Global warming demands we put party differences aside
Sir: Human activity creates greenhouse gas emissions, and is causing climate change. If we continue with business as usual, temperatures could rise by as much as six degrees by the end of the century. The resulting disruption to our weather systems would be devastating, hitting the poor and most vulnerable the hardest. Thankfully the science is now accepted. Unfortunately, far from falling, UK emissions are still rising.
It is with this critical situation in mind that five parties from across the political spectrum and indeed from across the devolved administrations, have agreed to a binding framework to reduce emissions. We all accept the need to have an independent body to monitor and enforce statutory year-on-year carbon emissions. We also believe that this body should produce an annual report, to be debated openly in both houses of Parliament. Simply put, we are seeking to ensure that this country reduces its emissions, whoever is in power and at whatever time. Climate change is too big an issue for one party, or even one generation of politicians, to tackle on their own.
There is, of course, one crucial link missing from our agreement: the Labour Government. We have written to Margaret Beckett asking her to reconsider the decision not to join our initiative. Our intention is to create a framework within which all parties will be legally bound to reduce emissions, but how precisely this is done will depend on the Government in power. We have put aside our policy differences in light of this critical situation. We ask that the leadership of the Labour Party now does the same.
PETER AINSWORTH MP
SHADOW SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD & RURAL AFFAIRS CONSERVATIVE) NORMAN BAKER MP SHADOW ENVIRONMENT & RURAL AFFAIRS SECRETARY (LIBERAL DEMOCRAT) ELFYN LLWYD MP ENVIRONMENT SPOKESPERSON, PLAID CYMRU MIKE WEIR MP SNP SPOKESPERSON ON ENERGY THE REV DR WILLIAM MCCREA MP DUP ENVIRONMENT SPOKESMAN HOUSE OF COMMONS
Ominous election win for Hamas
Sir: By voting in a Hamas government, the Palestinian people have once again missed a golden opportunity. There will never be a separate Palestinian state as long as they have a government committed to the destruction of Israel and the continuation of suicide bombings.
The only good thing to have come out of this election is that now Israel and the world are 100 per cent aware of what they are dealing with in "Palestine" With all the peace talks, the Palestinians were never anything more than a wolf in sheep's clothing. They have always dreamed of a state from Jordan to the Mediterranean, whatever they have said for public consumption.
Israel now needs more than ever a hardline prime minister so the new Prime Minister of Israel will no doubt be Benjamin Netanyahu. There will be hardliners on both sides. No chance for peace now. God help them all.
Sir: If Hamas has won the elections, it should be recognised by the EU and the rest of the world, even if Israel and the US want to be obstructive. Hamas probably won because it was seen as less likely to accept a series of bantustans, with Israel holding on to Jerusalem, the illegal settlements and any defensive sites.
If Hamas renounce violence then Israel should too and the Israeli elections may give an opportunity for real negotiations. If we decide to accept the result. In democracy, you don't know who is going to win. Does the West prefer the Kuwaiti way of picking a new leader?
Sir: Here's one you could not make up. The US (Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam; the list is endless) will not talk to Hamas unless it renounces violence.
SELBY, NORTH YORKSHIRE
No one excluded by Holocaust Day
Sir: Inayat Bunglawala (letter, 24 January) is wrong to attack Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) as an exclusively Jewish remembrance day.
The main voice that survivors of the Rwandan genocide have heard outside their own country, has been through HMD when I, and others in my community, have learnt about the suffering of the Bosnians and other crimes being committed simply because people see others as being different. I was privileged to share in the poignant national event in Belfast in 2004 when the theme for HMD was "From the Holocaust to Rwanda: lessons learned, lessons still to learn." The support I felt then that was given by those involved will stay with me for ever.
In my experience, HMD has been totally open and inclusive in dealing with Rwanda and other genocides. For these reasons, from a Rwandan perspective, I believe it to be of prime importance that the misinformation that HMD is a Jewish day should be corrected an campaigns to rename or boycott the day should end.
DIRECTOR, SURVIVORS' FUND LONDON SW6
Public investment in British science
Sir: Colin Hindmarch's suggestion that public inquiries should contribute to decisions about funding for science (letter, 24 January) highlights an issue of importance as science grows in importance to our economy and public policy.
The current discussion was prompted by closures of laboratories that were partly driven by the Government's justified insistence on a reasonable understanding of the true financial costs of research. Decades of under-funding led to resources being spread very thinly, with costs hidden or ignored by accounting methods with deliberately blurred edges. This led to crumbling infrastructure. In return for substantially increased budgets, ministers want to know that the "full economic cost" of research is counted, so that scientific projects that receive public money can run sustainably.
At least in part, the closing down of some research is extremely unwelcome collateral damage of the new rules, and it brings two challenges. First, we need to know how the Government will ensure that the outcome of many individual decisions by different agencies does not end up producing an unbalanced, patchy science base. Second, ministers from the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer downwards need to be clear that they will remain committed to making the UK one of the most competitive countries in which to do science, now that we can see more clearly the level of investment that will be needed to achieve this. If they do not, scientific companies will not choose the UK as a place to do business, and our economy will suffer severely.
DR PETER COTGREAVE
DIRECTOR, CAMPAIGN FOR SCIENCE & ENGINEERING IN THE UK LONDON WC1
Our support for the Afghan government
Sir: I was surprised that Kim Sengupta's article "World Bank accuses West of undermining Karzai" (24 January) identified the UK as a donor engaged in "wasteful projects outside the control, and sometimes the knowledge of the Afghan administration".
In fact, over 70 per cent of the Department for International Development's £100m aid budget for Afghanistan this year is going directly to the Afghan government. The UK is the largest donor to the government's core budget and we have committed unearmarked funding to support Afghanistan's own development efforts for three years (with strict financial and monitoring controls).
This is exactly what the Afghan government wants - and the World Bank advocates. Indeed, the World Bank's report on improving the effectiveness of aid in Afghanistan explicitly praises the UK's approach. I strongly support the warnings given by the World Bank that the 75 per cent of aid currently not going through the Afghan government damages development prospects and undermines the government. At the London Conference on Afghanistan next week, the UK along with the World Bank, will be supporting the Afghan government in making this point.
HILARY BENN MP
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT LONDON SW1
The American way with squirrels
Sir: The proposed cull of grey squirrels makes me begin to regret donating my Baton Rouge Cookbook to Oxfam; far too many recipes contained an awful lot of gelatine and marshmallows, also something called "mirlitons" which left me floundering.
However, it did contain some appetising sounding recipes for possum pie ("first tree your possum") and also several interesting recipes for squirrels. Regretfully I gathered that culinary dealing with squirrels was illegal in the UK, which I thought a shame since our local squirrel, affectionately known as Cyril, is such a pest digging up bulbs and raiding bird tables to bury peanuts messily in our lawn, that I had murderous designs on him.
Lately he's taken to trying, unsuccessfully, to bury golf balls in our lawn. Heaven knows what's going through his furry little brain. Perhaps he's an aspiring upwardly mobile squirrel hoping to join a golf club.
If we're going to cull grey squirrels, can the Government not simply declare open field on them, then we can all experiment with Baton Rouge recipes? Why waste free protein?
Lib Dem hypocrisy and the gay vote
Sir: Simon Hughes was the beneficiary of the most vitriolic and bigoted by-election campaign in living memory. The reason he was able to overturn a huge Labour majority and win Bermondsey was the sustained homophobic attack on Peter Tatchell by the media - with at least the connivance of the other political parties.
It is unacceptable for the Lib Dems to have a front-bench spokesman, let alone leader, who is capable of such evasiveness and hypocrisy. I hope my fellow members of the gay and lesbian community will refrain from voting for them should he remain in any prominent party position.
Sir: Are the words "being overly defensive" shortly to replace "being economical with the truth" as the favoured phrase of the politician in mid-scandal?
A R W DAVIES
Sir: On reading Philip Hensher's article (25 January) on "the bun-faced MP" Mark Oaten, I wanted to admonish him in the words of Canon Chasuble: "Charity, dear Miss Prism, charity! None of us are perfect."
It is entirely possible both that love was the reason why Oaten married his wife, and that that same love continued to sustain the relationship until a rent-boy decided to blab to the press.
When a man destroys his career and possibly his marriage through an act of crazy aberration, then surely the appropriate response, particularly from homosexuals like Hensher and myself, should be one of compassionate regret, not of disdainful schadenfreude.
Sir: Those who advocate a privacy law to protect secrets such as Mark Oaten's presumably feel that the information should not influence the voting intentions of a reasonable person. If so, they should trust the electorate to take an equally enlightened view.
A ban on publication would not in any case preserve privacy. Stories would circulate among too wide a clique of the elite. Only we of the hobbledehoy would be left in ignorance.
Where I would agree that Mr Oaten deserves the protection of the law is if the newspaper's informant were a member of the oldest profession whom he had previously paid. This would be a clear breach of an implied duty of professional confidentiality.
HARROGATE, NORTH YORKSHIRE
Sir: Given the collection of liars and cheats it transpires Charles Kennedy was having to lead, is it any wonder the poor man turned to the solace of drink?
Sir: If it is possible for Google to censor stuff to please the Chinese government, surely it is possible to censor out child pornography, a move which would be far more popular worldwide than any such political one?
KENNETH J MOSS
Sir: In the article "The solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis" (23 January) Johann Hari said that some observers believed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might be an Iranian Dr Strangelove. In the film, Strangelove was hilariously unhinged but it was the paranoid psychotic General Jack D Ripper who was responsible for unleashing nuclear Armageddon.
Not so green
Sir: It is strange that you should describe David Bellamy as one of the planet's top ten eco-warriors ("Defenders of the Earth", 23 January). Surely his persistent denial of climate change should deny him this accolade. David Bellamy has repeatedly described climate change as natural and as something that we should not waste money trying to stop.
Sir: One expects "cultural cringe" from an American-owned "red top", many of whose readers regard Disneyland as the ultimate in sophistication, but readers of a quality paper published in London, England, will assume that the phrase "the civil war" ("Secret weapons of the Civil War", letter heading, 26 January) refers to Roundheads versus Cavaliers or possibly the Wars of the Roses. Surely when the topic is a foreign civil war the letter should be headed "Secret weapons of the US Civil War".
Sir: Once again Bernard Manning is to be censored, this time by the organisers of Glasgow's annual comedy festival (Pandora, 25 January). I cannot understand why they are being so sensitive about his opinions and language. If you do not want to be offended by Mr Manning, the best method is not to pay good money to be entertained by the fat northern bastard.
TOWCESTER, NORTHAMPTONSHIREReuse content