IoS letters, emails & texts (10 May 2009)

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Geoffrey Lean is correct to support the Government's promise of coal-fired power stations with carbon capture and storage (Letters, 3 May). China, India, Poland and other countries are planning to build hundreds more coal-fired power stations over the next few decades. We can try to make those power stations less harmful by investing rapidly in carbon capture in order to make the technology more effective, more efficient and cheaper. Otherwise, the expansion of coal burning will accelerate global warming, with devastating consequences for all.

Richard Mountford

Tonbridge, Kent

Katy Guest is wrong to suggest that Robert Southey defined the Poet Laureateship in relation to women when he told Charlotte Brontë that "literature cannot be the business of a woman's life" ("The people's poet", 3 May).

In this often-quoted letter of 1837, Southey uses the word "business" in the sense of "profession" or "source of financial support". The advice he gave Brontë was the advice he gave every young, aspiring writer: "It is a difficult as well as a delicate task to advise a youth of ardent mind and aspiring thoughts in the choice of a profession;" he wrote in 1817, "but a wise man will have no hesitation in exhorting him to choose anything rather than literature..."

None of this meant, for Southey, that women had no business writing, however. In fact, as his letters show, Southey actively encouraged women's writing across a wide range of literary genres.

Dr Dennis Lowe

Hull, East Yorkshire

Your article "Defence Minister glossed over Nimrod safety fears", (26 April) is misleading, and I reject the allegation. I would not "gloss" over concerns of the airworthiness of our Nimrods – or, for that matter, any of our aircraft.

It is not true that the families of those servicemen who were killed in 2006 did not know about the thorough examination of a Nimrod aircraft. This work – called a teardown – was carried out independently by the company QinetiQ at the Ministry of Defence's request after the board of inquiry into the tragic accident of 2006. I briefed the families in person on the teardown at a meeting on 8 July 2008 and sent a follow-up letter to those who could not attend.

Both QinetiQ reports conclude that Nimrod is safe to fly. Their publication was announced in Parliament and copies are available on the MoD website. I wrote in October 2008 to the families of those who died in the Nimrod crash to advise them in detail of the findings of the report and our response to it.

Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP

Minister of state for armed forces London SW1

Britain's housing estates are not "social concentration camps". A brief visit to Bosnia, Sri Lanka, or Oswiecem would reveal how glib, misinformative and insulting this label is to all. The estates, especially the sink estates, act like the workhouse before, as a punishment for the poor and a warning to the lower middle classes. One slip, one reckless adventure, crime or unwanted pregnancy and welcome to housing benefit hill.

John Ronan

via the messageboard

It was fascinating to read that eight smartly dressed young men could rescue Labour from years in opposition ("Can you spot the future Labour leader?", 7 May). Will they be subject to the same catwalk contest as Princess Letizia and Carla Bruni on the following page, or is it just women who are judged on hair, dress, figure and shoes?

Helen Keats

Shorwell, Isle of Wight

The Gurkhas were recruited on the understanding that they remain Nepalese citizens, take their release in Nepal and get their pensions paid in Nepal where they are comparatively well off – and this is after only 15 years' service. For the British Government they were cheap. But now they want similar pay to that of British soldiers, who serve 21 years before they can receive a pension. I admire Joanna Lumley but a campaign based on personal experience is never impartial. In this instance Gordon Brown was right.

Eric Hutchinson


The tests at 11 put unnecessary pressure on children at a time when they are beginning to feel the stress of moving to a new school ("Headteachers vote to boycott primary school tests", 3 May). My son has spent the last few months learning how to sit tests. The pressure on the schools is so intense that the results matter far more than any benefit to the children.


via the messageboard

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