Sir: Jacqui Smith's "concession" about ID cards once again wilfully ignores the real reason why so many people are against the scheme. It's not about the little pieces of plastic, it's about the gigantic and intrusive database that they are tied to.
Whether you get a joint passport/ID card, or just the card itself, you will still be forced to have 50 pieces of private personal information logged on to a giant identity register for any bureaucrat to look at. Those of us who value our privacy will still be denied a passport for failing to "volunteer" for the database. And whichever one you opt for, you will still be fingerprinted, eye-scanned and interrogated like a criminal.
If the Government was serious about addressing the concerns of a majority of the population, they would drop the intrusive and illiberal National Identity Register once and for all, and let all those who like our privacy to get on with our lives without being tracked, logged and tagged.
Sir: It is delightful to watch New Labour trip over its ID cards scheme yet again. Unable to admit the whole shooting match is hopelessly flawed from its Orwellian National Identity Register to its unstable biometrics, they now offer a "choice"' between ID card and passport.
How many people will opt for an ID card? Will the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, ditch her passport in favour of one?
New Labour's cowardice in being unable to scrap the unworkable and obscenely expensive scheme outright means it dies by a thousand cuts, along with New Labour's credibility. Most amusing to watch, and it could not happen to a nicer party. However, would it not be better for the taxpayer simply to scrap the whole nonsense right away?
Tougher climate policies needed
Sir: The OECD has said that we face disastrous climate change without "concerted and global action" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ("The green betrayal", 5 March). The Environmental Audit Committee of MPs simultaneously accused the Government of "failing to meet the challenge of climate change".
The Stop Climate Chaos coalition, with a combined supporter base of over 4 million people, shares these concerns. Through our I Count campaign we have pressed the Government for a Climate Change Bill that would place a legal obligation on the UK to drive down its carbon dioxide emissions.
To its credit the Government has supported this. However the Bill, as currently drafted, will not provide the necessary discipline, as it based on outdated science. The latest analysis shows that instead of aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 we should reduce them by at least 80 per cent. Moreover, the draft Bill excludes international aviation and shipping from its targets, despite the substantial and growing emissions from these sectors.
If the UK is to meet its obligations to tackle climate change, as well as gain the wider benefits of shifting to a low-carbon economy, then these flaws to the legislation must be rectified.
Director, I Count campaign, London EC2
Sir: We agree that this government is acting painfully slowly in implementing climate-change policies, but renewable energy must join your list as the fourth major area desperately in need of action.
The Renewable Energy Association backed several exciting amendments to the Energy Bill that would have enabled the UK to put renewables on the faster footing we so desperately need. Frustratingly it looks as if the Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, will reject all the proposed new measures, including feed-in tariffs and a revised duty for the regulator to pursue CO2 reduction. I fear instead of action the renewables industry faces yet more years of consultation.
The Stern Review Report clearly stated the "benefits of strong and early action far outweigh the economic costs of not acting". The scale and urgency of the challenge we face begs that we utilise every resource at our disposal. Proven renewable energy technologies exist; polices to implement and incentivise are lagging behind. As the International Energy Agency point out, the only resource that is now in very short supply is time.
The Renewable Energy Association, London SW1
Sir: The timidity of the major parties about the public response to imaginative climate change strategies suggests that cross-party agreements on the way ahead are essential to remove the issue from electoral trading.
At times of crisis in national life, party rivalries have been suspended in the interests of unity. Since it seems to have become the practice for governments to follow public opinion rather than lead it, such agreements are more necessary than ever. Otherwise greed, ignorance and stupidity will come to dictate policy. No future there.
Attack on nurses in the House of Lords
Sir: Lord Mancroft should stop digging. ("Why is it considered an offence to criticise nurses?", 5 March) I criticised his attack on nurses (and women in general) not solely because he used his position in the Lords, which he owes to birth, but because he hadn't bothered to complain to the hospital itself.
There is a robust NHS complaints procedure used by thousands of patients every year. The Royal Bath would have thoroughly investigated any complaint and acted on it. If Lord Mancroft had been dissatisfied by its response, he could have taken his complaint to the independent Health Care Commission – set up by this government – and ultimately to the Ombudsman.
Instead, he used the platform the Lords gives him to make sweeping and derogatory comments. That was the very kind of discourtesy of which he is accusing the nurses who cared for him.
Ben Bradshaw MP
(Exeter, Lab), House of Commons
Sadism flourished in the Sixties
Sir: I think David Humphrey (letter, 6 March) has missed the point of what Mark Steel said about the Sixties. Yes, as David Humphrey says, the Sixties were the start of the "anything goes" era for grown-ups but in the schools I went to in the Sixties and early Seventies, far from children "challenging just about every social convention that existed", things were very as much as Mark Steel described and most of us were terrified to put a foot wrong.
I remember our headmaster assembling all the boys in the school hall and caning wrongdoers on the stage, a male teacher slapping girls on the legs, and a teacher who would describe, in a lascivious way, how he had "slippered" naughty boys until they pleaded for mercy.
Despite the dawn of permissiveness, the Sixties were still a more innocent era, so modern suspicions may not be appropriate to the incidents I recall, but nonetheless Mark Steel is right – schools and children's homes of the time were places of opportunity for the sadistic and the perverted.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Misguided attempts to manage nature
Sir: Recent correspondence on the Law of Unintended Consequences as it applies to nature conservation – elephants in Africa (3 March), wolves in Canada (4 March) – has resonances much closer to home.
As I write, our local heath is being converted into a bare wasteland, against local opposition, by agents of Natural England. Several hectares of mixed pine, birch, gorse and heather, which together have formed an integrated landscape that has developed with minimal interference over at least several decades, is suffering a slash-and-burn policy which is removing the majority of mature trees to leave a blank area covered only in heather and ash pits.
This is being done all over Dorset under a "Higher Level Stewardship" scheme, administered by Natural England and enabled with government money, which prescribes management of heathland to include a tree cover density of less than 15 per cent.
It is this concept of "management" of a natural area which is at the heart of the issue. Unlike housing developers, the people carrying out the destruction are doing so with a clear conscience, because they are working in the name of ecology and conservation. Yet in a few short days their actions have affected an established local ecosystem and will have consequences for decades, as well as destroying what to us at least was a beautiful area with its own special quality.
Management to prescription is the antithesis of respect for nature. The prescription is a wholly artificial idea of what one group of managers thinks is best. One thing at least is clear: whatever else it does, Natural England abhors nature.
Where gay people face persecution
Sir: The British Government's treatment of Mehdi Kazemi is outrageous ("A life or death decision", 6 March). There is absolutely no doubt that Iran executes homosexuals, and Mr Kazemi, whose partner was arrested, charged with sodomy and hanged, rightly fears that he too will be killed if forced to return to Iran. If our asylum policy is to serve any purpose then the Home Secretary must offer Mr Kazemi the opportunity to settle in the UK.
But Britain should also be doing more to protect the rights of gay and lesbian people abroad. No fewer than 85 countries still criminalise consensual same-sex acts among adults, and in five, like Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death. Illegality renders gay men and lesbians in these countries invisible, robbing them of their rights and subjecting them to state-sanctioned harassment, imprisonment, corporal punishment and even death.
The UK should lead efforts to end this situation. The appointment of a special ambassador to build international support for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality would be a concrete first step.
Remember the hunt for Bin Laden?
Sir: Phil Edwards asks us to remind ourselves exactly what British forces are trying to do in Afghanistan (letter, 4 March) and then tells us that they are there to "restrict the influence of a group of indoctrinated fanatics" who have committed, among other things, the slaughter of women teaching algebra to girls.
I would like to ask him, without denying the reality or the awfulness of those actions, if he can remind himself of Tony Blair's actual reason for accompanying the US-led invasion of Afghan-istan and sending those British forces there.
Blair's speech in October 2001, as the invasion began, made its purpose quite clear: it was the capture of Osama bin Laden and the eradication of al-Qa'ida. No obvious suggestion for an invasion for the purposes of a regime change (illegal anyway) or an attempt to bring democracy or even stopping the death of a single woman teaching algebra to girls. In fact Blair gave the Taliban a month to give up Bin Laden, which, if they had complied, would have allowed them to stay in power. Much the same was said to Saddam Hussein over WMD.
Any talk of bringing democracy to these countries is just the latest amendment to the script and not the original draft. Saddam denied having WMD: none have been found. The Taliban denied supporting and harbouring Bin Laden: Bin Laden has not been found.
M S Lane
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Sir: Michelle Moshelian asks: "Do people really want Israel to rain down as many bombs as it can randomly on Palestinian populated areas?" (letter, 4 March). She has a very short memory. Substitute bomblets for bombs and that is precisely what they did when, with a ceasefire date agreed, they bombarded civilian areas of southern Lebanon with artillery shells containing anti-personnel bomblets, many of which are still killing civilians.
Sir: One can't help but think that perhaps the message of climate change hasn't got through when grown men will fly all around the world to play golf in remote Scottish Islands. ("Missing links", 6 March). What could be a more powerful testament on the need for enlightened government action to save the atmosphere than these destructive golfers? A sport for those who are disinclined to exercise may have its place, but couldn't they do it in their own back yard?
Sir: It would seem that Jonathan Brown ("Ethical travel", 4 March) is the green one – green with envy. What is the Prince to do on a Caribbean tour? Hop on his bike? Or a bus? Or walk? Where to? Or should he just sit in his castle and keep quiet. He is in a no-win situation that he didn't ask to be born into. Would you have him abdicate? What would be the gain? The planet? I don't think so.
Dr C M Holloway
Hove, East Sussex
Vote for Europe
Sir: Why is it that it is only "Eurosceptics" who are credited with wanting a referendum on the Lisbon treaty? ("Clegg loses frontbenchers", 6 March.) If this new Europe that is being built is not going to fall apart at some stage it must surely be in everybody's interest to ensure that as much of the population as possible (and not just in the UK) supports it every step of the way. If one referendum is lost it will just mean back to the negotiating table, not that the country has to leave the EU.
Trains to France
Sir: Having only this morning visited the Eurostar website to book a trip to Montpellier, I wondered what obscure destination Bruce Piper (letter, 5 March) had found in south-west France that BA fly to but Eurostar couldn't book him to.
shipley, West Yorkshire
Sir: Mr Piper and anyone else organising train travel abroad should consult the Man in Seat 61 ( www.seat61.com), who will provide all the details, advice and links they need.
London NW1Reuse content