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Friday 16 November 2012
Letters: Energy options for 'green' Tories
David Cameron's pledge to lead the greenest government ever will be worthless unless he takes decisive action against the anti-environment faction within his party ("Osborne's secret war on PM's green agenda", 15 November).
It's been clear for a long time that prominent members of the Government simply don't get the urgent need to build a low-carbon economy, or recognise the huge economic opportunities this will bring. According to the CBI the green economy delivered a third of UK growth last year.
The Prime Minister must make clear his determination to wean the nation off dirty and expensive fossil fuels by including a commitment to decarbonise the power sector by 2030 in this month's Energy Bill – in line with his official climate adviser's recommendation. And ministers such as George Osborne and John Hayes in the energy department must be told to stop sabotaging the green agenda and undermining investor confidence in clean British energy from the wind, waves and sun.
David Cameron enthusiastically championed the environment in opposition as part of his programme to modernise the Conservative Party; unless he tackles the dinosaurs in his Government his efforts are doomed to fail.
Executive Director, Friends of the Earth, London N1
As your front page of 15 November illustrates, the background politics in energy at the moment is chaotic. The UK lags far behind both EU and world average performance on renewables, and we cannot afford to be left behind.
We must strengthen our position in the booming global renewables market in the interests of national prosperity. The British public deserve a serious approach to delivering clean and secure domestic energy and all the jobs that go with it.
The Government must deliver a consistent message to investors. Renewables have been responsible for only around 2 per cent of energy bill increases over the past two years. The Energy Bill must provide confidence and clarity as quickly as possible. The power project pipeline is slowing because of policy uncertainty, which we cannot afford when facing an energy crunch.
Chief Executive, Renewable Energy Association, London SW1
New nuclear won't just provide the low-carbon power that is vital to keeping the lights on, it will also bring investment and highly skilled jobs to our economy. I am confident that the UK's stable policy environment and the measures in our Energy Bill will enable investment to come forward.
In our discussions with new nuclear investors we are certainly not "ripping up the rule book" (report, 22 October). Our focus will be on delivering a fair deal for consumers, which is affordable, provides clear value for money, and is consistent with the Coalition agreement's commitment to no public subsidy for new nuclear power. And we will be transparent around any agreement reached.
My bottom line is the consumer's bottom line – I want new nuclear to be able to go ahead, but not at any price.
Edward Davey MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
So now it's official. Osborne doesn't have the experience to devise a rational economic policy, so he retreats into fantasy.
Academy threat to primary schools too
The situation in the three-tier "Shelley pyramid" of schools is even worse for pupils and parents than your article suggests ("Two more schools facing closure under Gove's academy expansion", 15 November).
The reorganisation of the first schools that will be required after the inevitable closure of the two excellent middle schools, could lead to many of them being closed too.
Many of these (outstanding and good rated) first schools serve rural villages, and due to their size and lack of funds available to expand, simply won't be equipped to take on the extra year group required in a two-tier system.
The result will be children as young as four having to travel long distances each day, not to mention the devastating effect on the villages themselves of losing schools that have been for generations the heart and soul of each small community.
Unfortunately none of these factors are things an academy is required to take into account.
Thurstonland, West Yorkshire
Richard Garner (14 November) reports on the impending closure of the successful Harrowden School as a result of the creation of an academy from a less successful school. He suggests people see the closure as an unintended consequence. On the contrary, I suggest that such outcomes are intended.
Not only has an academy been created but a school controlled by a local council is being destroyed. There will be rejoicing in the hearts of the ideologues, and never mind the children.
A tax Starbucks cannot avoid
Starbucks may pay little or no Corporation Tax, but one tax that it does pay is property tax in the form of business rates. I say this not to provide excuses, but to draw attention to the fact that business rates is a tax which cannot be avoided or evaded.
During the 1990s, I was involved in setting up or amending property-tax systems in former Soviet countries, and I repeatedly stressed that, for a value-based property-tax system to succeed and be fair, properties should be revalued on a regular basis. Indeed, the more frequently these revaluations took place then the fairer and more efficient the tax would be.
The UK government has recently announced that the five-yearly rating revaluation which was due to take place in 2015 is to be postponed for two years, in order, they say, to help small businesses.
Far from helping small businesses, a postponement will penalise most of them because they will continue to pay a higher burden of rates than they should.
A main effect of a revaluation will be to increase the burden on shops in peak trading positions and reduce the burden in secondary and tertiary positions.
And who are in those peak positions? Traders like Starbucks who could otherwise expect an increase of around 20 per cent after the revaluation. Some help for small businesses!
A 'good' degree for everybody
Professor David Parker's observation that "students have become consumers" (Letters, 6 November) is not surprising, now that fees are £9,000 a year.
The updated Unistats website empowers these consumers with information that equips them to choose a course where the prospect of their achieving a good honours degree is the most favourable.
The proportion of firsts and upper seconds ("good honours") has risen significantly in most departments in recent years. Data from 2012 confirms that, for example, the History departments of Leeds, Nottingham, Exeter and Bristol awarded respectively 95, 96, 97 and 98 per cent good honours.
This proliferation of good honours is not consistent within universities however. From the Nottingham University prospectus 2013, the most rigorous entry requirement is for a place in the School of Law (A*AA or 38 IB points plus the LNAT), yet only 55 per cent of their students gained good honours degrees.
While we may applaud the rigours of such a course amid the tide of grade inflation in other departments, this disparity is unjust and can only motivate students to apply to courses and departments where they know that their money will purchase a virtually guaranteed outcome rather than seek educational or personal fulfilment.
This is not education: it is the equivalent of supermarket product placement and promotion.
The council for the Defence of British Universities could not have been established at a more opportune time.
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Let child-abuse review go ahead
The report (15 November), that Baroness Butler-Sloss and Lords Berwick and Mackay have suggested that the judicial review of the Waterhouse enquiry should not proceed because of Steven Messham's retraction, is worrying.
Mr Messham, far from retracting his allegations of repeated abuse, apologised only for wrongly identifying one of the perpetrators. Should this pretext be employed by those with the power of decision to abandon the review, it would suggest to me the risk of another inexcusable cover-up.
It is quite right for Lord McAlpine to sue for libel regarding the allegations made on BBC's Newsnight. I do wonder however, what financial recompense he will receive, and how large it is likely be compared to that offered the victims of the child abuse at the North Wales home. As with Jimmy Savile, will it turn out again that there is one reward for the rich, and a much smaller reward for the poorer victims? One financial settlement for those with many homes, and a smaller one for those who had no home.
Has Sara Neill (letter, 13 November) ever met Prince Charles? I have, several times, and I can assure her, having observed his close interest in inner-city regeneration projects, that whatever his failings, arrogance is not one of them.
Considering the subject of examination resits, I wonder how many members of Ofqual passed their driving test first time? I assume that, in the name of consistency, those who did not will now disbar themselves from driving.
D G C Jones
Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys
I suspect soldiers under the command of General Petraeus and others will value those officers' courage under fire, leadership qualities and grasp of strategy – not their chastity, which has never to my knowledge been deemed a military virtue.
R S Foster
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
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Thousands of migrants to arrive in Athens as political tensions rise in Europe
An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher
Scotland would vote for independence in a second referendum, new poll finds
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