Letters: Brits abroad

Greeks make money out of bingeing Brits
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The Independent Online

Your article and leader comment on Brits behaving badly in Greece (8 August) invite clarification. As the author of the first Rough Guide to Corfu and the Ionian Islands, it was my unhappy duty to visit places such as Laganas on Zakynthos, Kavos and Ipsos.

From what I could see, nothing existed of the "fishing village" of Laganas, which had been largely destroyed in the 1953 earthquakes. In its place stood dozens of Greek-built and Greek-owned hotels, restaurants and bars catering to the British package tourists, who, in an ideal world, would have been dissuaded from thronging a beach that is the breeding ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. At the time of my visit to Zakynthos, there had been bomb attacks on the offices of ecology groups protesting at tourism developments, and I don't think it was British tourists planting the bombs.

At Kavos, Ipsos and elsewhere on Corfu, unprepossessing strands of sand or pebble had been transformed into funplexes also serving British package tourists, again at hotels, restaurants and bars built by Greek businesspeople, all of whom had happily got into bed with the tour operators. It is more than a little disingenuous for the authorities on Zakynthos, or Corfu, or anywhere catering to bingeing Brits, to have turned their coastlines into one very long Blackpool and then act surprised when visitors start behaving as if they were in Blackpool.

Bad behaviour by tourists could be stopped by bar owners and their staff refusing to serve people who are drunk. Public order could be maintained if the police were a little more vigilant . Tour operators could help by paying their reps a decent wage rather than incentivising them to get clients drunk to earn commission from favoured bars and restaurants.

As to the bingers, this bad behaviour can be traced back to Margate and Southend in the 1960s and to the 19th-century Wakes Weeks and earlier. You would have to rewrite the history of British capitalism to alter the way Brits behave when they are let off the leash.

John Gill

Skopelos, Greece

It's the charity shop or landfill

Mary Dejevsky makes a claim (7 August) that charity shops are parasitic on rundown areas of our cities as commercial enterprise is driven out by high business rates. Her reasoning smacks of snobbishness.

Over much of this country charity shops perform an invaluable service to those of us on low incomes, to say nothing of providing a convenient means for all of us to recycle goods that might otherwise contribute to landfill.

As a craftsperson working with textiles I rely heavily on charity shops for my raw materials. Local hospices and hospitals rely on profits from their charity shops. If it were not for the charity shops, these areas of deprivation Dejevsky is decrying would have rows of empty, boarded-up shops.

Second-hand and antiquarian bookshops have been killed off by the rise of internet selling, not by competition from charity shops. Here in Ludlow we have lost five second-hand bookshops. They and others may have chosen to internet trade from home and do book fairs. It is the struggling tribe of small, independent new booksellers for whom I reserve my sympathy.

June Emmerson

Ludlow, Shropshire

Why does Mary Dejevsky not regard charity shops as "genuine commerce". The fact that other businesses are moving away from high streets is due to the economic situation, the out-of-town supermarkets or the high business rates. None of these reasons is the fault of the charities, so her annoyance does seem misdirected.

Charity shops are more a part of the community than the likes of Tesco. The goods are donated by the community, volunteers from the community work there. The shops provide a way to recycle goods and a cheaper source of clothes, books and so on for the less well-off in the community. All of this without even commenting on the cause for which money is raised. I fail to see a downside.

Perhaps Ms Dejevsky simply prefers a more upmarket shopping experience. Well there are still plenty of those. Let us hope she is never in need of charity.

Susan Alam

London W4

Ministers take up Tory green agenda

Lord Falconer must be the only person in the country who thinks that the Tories have not developed a "green agenda beyond David Cameron being photographed on a sledge" (Comment, 3 August). This agenda has certainly not been lost on the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who has had increasing recourse to Conservative policy in recent months. Most of the policies in the Government's recent White Paper, published last month, were taken from the widely acclaimed Conservative green paper, The Low-Carbon Economy, published in January this year.

This eventual submission to the Tory green agenda is not entirely new: Conservatives were the first to campaign for a Climate Change Bill and pushed hard for the inclusion of feed-in tariffs for microgeneration in the Energy Bill which received Royal Assent last year. It was also David Cameron who first called for no new coal power stations to be built in Britain unless they have carbon capture and storage technology running from the outset. All of these have now been adopted as government policy. Alas, ministers have yet to see the light on the need to oppose a third runway at London's Heathrow airport.

Action by the Government has been disappointingly slow: carbon emissions have fallen by just 3.6 per cent since 1997, leaving a substantial distance to go to meet our 34 per cent reduction target by 2020, while renewables have grown from 1 per cent to a disappointing 2.5 per cent of our energy mix, the lowest rate of any major European country and a long way off our 15 per cent renewable target for 2020.

Greg Clark MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change House of Commons

The Sustainable Development Commission was established to provide the Government with expert advice on the sustainability issues which the Government has committed to placing at the heart of its policy-making ("Ministers spent £38m on lobbying", 4 August).

Far from lobbying, the Commission works closely with government departments to help them build staff capability to deliver appropriate policy and practice. The Commission is also charged with holding government to account for its performance against its own sustainability targets. Our advice covers areas as diverse as food security, public-sector energy efficiency, building a low-carbon economy and sustainable communities.

Will Day

The Sustainable Development Commission, London SW1

Calls for inquiry into torture

The parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Human Rights' call for an independent inquiry into mounting allegations that UK officials have been comp-licit in torture overseas is absolutely right (" 'Torture' victims need independent inquiry, say MPs", 4 August).

As with cases such as Binyam Mohamed's, there seem to be numerous ways in which UK operatives can be complicit in the illegal detention and torture of people in places that include Pakistan and Morocco. One is to issue veiled threats along the lines of, "Things will get much worse for you if you don't co-operate with these guys". Another is to simply leave the room when the beatings are about to begin. Yet another is to pass questions to interrogators known to use torture, while quietly receiving the answers later on. All of these complicity techniques – and more – appear to have been used in numerous cases now at issue.

And it is unacceptable for senior ministers to refuse to appear before a committee simply trying to investigate serious allegations. Ministers must stop turning a blind eye to torture and allow the independent inquiry that these disturbing allegations overwhelmingly demand.

Kate Allen

Director Amnesty International UK London EC2

A long and tragic war in Afghanistan

As the the son of a former King's African Rifles sergeant-major from Uganda, I have read with horror the tragic tale about the realities of war on the front line in Afghanistan ("There is no refuge, no place to go to deal with your grief", 10 August).

Unlike in the Second World War, when the Commonwealth countries sent tens of thousands of soldiers (including my father) to fight alongside their British comrades-in-arms against the fascist Hitler, this time we are virtually alone because many of the Nato countries are either giving token assistance or paying mere lip-service.

Yet, according to the new Army chief, Sir David Richards, the war in Afghanistan may go on for 40 years. How many young lives will have been wasted, innocent children orphaned, loving wives widowed? And what will be the financial and social cost to the UK? May God look after and bless our brave boys and girls on the front line. And may He damn the cowardly politicians who sent them there without specific objectives or adequate equipment.

Sam Akaki

London W3

Save the life of dead trees

I was attracted early on in Michael Leapman's delightful and far-ranging article on gardens (Independent Life, 5 August) when he described his as "naturalistic". Such a garden is difficult to devise, because it requires predictive skills and counter-intuitive decisions.

One of these is not to remove dead trees until they are about to become dangerous. Left to disintegrate slowly, they provide extra food and living-quarters for a variety of wildlife, especially birds.

A silver birch in my garden, which has been dead for eight years, was home this spring to a family of blue-tits, and this summer enabled a pair of blackbirds to rear their second brood within its thick mantle of ivy. Throughout the year, it is visited frequently by woodpeckers (green, and especially greater-spotted), nuthatches and tree-creepers, and is used as look-out posts and territorial markers (hence a glorious variety of song) by our other avian residents.

So I leave to your imagination our reaction to a local estate-agent's letter urging us that our back garden had "tremendous potential", by which they meant that they wanted to build more houses on half of it. Passive resistance to tree surgeons and property developers is part of the way of life of anyone who does not want the country to become an urban wasteland.

Stephen Usher

Egham, Surrey

Courageous MPs

As our MPs break for 12 weeks, the electorate should reflect on the difficult job they perform. I particularly admire how our MPs cling to their financial privileges with astonishing tenacity, send other men and women to die with wonderful courage and speak of austerity (for the rest of us) with breathtaking eloquence.

Andrew Hassall

Dronfield, North Derbyshire

Too many babies

Your piece on IVF (6 August) ignores the facts (not opinions) that: "postcode lottery" simply means local decision-making; infertility is not a disease; in a finite NHS budget, money spent on healthy "patient" X means less for ill patient Y; our recent YouGov poll showed that 70 per cent of us think Britain is overcrowded, causing major environmental problems, and only 8 per cent want any population growth at all. What about the thousands of unwanted children needing adoption into loving homes?

Roger Martin

Chairman, Optimum Population Trust, Wells, Somerset

House price inflation

David Prosser writes, "House prices seem at last to have turned the corner" (Business, 7 August). I expect this type of comment from estate agents but not from economics and business writers (in their role as writers rather than house-owners). After 10 years of house price inflation and a 300 per cent rise, 12 months of deflation and a 20 per cent fall does not seem much of a rebalancing, particularly if you are a first-time buyer.

Alan Gilchrist


Pubs that make a loss

Richard Ward's letter on the low income of pub tenants (7 August) reminded me of a document I saw several years ago when I had a temporary job with a large brewery company. It upset me at the time, and still does. It was a list of all the company's pubs, divided into two groups, those that made a profit and those that didn't, with recommendations for their future management: simple – made a profit, install a manager; made a loss, find a tenant.

Jean Elliott

Upminster, Essex

Pay cut for Diamond?

I have two questions. If Bob Diamond's remuneration were reduced from £50m a year to £20m a year, would he notice a difference in his lifestyle? And if Bob Diamond's remuneration were reduced from £50m a year to £20m a year, how would it change the costs to Barclays' loyal clients?

William Hewitt

LLANDYSUL, Carmarthenshire