We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government on the new Climate Change Act – a ground-breaking piece of legislation that could put the UK at the forefront of action on climate change. But this act will be flawed without tough recommendations to ensure significant cuts in emissions are made here in the UK. On Monday, the Committee on Climate Change, chaired by Lord Turner, will advise on the UK's first three carbon "budgets", and it is in its response to this that the Government has the opportunity to show its mettle.
The UK cannot buy its way out of the climate change crisis and CAFOD hopes to see a commitment to a reduction in dependency on buying carbon credits from abroad. To do this Turner will need to encourage the Government to transform the UK economy through a minimum 80 per cent cut in domestic emissions. In addition, we hope to see a solid commitment to financial support of low-carbon development in developing countries.
Turner's recommendations and the Government's response will, we hope, set a precedent for December's parallel climate change talks at the EU and UN. Making significant reductions at home will send "loud, long and legal" signals to all those participating in the talks – and importantly to business – that the UK is serious about transition to a greener economy. The UK government has the chance to forge a green new deal. But in buying our way out of the problem now, and continuing to emit, we only delay the costs till later.
Policy Researcher, The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, London SW9
Small businesses in tough times
If the Government is serious about helping small businesses through tough economic times there is one simple zero-cost option they could implement which would make more difference to the businesses they say they want to help than anything else. That is to instruct public sector bodies to relax their cumbersome purchasing procedures and to place more business with small businesses and sole traders.
Like many small businesses, I have come to the view that responding to public-sector purchasing is a futile exercise. Not because we cannot provide the products or services required – far from it – but because having spent large amounts of valuable time responding to cumbersome purchase inquiries we know that we will be eliminated purely because we are considered too small.
Often these purchase requests are for relatively small amounts of money – say £20,000 – and they hardly justify the publicly funded purchasing empires that have grown up supposedly to get value for the taxpayer. The Government could both help small businesses and reduce public expenditure by issuing a simple instruction – relax your procedures and support small businesses with low overheads wherever possible.
The economic environment is creating obvious difficulties for small business, and more than ever they need to know that banks are here to support them with finance.
It's unfortunate that a recent article erroneously suggested that Barclays may "contract lending to business significantly to conserve capital or to protect dividends and bonuses" (Vince Cable, 26 November). Let me be clear, this is not the case.
Barclays has increased lending and overdrafts for small business year-on-year, up by over 5 per cent to £10.1bn to date, from the historic high of 2007.
Our dedication to small business lending is strong. Barclays was the first UK bank to take part in the new European Investment Scheme, with a £150m loan to support small business. Barclays will continue to take fast and decisive action to get local business through this turmoil. As their success is our success, it is in the best interest of everyone.
Managing Director, Local Business, Barclays, London E14
As a lifelong Tory voter I do wish that we had Vince Cable on our team. His article of 26 November was absolutely spot-on. I do wish he would attack more the antics of Gordon Brown in cynically manipulating the "inflation rate" used as the target of the Bank of England was measured by.
This is one of the significant reasons we, as a nation, have over-borrowed and over-lent. Everybody in the real world knew real inflation was well above the claimed level, but that would not be good for Brown's image as it would mean higher interest rates.
Come on, Mr Cable, you appear to be the only politician with an honest and sensible view, but unless you attack the ineptitude of fellow politicians I am afraid the media will ignore your commonsense approach.
Solihull, West Midlands
I believe that there are more savers than there are people borrowing to buy their homes. Why then are the political and media comments on the crisis and government measures so biased in favour of the borrowers?
I am retired and my wife and I face a possible drop of two thirds in our savings income as a result of the cuts in interest rates. What good are tax cuts to us? It may well be that the reductions in the savings income of older and retired citizens will result in them spending considerably less than they had been (it is certainly going to be the case with us), offsetting to a considerable extent the advertised benefits of the "fiscal stimulus" which Gordon Brown is trumpeting.
Of course, here we go again with a dose of old socialism: penalising the thrifty to benefit the improvident and reckless. I fear that it may be cynically calculated, and that when repayment time on all the additional borrowing looms over the horizon we shall have Mr Brown and Mr Darling repeating Dennis Healey and making the pips squeak with punitive, redistributive taxation because "it is only fair that the rich should make a special contributions because of the grave difficulties facing our country".
Too cynical am I? It would be welcome if the financial columnists would pay just a little attention to the plight of the provident, as well as the improvident. People like us have done all the right things and are being targeted.
Maresfield, East Sussex
When a leak is not a leak
Having heard about the arrest of Damian Green for receiving information from within the Home Office, I reflected on what happened last weekend when the contents of the Chancellor's statement to Parliament were widely leaked. Is there a dividing line between what the Government wants us to know, which is "news management" and what it does not want us to know, which is a leak?
Presumably the Speaker will order the doors left wide open for Black Rod at the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday.
Derek J Cole
St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex
We don't all dote on dogs
While I in no way condone the shooting of a neighbour's dog and feel sympathy for the Currahs' grief, ("Neighbour shot dog dead to stop its 'incessant barking'", 28 November), I think that they might try to get the matter into perspective.
A dog has died, not a person. And dogs can be extremely irritating; we live in an increasingly noisy society, which can cause real stress, so that I can imagine someone becoming desperate enough to take action against a neighbour's dog. There are dogs owned by neighbours of mine which cause me regular irritation; dogs are often a menace to me when I am cycling; dog faeces is a constant hazard when I go for walks.
Dog owners seem to believe that everyone will dote on their animals as they do. Not so. We need fewer dogs and more thoughtful, responsible owners.
Yes, I do know what you mean
Brian Viner observes that everyone he knows over the age of 30 has words, phrases or references they can't stand. ("What's not to like?", 28 November).
My bête noire used to be "know what I mean?" – until, that is, I began asking myself why people use it. Were they presuming that I was too stupid to understand what they were saying? Or were they not very articulate and were relying on me to intuit what they could not put properly into words? Obviously neither.
My wife and I were approached at a bus stop recently by a group of youths one of whom said, "Can you tell us if there's a bus from here goes into town, we're not from round here, know what I mean?" Resisting the urge to query what was so difficult to understand, I realised that the speaker wasn't actually asking whether we had grasped the meaning of his words, but whether we understood how he felt and empathised with him.
Those who use such phrases, tagged unreflectively on almost every other sentence, are by and large social animals who want to merge with the group rather than stake out an individual position distinct from others.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Too late, they lament Woolies
I found myself screaming expletives and hitting the off button as the middle-class voices eulogised nostalgically about the loss of Woolworths on Radio 4. It was obvious that they hadn't visited a store since the 1970s. Maybe if they still shopped there it wouldn't be facing closure.
As a single mother with a Woolworths on my high street, I was in there almost every week to buy better-quality household goods than could be found in discount stores. You could buy under-tens' clothes and cheap toys, stationery, homeware and even a pot of paint. My bed is adorned with a beautiful silk damask duvet, a £25 bargain from Woolworths. What will the real Woolworths customers do now?
Alan Aitchinson (Letters, 28 November) is right about the reasons for the decline of Woolworths. I went to purchase a hammer there in the 1970s. It was clearly marked: "Warning: This tool must not be used to hit hard objects for fear of fracture and injury (Made in China)."
Graham A Feakins
Not so dumb
Jeannie Millington's letter (29 November) reminds me in turn that when my 15-year-old daughter asked me for help with the plot of Macbeth, she told me that she was also required to study the poems of William Blake and to work out why George shot Lennie at the end of Of Mice and Men.
Lesson for teachers
You report state-sector teachers leaving for independent schools because of smaller class sizes and increased professional freedom (28 November). There's quite often a high price. As the largest union in the independent sector, ATL supports many independent teachers whose hours exceed those in the state sector, whose pay is less and whose access to training is limited. Employment can be more precarious: this year at least five independent schools have closed. Some independent schools are good employers, some are not; the grass is not always greener.
National Official, Independent Schools, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, London WC2
Trains 'on time'
Ian McAllister (Letters, 29 November) makes a very doubtful claim about the punctuality of British trains. The definition of "on time" has been changed at least twice. It would be interesting to see the performance figures under the original definition of "on time" – "on or before the time in the public timetable" – as opposed to the various "not more than *minutes late" definitions that have been used subsequently.
Portland, Oregon, USA
De Valera's gaffe
Whatever "propaganda . . . the British used against Dublin" during he Second World War ("The British should not forget the massive debt they owe the Irish" 29 November), it pales into insignificance against the fact of Irish leader De Valera's 1945 decision to offer official condolences to the German Minister in Dublin on the death of Hitler. He clearly saw the murder of six million Jews as being less important than honouring a mere diplomatic protocol towards a fascist state already on the verge of extinction.
If the Post Office wants its Christmas stamps to be truly secular (letter, 29 November), perhaps it could keep us republicans happy as well by losing the Head of the Church of England from the top right-hand corner.