Sir: Dominic Lawson (Comment, 23 November) is right to point out that UK airport expansion is vital for competitiveness. Increasing capacity in the greater South-East will reduce business costs by £6bn by 2060. At the same time, expansion at Heathrow will act as a means of reducing carbon emissions from existing flights.
One of the greatest sources of aviation emissions is "stacking" – aircraft held above airports until a landing slot is available. An increase in runway capacity will reduce this need, ensuring aircraft are kept in the air for the minimum amount of time. Also, new aircraft coming into service will mean 50 per cent reductions in noise and fuel consumption by 2020, compared with aircraft use in 2000.
Deputy Chairman, Airport Operators Association, London SW1
Sir: Dominic Lawson is right to highlight the hypocrisy of Gordon Brown's plans to ban plastic bags while trying to push through proposals to expand Heathrow. But he is wrong to argue that we cannot both fight climate change and have a successful economy. Fiscal measures, such as a carbon tax, can be used to encourage the development of green, clean industries and businesses while penalising polluting ones.
Mr Lawson is also wrong in his assessment of the impact of noise from Heathrow aircraft on residents living under the flight paths. Clearly, most residents in West London knew of the existence of Heathrow when they moved into their properties. What they could not have predicted was the sheer number of planes which would be flying over their homes, particularly when, over the past 20 years, BAA and the Government made firm promises, subsequently broken, to cap the number of flights using the airport.
Sir: There is something deeply depressing about Dominic Lawson's nihilistic view of this country's potential contribution to fighting climate change
His "can't, won't" attitude is in sorry contrast to an up-beat report I received about the development of energy from sunlight in Germany, employing 10,000 people and expanding at 30 per cent a year. Germany installed more than 200 times as much new photovoltaic capacity as the United Kingdom in 2006.
Clashes over free speech at Oxford
Sir: I find it tragically comic that anti-fascist demonstrators at the Oxford Union seek to stifle free speech, and the Holocaust Education Trust seeks to improve education through censorship (Letters, 27 November).
The job of a democracy is not to prevent members of the Jewish students' union from feeling "uncomfortable"; it is to prevent the abuse of power. They of all people should appreciate that.
Open and balanced debate educates listeners and exposes flawed ideas. Where else could people like Irving and Griffin have their ideas publicly taken apart by skilled minds?
Luke Tryl has done a stellar job of stimulating debate on free speech. He's welcome down at my local any time.
Sir: On Monday evening, inside the Oxford Union, two disgusting caricatures aired their pernicious views in a "free speech forum". Their shameful opinions were reviled by all who attended, and exposed as hollow absurdities in the light of reasoned and informed discussion.
Meanwhile, outside the Chamber, a baying mob stormed a police cordon and chanted "Kill Tryl," apparently demanding the death of the Union president because he had invited some speakers they disagreed with. I know which of these two scenes seems closer to fascism to me.
The behaviour of the protesters was nothing but colossal stupidity. Not only did their protests generate a front page in The Independent, giving Irving and Griffin publicity, but their actions played up to the self-righteous "victim" mentality of the far right. Turning people like this into free-speech martyrs only helps them to extend their appeal among dispossessed whites.
The virus of far-right prejudice is best confronted in debate and discussion. Well done Luke Tryl. Rarely have I felt so proud of my life-membership of the Oxford Union.
Sir: Of course violence against the apologists of the far right is unacceptable. However, it is incredibly irresponsible for the President of the Oxford Union to give them a veneer of establishment credibility by inviting them to "debate" whether racism and Holocaust denial have anything constructive to offer modern-day Britain. Can we assume that equally repugnant pseudo left-wing speakers who advocate murdering the aristocracy or beating up the police can expect an invite next term?
From a personal point of view there is one benefit – I have just resigned my membership of the Oxford Union, something I should have done decades ago.
Sir: In 1969 I attended a packed meeting of the Cambridge Society for Social Responsibility in Science on "Race and IQ", where Professor Arthur Jensen was one of the speakers. His article in the Harvard Educational Review, arguing that inter-racial differences in scholastic performance were mostly due to genetic differences in intelligence, had excited fierce controversy.
In Cambridge he was accorded the same polite attention as all the other speakers, who systematically chipped away at parts of his argument. Eventually Jensen admitted that the key inference in his argument was "technically invalid". He insisted he still believed his conclusion was correct, despite his argument being invalid, but in that moment his case was destroyed.
I regret that we recently lost the opportunity to persuade James Watson to make a similar admission. If erroneous and generally abhorrent views are subjected to calm, persistent and withering rational criticism, there is a chance that those who hold them will come to "see the light". If the expression of such views is simply suppressed, then they will fester unchallenged, in a kind of inner, raging and self-righteous darkness. And if we hate sufficiently strongly, in the end we may become the very evil we think we fight against.
Sir: I was one of the student speakers who spoke in the forum, against Nick Griffin. Whatever your opinion on whether he should have been invited (and I don't think he should have), or whether I should have spoken, I think that the actions of protesters against ordinary students at Oxford was disgusting.
Much of the argument that was made against inviting Nick Griffin was that wherever he went violence followed, and students had a right to feel safe at university. How ridiculous then that a bunch of rabid "anti-fascists" trapped 250 of their fellow students in a building, kicked open the gates, invaded the chamber and made their neighbours and friends feel like they were about to be attacked. I'd like to ask them how some of them shouting "kill Tryl", or "this is what democracy feels like" when they stormed the gates proves their point?
When some protesters started to yell at me, "James Dray, you're a fascist," I can't deny that I was scared. But then I just got angry. I was the one who had to stand up, in the face of Griffin and his cronies and argue against him face to face. How does that make me a fascist?
I dearly hope that most of the people who attended were not a part of these activities, but the fact that they happened is a sad indictment on the organisers of this protest and on all those involved.
Sir: When I hear of a culture that considers it reasonable to sentence a rape victim to 200 lashes because she shouldn't have been in a car with a man , or of one which believes that naming a teddy bear after a prophet is worth a jail sentence, I would like the freedom to be as critical towards those cultures as I possibly can, in exactly the same way as I would criticise elements of my own far-from-perfect culture.
I would not like that freedom curtailed, on the advice of the kind of simple-minded, wide-eyed idealists that our universities are infested with, on the basis that those on the receiving end might well be offended by the criticism.
Irving and Griffin do not "deserve" to be heard, any more than the over-excitable children on the barricades outside "deserve" to be heard. But you do not silence people because you don't like what they have to say. The time may come when you have something to say yourself that others may not agree with. Would you wish to be silenced, for fear of causing offence ?
Sir: If only Mr Hitler had been invited to speak at the Oxford Union in the 1930s. Defeated in debate, he'd have scuttled home, tail between his legs, and disarmed.
Sir: As an Oxford resident caught up in the demonstrations around the Oxford Union, I've decided to promote my own historical viewpoint: I deny the existence of David Irving.
Richard O Smith
What lawyers and doctors are worth
Sir: It is misleading to compare the salary of a newly qualified solicitor with other starting salaries, particularly those of investment bankers and management consultants (report, 19 November). Whilst all these jobs require university degrees, a newly qualified solicitor will also have undertaken at least three years' additional training (one year at law school and two years working as a trainee solicitor).
A far more sensible comparison would be between the salary of a first-year trainee solicitor (£33,000) and a first-year analyst at an investment bank (also £33,000). Once the investment banker's annual bonus is taken into account, the principal reason for the recent rise in City lawyers' salaries should be clear.
It is only by matching the salaries paid in other sectors of the City that law firms will continue to attract the talented graduates they need.
Sir: Your report (22 November) on the pay award for NHS consultants states correctly that the new contract was implemented to "reward those who gave most time to the NHS, halt the rise in private practice, increase productivity". But the Department of Health seriously underestimated the number of hours that consultants were already putting into the NHS. Most of us were working more hours than the trusts could afford to pay us under the new deal.
Hence in my negotiations over the new contract I was asked not "How much more can you do?" but "What can you stop doing?" Is it any wonder that productivity has decreased and the professionalism of consultants has been seriously eroded?
Dr Jonathan Cullis
Coombe Bissett, Salisbury
Websites that shun our troops
Sir: Discrimination against a British Forces Post Office address runs also to the internet (letter, 24 November). Troops in Afghan-istan whose mail is being returned to sender will also be unable on many websites to buy odds and ends from the UK that may make their tour of duty a little easier.
BFPO addresses are not postcodes in the sense that UK street addresses are and consequently are rejected by all websites that check for a valid UK postcode, leaving the would-be buyer unable to log in. Our military is scattered all over the world and values the BFPO service.
All you website developers, please make your site accept BFPO addresses. To the Royal Mail and the Ministry of Defence, I say please establish a BFPO postcode format that follows the form of other UK postcodes.
Nato HQ, BFPO 49, Belgium
Cheap rail travel
Sir: Alan Friswell (letter, 24 November) can find cheap singles several weeks ahead on GNER. In this southern bulwark of Yorkshire, I use East Midlands Trains to go to London by buying two singles (there and back) for £7 each. Yes, I have to book well in advance but it's not "devilish hard to do" on EMT's website, and because I have a senior railcard I go first-class for £9.25 each way.
Sir: American craft-brewed beers are sadly underrated, as Roger Protz observes (Letters, 27 November). The small town of Sandpoint in Idaho boasts the Laughing Dog Brewery, whose beers include a cream ale, a pale ale, a sweet stout and an IPA, all as good as anything brewed in Britain. Across the state line, in Missoula, Montana, the Big Sky Brewing Company produces the memorably-named Trout Slayer and Moose Drool ales, which can also hold their own against the best of British beer. You won't find them in Britain, alas, but they are worth the 4,500-mile journey.
The making of states
Sir: Anne Penketh's concern that independence for Kosovo would set a "worrying precedent" (The Big Question, 27 November) overlooks the history of statehood in Europe. The tally of political sovereignties in Europe was estimated at around 300 in 1500 and had dropped to a mere 20 in 1900 before rising to around 40 in 2000. States are always being made and unmade, and so the precedent is already in place. The more important question is whether independence would be good for the peoples of the region.
Dr Nick Megoran
Lecturer in Political GeographyNewcastle University
Judgement on warrants
Sir: David Greenwell, a retired JP, explains the routine of being asked to sign a search warrant (letter, 27 November) but does not state how many he refused. Faced with the officers' answers, what grounds would he, as he says, have for refusal? His experience confirms what I have always thought: that warrants are rubber-stamped by the judge or JP and are rarely, if ever, refused. How can a JP, in the middle of the night, perform any independent verification of the information laid before him or her?
Sir: In light of the current political controversy and the approach of the Festive Season , would it be advisable to warn parents against making undisclosed gifts to their children through Father Christmas ?
Sevenoaks, KentReuse content