this White Paper reinforces Mr Hoon's view of British defence forces as an auxiliary to the US military. It is a calculated rejection of the kind of military integration Europe needs to develop if it is to act effectively to defend its interests and implement its foreign policy.

RICHARD HERRIOTT
Chafford Hundred, Essex

Voters must decide on EU constitution

Sir: This weekend EU heads of government meet in Brussels to conclude the negotiations on the proposed European constitution. The constitution will determine how the EU is run for the foreseeable future, and how it will relate to member states like Britain.

Seven other EU governments have already pledged to hold national referendums, rather than ratify the constitution through their parliaments. In view of the constitution's importance, and the overwhelming support for a referendum among UK voters (including a majority of Labour supporters), we urge the Government to put this decision to the people.

MARK FISHER MP
(Stoke-on-Trent Central, Lab)

ANDREW MACKINLAY MP
(Thurrock, Lab)

Rt Hon FRANK FIELD MP
(Birkenhead, Lab)

TOM COX MP
(Tooting, Lab)

JOHN CRYER MP
(Hornchurch, Lab)

KATE HOEY MP
(Vauxhall, Lab)

IAN DAVIDSON MP
(Glasgow Pollok, Lab)

DAVE DREW MP
(Stroud, Lab)

GWYNETH DUNWOODY MP
(Crewe and Nantwich, Lab)

HARRY BARNES MP
(Derbyshire NE, Lab)

BOB WAREING MP
(Liverpool West Derby, Lab)

DAVID TAYLOR MP
(Leicestershire NW, Lab)

MICK CLAPHAM MP
(Barnsley W and Penistone, Lab)

IAN GIBSON MP
(Norwich N, Lab)

KELVIN HOPKINS MP
(Luton N, Lab)

ROGER GODSIFF MP
(Birmingham Sparkbrook and Smallheath, Lab)

JOHN McDONNELL MP
(Hayes and Harlington, Lab)

LYNNE JONES MP
(Birmingham Selly Oak, Lab)

GEORGE STEVENSON MP
(Stoke-on-Trent S, Lab)

AUSTIN MITCHELL MP
(Great Grimsby, Lab)

ALAN SIMPSON MP
(Nottingham S, Lab)

LLEW SMITH MP
(Blaenau Gwent, Lab)

TERRY LEWIS MP
(Worsley, Lab)

HILTON DAWSON MP
(Lancaster and Wyre, Lab)

JEREMY CORBYN MP
(Islington N, Lab)

DIANE ABBOTT MP
(Hackney N and Stoke Newington, Lab)

GRAHAM STRINGER MP
(Manchester Blackley, Lab)

Rt Hon DENZIL DAVIES MP
(Llanelli, Lab)

RONNIE CAMPBELL MP
(Blyth Valley, Lab)

NEIL GERRARD MP
(Walthamstow, Lab)

HAROLD BEST MP
(Leeds NW, Lab)
London SW1

Sir: The EU constitution allows for the primacy of EU law over the law of nation states. It has become fashionable in recent weeks to use this as an example of how momentous the treaty will be, and how it involves the total surrender of British sovereignty to Europe.

However, the primacy of international law over national law is nothing new. It has always been the case across the European Union since its earliest days.

Without this principle, all international agreements would be meaningless. Once a shared policy has been decided with European neighbours, can one country then disregard the agreement when it comes to putting legislation into place? Of course not. If it could, what would be the point of the agreement?

This is precisely the basis on which the French ban on British beef was overturned. And it applies not just across the EU but more widely: the European Court of Human Rights can overrule national governments if they violate citizens' human rights. On a global level, the same principle underpins international law, allowing the international community to ban landmines, and giving teeth to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

In this respect, the draft EU constitution is simply reiterating what everyone always knew.

TOBY WARDMAN
Leeds

Hogs and humans

Sir: The letter from Mr Treacy of Smithfield Farms (10 December) concludes: "Hogs do not produce 'ten times the amount of waste as an average human'. ... A farm with 10,000 hogs produces the same volume of waste as 550 people."

If by waste he means faecal waste, it is difficult to believe that it takes 18 hogs a-crapping to equal my daily offering. I will eat the partridge in the pear tree if it is correct. If by waste he means everything, then the hogs can't compete with the humans, who throw away cars, fridges, washing machines, etc. The hogs are just hogs, but the humans are pigs.

PEPPER CONSTABLE
Lymington, Hampshire

Sir: Dennis H Treacy's figures, though doubtless correct, do not mean what he wants them to mean.

Pigs are very like humans both in size and diet. They inevitably produce much the same amount of organic waste. However, the volume is less. Though they enjoy a shower they do not wash themselves, their clothes and crockery daily, nor do they use water-powered waste disposal units and empty a cistern every time they excrete. Whether that makes human waste easier to deal with (due to dilution) or harder (due to greater bulk) I don't know, but the dry weight must be roughly equivalent.

As to what Poland is to do, its "primitive" agriculture means large areas could be certified organic without the lengthy delays needed here to cleanse the land of chemicals. Building on this huge advantage it could become the organic breadbasket of Europe, producing reasonable amounts of a higher-value product rather than huge amounts of a low-value one from intensive, polluting factory farming. This would also largely preserve its rural landscape, which tourists find so appealing.

ANN DUNCOMBE
Tullibody, Clackmannanshire

Not licked yet

Sir: There are many children who collect stamps, and would love to have a school stamp club. ("Stamp collecting is licked by children's love of computer games" 5 December). The problem is finding a teacher or parent to organise one.

Stamp collecting helps to improve a child's general knowledge, especially in subjects such as geography, history and world affairs. But teachers are struggling to cope with ever increasing workloads and do not have the time to organise out-of-school activities, or are reluctant to take on a stamp club if they have no knowledge of the hobby.

In Leeds we have helped to start and continue to support a thriving school stamp club with a waiting list to join. Our website has a special page for young and novice collectors (mysite. freeserve.com/leedsstamps). Stamp collecting amongst children is still very much alive, so please don't write it off.

JOHN EDWARDS
Honorary Secretary
Leeds Philatelic Society
Pontefract, West Yorkshire

Expel Blunkett

Sir: I read with disbelief that David Blunkett is contemplating leaving Amnesty. What on earth is he doing as a member in the first place? Talk about hypocrisy! If Amnesty does not expel him I will have to resign my membership.

MARK THOMAS
Locksbottom, Kent

Dark forces hit back

Sir: So the Association of Christian Teachers sees Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials as "anti-Christian propaganda" ("Enter the daemons", 12 December). A good counterbalance, then, to all that pro-Christian propaganda by C S Lewis.

JENNY FOWLER
Brookwood, Surrey

Work ethics

Sir: If, as Terence Blacker claims (Opinion, 12 December), Thatcherites believed in work, why did they so despise workers? The fact is that they believed that wealth was "generated" in the stock market and that workers were an economic liability. Wealth creation depended on employing as few workers as possible for the longest possible hours for the lowest wages their bosses could get away with.

G L SAMSON
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

Real Labour

Sir: You report that the "New Labour" tag has been dropped from the party's membership cards. Good, but when do we get the real Clause Four back?

BOB HARDIE
Musselburgh, East Lothian

Comments