We should fear injustice even more than terrorism
We should fear injustice even more than terrorism
Sir: The argument which is most likely to convince the Government to drop the draconian powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Bill is to reassure ministers that if or, more pessimistically, when, there is a terrorist outrage in Britain, we will blame the terrorists for it, not the Government.
In reality, ministers know that they will be blamed for their failure to protect us if the Bill is not passed and for curtailing our liberties if it is. Those of us who oppose the Bill must make it clear to the Government that we prefer the risk of terrorism to the risk of injustice. We must not pretend that the choice does not exist.
Faculty of Law
University of the West of England
Sir: Before we all return to our daily routines and assume that a terrorist is "someone else", let's remember that a government can always define a terrorist how it wishes, either in forthcoming or in subsequent legislation.
If "causing economic harm" is sufficient to be a terrorist, then who is to say whether a protester against GM crops, tetra masts, road bypasses, nuclear submarine bases, animal experimentation, or extra airport runways is actually a terrorist? Answer: the Home Secretary of course! Even protesting against the legislation, if the Bill becomes law, could one day be grounds for house arrest.
I expected such nightmarish stuff from Michael Howard's supporters but not from New Labour. I just hope that all remaining members of the Labour Party will immediately cancel their subscriptions; as a former member myself, I hope these defectors will vote for a sane alternative when it comes to a general election.
Sir: Further to Andreas Whittam Smith's excellent article, "On this issue I am ready to take to the streets" (28 February), the choice is not between between being killed by a terrorist or detained without trial (two sorts of violence); it is a choice between a lawful society where violence is less likely or a paranoid society, a breeding ground for all sorts of violence.
New Malden, Surrey
Sir: In reference to Andreas Whittam Smith's article, is Charles Clarke not the Home Secretary? I know Blairite cronies eventually creep back in but it was certainly very sneaky and cunning to get David Blunkett back as Home Secretary so quickly.
Sir: I too worry about terrorists. Wallowing in the gore of a bombed-out street or choking my last in a gas-filled underground train do not appeal to me. On the other hand, the bigger threat is of fear allowing us to succumb to totalitarianism. That means misery every day and on every street.
Sir: How poignant to read the two comment pieces today (28 February) condemning the Prevention of Terrorism Bill and then turn over the page to find the obituary of Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International. We can only be thankful that he is no longer with us to see this happening in Britain.
Green energy at the expense of nature
Sir: Johann Hari argues pragmatically and persuasively ("The wind of change", 25 February) that combating global warming requires every last kilowatt to be squeezed from wind generation, despite probable damage to wildlife and certain detriment to Britain's natural beauty. And yet it is a bitter, bitter, irony that we must add to environmental damage because society - led by self-obsessed politicians - has been unwilling to cut consumption of carbon fuels.
The traditional remedies are still available: rail travel above road and air; cities fit to live in; home/work/industry planned to reduce travel and transport; smaller cars and efficient engines; taxing kerosene; fuel-efficient homes; home electricity generation; shaking the waste out of electronic products; making nonsense-travel socially unacceptable (Michael Owen flies his parents to Spain when he needs a babysitter); so many more. But unfortunately they are not a quick fix, even in the unlikely event of politicians taking a lead.
Pragmatism dictates that dealing with climate change must take priority, but if I lived overlooking a rich and beautiful landscape dominated by mighty windmills, I would curse the school run and Chelsea tractors, retail therapy in New York, second homes air-miles apart. So I intend to go down fighting, accepting wind farms because I must, but waging war on those who pointlessly hasten the arrival of Johann Hari's "Weather of Mass Destruction".
Sir: Johann Hari's article promoting the cause of wind turbines whilst condoning the destruction of the wildlife of Romney Marsh, contains a number of fundamental errors. For a start, the issue of the country's largest on-shore wind farm is not, as he states, that of a simplistic Labour/Tory division. The planning committee that unanimously rejected the massive wind farm development was, wait for it, from a Lib Dem-controlled council.
Neither is this merely a matter of local environmentalists fighting to protect the wildlife of their own green backyard. It is a division of European proportions - all about the legal protection that is afforded to wildlife sites designated to be of European significance by English Nature, supported by RSPB, confronting the multi-national company RWE who stand to make a fortune from the wind-farm development, via a stealth tax on the electricity bills of UK citizens.
My conservation colleagues and I despair when we see the eye-catching green tokenism of such a wind farm, with its accompanying promotional literature, replacing informed thinking and genuine environmental action.
Manager, Romney Marsh Nature Reserve, Icklesham, East Sussex
Sir: Johann Hari says the debate over wind farms on Romney Marsh throws up interesting divisions, the first being "between people who see that climate change is a real and massive problem and are prepared to make sacrifices to deal with it, and people who don't".
There is another division: between people who can recognise a false dichotomy, and those who can't. No sane person would argue for complacency, but to use the Marshes as a tokenistic "barometer" of our willingness to make sacrifices is not an adequate response. There are other things we can do, starting with using less energy and monitoring closely what we do use - including the total energy needed to build and site a wind farm.
If wind power is so important, let's look more creatively and put the farms where the wind is - out at sea, where the aesthetics are less of an issue, even if it costs more (we are in sacrificial mode after all).
Sir: I consider harnessing wind energy to counter global warming to be an excellent idea - so who was the idiot responsible for suggesting the Romney Marsh as an ideal site for a wind farm? Canute? They surely must realise that the area will be among the first to be flooded by rising sea levels?
There will be enough trouble trying to deal with the inundation of Dungeness A and B nuclear power stations without adding another expensive offering to Neptune.
IAN D GILHAM
Screening saves lives
Sir: Further to Maxine Frith's article, "Must we follow the doctor's orders?" (22 February), I would like to express support for Dr Jim Kennedy and Professor Vivienne Nathanson, both of whom are quoted. It is important that anybody considering attending for screening makes an informed decision based on all available evidence.
The NHS Breast and Cervical Screening Programmes are internationally recognised for the high quality and effective services that they provide. The cervical screening programme prevents about 4,500 deaths in England every year by identifying conditions which might otherwise develop into invasive cervical cancer, so that early treatment can be offered. Similarly, the breast screening programme is on course to save an estimated 1,250 lives a year by 2012.
There is robust evidence that screening saves lives and so we encourage all women to attend when invited. However, no screening method is perfect, and so we provide all women with information on the benefits and limitations of breast and cervical screening when they are invited routinely. This helps them to make an informed decision as to whether or not they would like to attend.
Deputy Director, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, Sheffield
Not just for art's sake
Sir: David Lister ("We need to show why the arts are important", 26 February), is right to suggest that if the arts are to be funded we should all be able to complete the sentence "the arts are important because ...", and I welcome the idea of an arts advocacy conference. He is wrong however, that the arts' claims to "improve the quality of life and help us understand ourselves and the world" are merely "vague, and vaguely beautiful".
There exists a coherent rationale and convincing evidence for the arts doing exactly that in the arts therapies. What is really puzzling is that the arts establishment, including the Arts Council, bend over backwards to ignore this fact.
If figures like Sir Nicholas Serota are acknowledging their failure to make the case for the arts, then perhaps they should be listening to voices like this art therapy service user in a recent research project: "I don't feel a prisoner of my depression any more. I can't tell you how much that means. I'd rather die than go through another dark time like the last one. But this has given me a new way of being ... shown me a different way of coping with being me".
In the hands of qualified arts therapists, the arts are important because ... they save lives. What could be less vague, or more beautiful, than that?
Arts and Health Lead,
British Association of Art Therapists,
Respect the ref
Sir: Brian Viner writes that "the mentality of the football fan is essentially that of a child" ("Why irrational antics and instincts are child's play for the football fan", 26 February).
Before it becomes as cynical and unimaginative as the common adult mind, the child's mind can be quite a delightful processor, so the football fan mentality is no bad thing in itself. The trouble is that impressionable minds, en masse, regularly see heroic stars behaving like thugs on the pitch, and, in particular, screaming dissent at the referee. This has consequences in the classroom and the playground.
Disrespect for the authority of the football referee is disastrous. When a judge delivers a judgment in court, deeply dissatisfied litigants or defendants do not stand up, press their faces up to the judge's and shout abuse. There is a civilised appeals procedure. In any event, in the entire history of football, the number of times a referee or official has changed his mind as a result of being shouted at by a player is close to zero, so the protests are pointless.
If protesting a referee's decision during a game became a transgression warranting an automatic red card and a three-game ban, the gravity of challenging the ref's proper authority would be established, and the misbehaviour greatly reduced to the benefit of all players and fans. Financial penalties for the club of player showing contempt for the referee would also have a salutary effect.
Professor of Law
The Open University
Sir: I too would love the Olympic Games to be in London (letters, 28 February), but console myself with the thought that, for those of us in the far-flung provinces, Paris is probably easier and cheaper to get to.
DAVID C SANDERS
Stalin in Poland
Sir: In response to Barbara Pierscionek (letter, 26 February): nobody handed over Poland to Stalin; he took it, beginning in 1939, when he was Hitler's partner. I hope nobody needs to be reminded how much Poland suffered as a result. But if Professor Pierscionek really believes that Poland could have been simultaneously liberated from both the Germans and the Russians by Franklin Roosevelt in February 1945 she will do everyone a service by explaining how.
University of Essex, Colchester
Victims of torture
Sir: Clive Stafford-Smith ("Torture is rife because our leaders encourage it", 26 February) deals with the scenario in which torture to find out where a nuclear weapon is about to explode is said to be justified. Those who believe in this ought to take the argument one step further. A permanent panel of, say, five supporters of torture as a last resort should make a decision in such cases, with the proviso that one of their own number, chosen by lot, would undergo the same "procedures" as the suspects.
HARVEY R COLE
Sir: Sheila Johnston should consider the possibility that British people's ignorance of the French language might be contributing to the decline of interest in French films in the UK (report 25 February). Her (or her sub-editor's) apparent belief that pas encore means "not any more" when it actually means "not yet" is a perfect illustration of the point.
Sir: With regard to that wedding - you know the one I mean - isn't it a thousand pities that Gilbert and Sullivan are no longer with us?
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire