Home Information Packs will be an expensive waste of time
Sir: The Government climbdown over home sellers' packs (report, 19July) is good news. It would appear that the campaign run by the nation's favourite property gurus, Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer has achieved what expert advice and warnings from those who work within the industry including the Law Society could not, namely a partial Government u-turn to shelve the Home Condition Report element of Home Information Packs (Hips) due to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public on 1 June 2007.
However, the report that the new "half-HIP" will cost only £100 is nonsense. It will incorporate expensive searches likely to be out of date at the point of sale when they will need to be duplicated by purchasers or extended with further expensive insurance and also legal documents and papers which will mean nothing to the lay public without legal advice. A home inspector must still produce the Energy Performance Certificate and they are likely to cost the seller at least £600 plus VAT. Nick Stace, the campaigns and communications director at Which?, is right when he says they will be a useless but very expensive waste of time.
If the Government remains stubborn and insists on introducing John Prescott's project it will stifle the housing market, reduce the supply of houses, artificially increase prices still further and also have the effect of concentrating more power in the large corporate and factory conveyancers at the expense of small conveyancing firms.
As a conveyancing solicitor with over 30 years experience I can assure all your readers that it remains a disaster waiting to happen and unless the whole scheme is shelved another basic freedom - to market and sell your property how and when you wish - will be swept away with these highly bureaucratic and expensive half-Hips.
JOHN W LAWRANCE
LAWRANCE AND HOLDER SOLICITORS POTTERS BAR, HERTFORDSHIRE
Palestinian nation under threat
Sir: The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza - an incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish press. The following day the Palestinians took an Israeli soldier prisoner - and proposed a negotiated exchange against prisoners taken by the Israelis, of which there are approximately 10,000 in Israeli jails.
That this "kidnapping" was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources, most particularly that of water, by the Israeli defence forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land alloted to them by international agreements during the last 70 years.
Today outrage follows outrage; makeshift missiles cross sophisticated ones. The latter usually find their target situated where the disinherited and crowded poor live, waiting for what was once called justice. Both categories of missile rip bodies apart horribly - who but field commanders can forget this for a moment?
Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows all serve as a distraction to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.
This has to be said loud and clear for the practice, only half declared and often covert, is advancing fast these days, and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognised for what it is and resisted.
Sir: The Government has dispatched two warships to help British citizens in Lebanon - it has not done the same for British citizens in Israel. This implies that the Israelis are using excessive force in dealing with Hizbollah and in the process destroying an entire country which has taken so long to rebuild itself.
DR ANDREW PETERSEN
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY UAE UNIVERSITY AL-AIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Sir: I am the rabbi of a synagogue, encompassing 350 people - including around 50 non-Jewish friends. I am also a member of the UK Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights, which campaigns on behalf of the Palestinians. From this perspective I am writing to protest against Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's inflammatory column (17 July). She claims that "nothing but anti-Arab racism can fully explain the behaviour of the Israelis", and that "Israel espouses the same ideology" as the white Boer colonialists in South Africa. She is wrong.
The current impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a tragedy for both peoples. The current conflict between Israel and Hizbollah only exacerbates that tragedy, and is bringing misery and death to Lebanese and Israelis - both Jewish and Arab Israelis - alike. The destruction of Lebanon is horrifying to witness. Why is Israel targeting the infrastructure of that country? I ask the same question. But my answer is different. No, it's not racism. The President of Iran is a racist and has called for the destruction of Israel and the destruction of the Jews.
In the face of the implacable hostility of Hizbollah, Syria and Iran, Israel seems to be sending out a message - Israel is not going to be destroyed; Israel is here to stay.
RABBI ELIZABETH TIKVAH SARAH
BRIGHTON & HOVE PROGRESSIVE SYNAGOGUE HOVE, EAST SUSSEX
Sir Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is right. Of course the Israeli government is racist towards Arabs. How else could they operate an apartheid system in the West Bank with a separation barrier, separate roads, separate towns, schools, road blocks, pass laws, curfews, and daily discrimination according to race? The racism is not just from the not-so-moderate government of Olmert but is institutional and embedded within the system.
Only by demanding an immediate ceasefire would we show that we did not share Israel's racist attitudes towards Arabs whether they are Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians or whether the are Muslim or Christian.
Sir: In Linda Grant's article on how British Jews feel about Israel (18 July) it was inferred by one or two of the interviewees about the Palestine Solidarity Campaign "that there is antisemitism" in it. We are two of many Jews, and part of a whole spectrum of British society, who feel quite comfortable being members of the PSC, who would not associate with an organisation that countenanced such views.
As with Jews for Justice for Palestinians, there is a wide spectrum of opinions on activism to achieve a just peace in Israel/Palestine and from my own knowledge and experience of the PSC its far from "blunt analysis" is focused on a clear view of human rights and international law, of which Israel at this moment is in flagrant breach in its criminal destruction of Lebanon and Gaza. But antisemitism is certainly off the agenda.
ABE HAYEEM ROSAMINE HAYEEM
Devastating effects of travelling by plane
Sir: Your front page (19 July) proclaims that carbon emissions from jet aircraft "represent one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases", with an effect "between two and four times greater than releasing C02 at ground level." Meanwhile, Hamish McRae ("Try to imagine a world without air travel", 19 July), extolling the virtues of cheaper air travel, argues that those warning of the environmental costs "haven't thought through the consequences of making it more difficult", and that we should "recognise how lucky we are to be able to move about the world, thanks to the [aircraft] industry's astounding technology."
Continuing what could almost be a Panglossian spoof, he notes that a former colleague once flew to New York for a hair-cut, and "I rather admired her for that." As long a such attitudes prevail the Bush administration's "foot-dragging" on climate change policy will remain the order of the day.
Sir: Hamish McRae is absolutely right: air travel does facilitate globalisation and comes at a heavy environmental cost, but it is also cheap and efficient. He fails however to measure like with like - and compare a future with much less air travel with a future devastated by climate change.
Yes, a future with reduced air travel would be one in which more of our personal and commercial relationships geographically nearer, yet this would bring significant social and economic benefits through stronger local communities.
But a future in which we have failed to address the fastest growing contributor to climate change is likely to be one riven by global conflict, poverty and environmental destruction.
I, for one, would prefer the former scenario.
DR CAROLINE LUCAS MEP
(GREEN PARTY, SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND), RAPPORTEUR ON AVIATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BRUSSELS
New strategies for crime prevention
Sir: Your editorial( 20 July) draws attention to the importance of the Home Secretary getting to grips with the "systemic failings" at the Home Office.
One suggestion for him to consider would be to focus on successful crime and rehabilitation stories. As a longstanding probation officer I have many such stories. Maybe his department could undertake a media publicity campaign that instead of focussing on stories that undermine the public's faith in the criminal justice system, could highlight successful crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies, instead of churning out ever more "harsher" punishment in the shape of prison expansion?
VICE-CHAIR GREATER LONDON NAPO LONDON SE1
Communicating with deaf people
Sir : The answer to Ann Williams' questions (Letters, 17 July) - "How do hearing people communicate with the deaf?" is easy. You telephone them on their mobile phone and leave a voice mail message. The message is then translated to a text message, and the deaf person can either (a) text you a reply to your mobile phone or (b) text a reply to your landline which you will receive as a "voice" message on your landline.
We've been trialling this in Leeds since December 2005 and it works. If the deaf person has an email address, they will receive your voice mail as an e-mail as well.
JOHN F HAMILTON
CHAIRMAN, THE LEEDS SOCIETY FOR DEAF AND BLIND PEOPLE
Prescription changes need assessing
Sir: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain welcomes the Commons Health Select Committee report into NHS charges in England (report, 18 July) . The Committee's conclusion is that there is a woeful lack of evidence about the effect of charges, and therefore about the consequences of making changes quickly, reflects the expert evidence presented by the RPS to the Inquiry in January of this year.
We believe that the current system of prescription charges is illogical and unfair. Pharmacists tell us that people on low incomes who are not exempt from the charges face hard choices about which prescribed medicines they can afford. Any changes to the prescription charge system require research and careful thinking so as to avoid destabilising welcome moves to improve patient access to medicines from pharmacists.
PRESIDENT ROYAL PHARMACEUTICAL SOCIETY OF GREAT BRITAIN LONDON SE1
Sir: David King (13 July) states that for new nuclear plants the costs of decommissioning and waste disposal would be borne by the private sector. But these matters need not be addressed until after the profits have been made. What is to prevent the company going into liquidation because they cannot meet these costs, whatever provision may have been made for them?
Sir: Irene Woodward asks (Letters, 19 July) why we are being compelled to transfer to digital radio and TV even though DAB receivers can be less efficient. The answer is simply that digital broadcast uses the radio spectrum a lot more efficiently than analogue, and the Government expects a licensing bonanza as was seen with the auction of the mobile phone spectrum.
It's hardly reasonable to expect the treasury to moderate its greed when presented with the opportunity of raising a lot of money. Considerations such as increased power consumption can't be allowed to stand in way of this important fund gathering opportunity.
Sir: You are wrong to assert that the International Brigades included George Orwell ("Spain prepares to lay bare its darkest era", 14 July). He actually joined the POUM militia, a Trotskyist-orientated organisation which rejected Bolshevik organisation where the rank and file had close links to the Anarchists.
DR DAVID SPOONER
Sir: The Home Office finding that violence and vandalism had not risen as a result of the new 24-hour drinking laws was reported as if this were a positive outcome ("24-hour pub laws fail to incite crime", 19 July).
But when this legislation was first published in November 2002, Secretary of State Tessa Jowell said that the new Licensing Bill "would be a key plank of the Government's drive to cut down on crime and anti-social behaviour."
Surely, if there has been no reduction in alcohol-related crime, this important element of licensing reform has failed?
Sir: If yesterday's high temperature was due to global warming, as intimated on your front page (19 July), what caused the thermometer to climb to 36C (97F) at Epsom in July 1911?