The current ban on flights in UK airspace, due to volcanic ash, smacks of knee-jerk over-reaction, and of timid authorities running away from risk rather than squaring up to it and properly managing it.
As demonstrated by satellite footage, the shape and size of the ash cloud is changing by the hour, with "corridors" of clear air appearing all the time, so there must be some scope to get at least some flights out. If, as is stated, the cloud is primarily a problem at higher altitudes, some potential must exist to safely route aircraft at lower altitude.
Whilst it makes sense to ban those flights requiring prolonged transit through the denser parts of the ash cloud, serious consideration should be given to allowing flights to transatlantic and southern European and other destinations, subject to judicious routing and altitude selection.
The volcanic eruption could continue for months, and our economy will grind to a halt unless some form of air travel is possible.
Now that we know that there is the prospect of the volcanic ash over Britain continuing for quite a while, the level of inaction by government is quite appalling.
For some people it is an extra holiday. For many others it is serious. Many people will be stuck in foreign parts with their regular medication running out. Parents will be separated from small children. School children will not be getting vital education in the run-up to GCSEs and A-levels.
What is required is arrangements to be made for airports in southern Europe to take flights from farther afield. Priorities need to be drawn up to decide who is flown in first and then transported up through France by bus or train. Meanwhile, the political leaders concentrate on getting elected.
Joy! I look up into the clear blue sky and see no disfiguring airliner contrails. If only it could always be like this. But I suppose that the hedonists of the developed world need their "well-earned" breaks in sunny climes.
I confess to feeling just a tiny bit resentful that the air industry receives a public subsidy worth £9bn through being exempt from fuel tax and VAT. I'd settle for air travellers being required to pay a fair price for pumping all that CO2 into the atmosphere, not to mention the noise pollution endured by those poor souls living near airports.
As the education attainment of so many children is hampered and damaged by noise, it will be good to see the benefit of having quiet this year for the school exams in west London.
You would have thought the future of children would always be taken into account rather always blindly supporting further expansion of airports. Perhaps this might be a turning point in the thinking of politicians on the topic.
Dr Michael Cross
How long will it be before a "Minister for Climate Change and Volcanic Eruptions" is appointed?
Broughton Astley, Leicestershire
In a final gesture of power Mr Brown should appoint a volcano tsar. I suggest Lord Adonis. With the help of Bilbo Blair and the wizard Mandelson he could smite the angry mountain. Or he could accuse the bankrupt Icelanders of having weapons of mass destruction.
Three-party politics at last
As an American who lived in England for 11 years and whose children were born there, I have been a follower of English politics for years.
The English have an opportunity that I wish we Americans had. It is called "Throw the bums out." You have a viable third party, and for years when I lived in England, I could never understand why the Social Democrats weren't stronger. Many times, they made the best sense of the particular situation.
I would hope that after the Blair mess in supporting Bush, and with the Conservatives looking to go backwards, the electorate would take the opportunity to make a real change. We would love the same opportunity. The biggest problem current democracies have is an entrenched two-party system.
Lafayette, California, USA
Hester Maclean, commenting on the leaders' debate, (The Independent voters' panel, 16 April) states that while "Nick Clegg came across best I still think a vote for the Liberal Democrats is wasted". Why? If everyone voted Lib Dem, they'd get into power. What is it with the self-defeatist attitude of the British public when it comes to the Liberals?
Eccy de Jonge
All three leaders in the election debate promised to control immigration, while stepping around the elephant in the room: the EU.
Who wants the 'big society'?
David Cameron's big idea is not new, neither is it original. Our political system is littered with attempts to get more people involved, but in my experience in public service, people are quite happy to allow governors to govern on the proviso that information flows freely.
Mr Cameron says government should be like business, more for less, but he thinks people will then have more time to give to the big society. Maybe he can ask his National Insurance posse from the private sector if they will give their employees paid leave to take part in the "big society" and maybe they can all sign a letter to press to that effect.
Most people want a government to govern competently, and from what I see in the respective manifestos Labour offers accountability and a coherent economic plan, the Conservatives offer a "big society" and the Lib Dems offer the Nick and Vince show.
Shotley Bridge, Co Durham
Only Tories will tackle the debt
As young pensioners we are worried about the effect the national debt will have on our ability to remain solvent for the rest of our lives. It would seem to us that the next government has to make a commitment to get rid of this debilitating debt as quickly as possible.
Having lived through the austerity of the postwar era, the three-day week, the boom and bust decade of the Nineties and the real cuts that have been made in private pension scheme earnings, it would be traumatic to have to scrimp and save every penny in our autumnal years.
This Labour government has planned and implemented a live-now, pay-later policy. The Liberal Democrats want to give every pensioner a bonus of £2 per week funded from some woolly idea that quick-witted entrepreneurs and wealthy businessmen will suddenly become dim-witted and yield £2.5bn of revenue from Robin Hood policies, centred around closing tax loopholes.
The Conservatives it would seem are prepared to take the bull by the horns and cut back public spending as soon as they take office. They promise to get rid of the ridiculous job tax (masquerading as an increase in National Insurance) in order to stimulate and accelerate the economy. They also pledge to raise the basic pension in line with earnings.
Wimborne Minster, Dorset
Clegg sights a fleet of admirals
The buzz is that Nick Clegg did well in the television debate on Thursday night. However, on defence, the leader of the Liberal Democrats made a glib claim that there are two admirals for every ship in the Royal Navy, hinting at an opportunity for savings. Slurring the navy like this is both unfair, for the Royal Navy is unable to respond during election purdah.
There are some 36 two-star officers in the naval service, of whom 30 are admirals and six are Royal Marines major-generals. Of this number, 20 admirals and two generals are in dedicated naval or marine posts, and only two hold the four-star rank of a full admiral. Ten admirals and generals are in tri-service defence posts and another four are in Nato posts. Of the eight vice-admirals on the active list, half are in Nato or tri-service appointments, such as Surgeon Vice-Admiral Philip Raffaelli, who succeeded an army officer as Surgeon-General in December.
As well as the Fleet Air Arm, there are some 80 ships and submarines all told, some of which are in refit or reserve. So, Nick Clegg's claim implies 150 admirals; I hope he was steering a safer course with his other figures. The real question is not about the number of admirals but why the Royal Navy is now some 77 per cent of its size in 1997. The world's seas are no smaller.
(Lieutenant-Commander RN, retired), London NW1
Grammar schools are fair to all
Hats off to The Independent for printing the article "Selective schools not more socially exclusive, says study" (12 April). When you have, to my knowledge at least, never missed an opportunity to praise comprehensive over grammars, it is pleasing to see an alternative view being shown.
Of course comprehensives can be socially exclusive and selective, if not overtly, then by a postcode lottery, whereas grammars will take whoever passes their entry examination. My daughter attended a grammar school and became friends with the daughters of doctors and postmen – few obvious signs of social exclusion there. They all received a wonderful education and went on to attend our top universities.
Leafy suburbs nestling up to good schools are still the preserve of the moneyed and middle classes and comprehensive simply play up to it. At least the grammars gave us all a fairer crack of the whip.
The recent correspondence on fox-hunting has ignored the suffering of little voles and other defenceless mammals torn apart and killed by foxes. Why not a Society Against Fox Hunting – Other Creatures?
David Blackburn is incorrect in stating that banks do not pay interest on monies deposited by charities (letter, 7 April). Has he not heard of the Charities Aid Foundation Bank (CAF Bank), which pays interest on both current and deposit accounts? The bank also offers investment advice. Of course, rates have been poor for the last 12 months and more, and charity administrators look forward to the day when returns are much more realistic.
Mr IVOR R HOSGOOD
Chairman-Secretary, Norfolk Youth Music Trust, NORWICH
Ian Quayle (letter, 16 April) remarks on disdain for engineers in Britain. A while ago an American said to me that his father was a lawyer and an engineer. When in the US he would say he was an engineer first and lawyer second, but in UK found it more acceptable to put it the other way round.
If Tony Blair had presided over a "hung" parliament, would the members of his cabinet from other parties have allowed him to mislead Parliament and the people into an illegal war?
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Suppose (for an irrational moment) that Lily Kember, supported by John Sauven of Greenpeace, managed to get the entire global aviation fleet permanently grounded (Green Awards, 17 April). Would they next turn their attention to the remaining 94 per cent of anthropogenic CO2? Are they able to explain how a 22nd-century human population could be supported by a 17th-century agrarian economy? When they can satisfactorily answer those questions, then perhaps awards might be deserved, but not until then.
I don't want either magazines or televisions in my doctor's waiting room (letter, 16 april). I don't want to wait – I want to be seen at the appointed time.
Fourstones, NorthumberlandReuse content