IoS letters, emails & online postings (26 February 2012)

Nick Clegg writes about the immense damage caused by the global arms trade, but is blind to the UK's complicity in this trade ("We can lead from the front in disarming", 19 February).

The UK's substantial arms industry includes the arms giant BAE Systems. Arms exports are subsidised and supported by the Government, which actively promotes arms exports. Saudi Arabia used British armoured vehicles to suppress protests there, but the UK still sells arms to the kingdom. It has also sent arms trade missions to Nigeria, Libya, Kazakhstan and Vietnam.

Yet Nick Clegg compares countries with few regulations with the UK's "tough national regime". The Government did revoke some licences in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring, but arms exports have since gone back to previous levels. Despite a savage crackdown on protesters in Bahrain, the UK approved over £1.3m in military exports in 2011.

Mr Clegg states that "ministers will be able to immediately suspend licence applications to a country where stability suddenly deteriorates", but this power has always existed. The Arms Trade Treaty would not stop trade with repressive regimes. Deals with Saudi Arabia, Israel, India and Pakistan would go on unabated.

Kaye Stearman

Campaign Against Arms Trade

London N4

To one who has no faith in political parties, the suggestion that these self-serving bodies should be state funded is offensive (D J Taylor, 19 February). If this were to be the case, it should be on an individual voluntary basis, declared on tax return forms.

M A Timms

Iver, Buckinghamshire

The select committee report into marine renewable energy hails a bright future for offshore energy projects but underlines the critical importance of ensuring this does not harm our precious sealife ("Britain must act fast to rule wave-power world", 19 February).

It is easy to think of the sea as a homogenous landscape, with marine wildlife scattered across it. In fact, the UK's waters are as diverse as its land, and there are many sites that act as important breeding and feeding grounds for a vast range of species. The committee has concluded that industry and government must collaborate on a systematic survey of marine habitats, in order to protect the most valuable sites from the start.

Ministers must commit to this as soon as possible so that we can forge ahead with a new era of clean energy that is produced off our coastline, while safeguarding our sealife.

Martin Harper

Conservation director, RSPB

Sandy, Bedfordshire

Athens has again been called "the cradle of democracy", but it is only the place where democracy landed in Europe as it migrated from its cradle somewhere in Africa. It also trudged southwards, passing through Mvezo, the village where Nelson Mandela was born. In his autobiography, Mandela wrote: "Majority rule was a foreign notion. A minority was not to be crushed by a majority." The new South Africa has incorporated many features from the Mvezo variety of democracy in its constitution and the country is doing rather better than Greece with its majority rule.

Peter Hutchinson

London SW15

The solution to binge drinking is much simpler than David Cameron's minimum pricing (Janet Street-Porter, 19 February). In the Fifties and Sixties (and before then, of course), there was no such thing as a "supermarket", apart from the good old Co-op, and "off-licences" were simply the back or side door of the local public house. Pub landlords would never sell alcohol as a loss-leader. So, we should take away the licence to sell alcohol from all supermarket chains. No complicated government legislature, no complicated discussions with the breweries, and no more cheap booze for binge drinkers and misguided, or unguided, youngsters in our modern, booze-fuelled society.

Jimmy Bates

Ledbury, Herefordshire

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