Letters: Immigration


The economy needs migrants, but anxieties must be faced

Sir: Your refreshing front page on the views of a large group of influential business leaders extolling the virtues of opening up our labour market to two further EU countries makes the strongest case yet for the economic benefits of migration (30 August).

However, for those like myself who have always made the economic case for managed migration, there is an increasingly exposed flank in the renewed argument for the economic benefits - namely the lack of mention in the statement by the Business for New Europe Group of the vital need for the better integration of new migrants.

What does this mean in practice? It means that if an employment agency places a large number of new workers in a small town, as currently happens, then national and local government should, working with business, be prepared in relation to resources such as the pressure on housing and school places, with well thought-out information for local communities to deal with inevitable anxieties which accompany all new and substantial movements of people. The small but increasing number of destitute or habitually exploited workers from EU countries on the streets of London and elsewhere also show this weak flank.

Immigration is about people, not just economics. To underplay the importance of integration is to leave the pro-immigration argument vulnerable to further attack from the anti-immigration pressure groups and certain tabloids.

Business leaders are understandably concerned chiefly with the economic benefits of migration, but it is in the interests of those of us who believe in the value of new migration to broaden the argument to encompass the social impacts as well.



Drax protesters ignore clean coal

Sir: Your report "The battle of Drax' (31 August) failed to highlight the importance of ongoing coal-fired electricity. Last winter coal-fired generation provided 50 per cent of Britain's electricity. Coal stations like Drax provide a cheap, flexible and consistent base-load supply throughout the year.

Security of supply trumps everything in the great energy debate for developed nations. Research and development will allow Britain to utilise her considerable reserves of coal in a cleaner way. There are already plans for new clean coal power stations in Yorkshire and elsewhere.

If we can guarantee security of supply and utilise these new technologies then we can lead by example in the world. In order to impress upon China and India and other countries the need for collective action, we must demonstrate our convictions with new projects at home which embrace clean coal technology.

In the developing world, fossil fuels are likely to retain a significant role through this century and far beyond, and the transition towards the greater use of renewables and perhaps even nuclear will be gradual. Coal is secure, abundant, reliable and affordable.

Pressure from groups like the Camp for Climate Action to divert from this lowest-cost path by forcing fossil fuels out of the energy supply mix may not mean as much for wealthy countries, but for the poorer people on the planet, this requirement would divert resources that could be devoted to clean water, healthcare, disease prevention, education and basic infrastructure.

The West is promoting sustainable fossil fuels, in conjunction with the new technologies of carbon capture and storage, in order to eradicate fuel poverty and limit carbon emissions. The protesters at Drax apparently fail to understand that their actions will only hinder the vital task of further developing cheaper and cleaner electricity for everyone.



Sir: The protesters camped outside Drax power station have made their point and forcing the plant to shut would add no weight to their arguments.

Every electricity generating business in Britain is taking action to meet the climate change agenda. Those using fossil fuels are subject to ever-tighter limits on carbon dioxide emissions. The Government requires them to bear the burden of those reductions for virtually the whole of British industry. This makes them use fuel more efficiently and cleanly.

Drax itself has cleaned up its flue gases and is now co-firing biomass with coal. Many companies are running renewable energy schemes and there are exciting renewables projects under development. Remarkable advances are also being made in "clean coal" technology.

Closing down Drax would do nothing to change the way we make our electricity. That is already happening, but it will be achieved over a period of years, not days.



Sir: Your article on the Camp for Climate Action was excellent. Congratulations on choosing to cover the story. However, it was somewhat marred by your repetition of tired old tropes about "violent anarchists" forming a "hard core" within the protests. Despite being reported during coverage of every direct action protest, it is seldom if ever accurate.

The organisers of the camp, from what I can see, are dedicated to non-violent direct action, and their view that capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with environmental sustainability is, of course, absolutely correct. The idea of infinite economic growth on a finite planet is the absurdity that you should be properly examining.



Pesticide risk still not properly assessed

Sir: Peter Fattorini (letter, 29 August) acknowledges that government safety regulations for pesticides "may not be perfect". This is an understatement. There are serious flaws throughout the existing regulations, particularly the lack of protection for people in the countryside from crop-spraying.

There has never been an adequate risk assessment for the long-term exposure for those who live, work or go to school near sprayed fields. Considering pesticides are not supposed to be approved for use until risk assessments have been undertaken to provide evidence that there will not be a health risk, then the current system may well be unlawful.

At least three official reports have heavily criticised the existing monitoring system for pesticides, the Select Committee on Agriculture report in 1987, the British Medical Association report in 1990 and more recently the Royal Commission report, all of which concluded that none of the government agencies involved with pesticides had made any serious attempt to gather data on the chronic effects of pesticides on human health.

The Government however, continues to maintain that a robust system is in place and plays down any link between pesticides and long-term effects. In stark contrast, a statement recently made by the European Commission acknowledged: "Long-term exposure to pesticides can lead to serious disturbances to the immune system, sexual disorders, cancers, sterility, birth defects, damage to the nervous system and genetic damage."



Author's poor view of a historic city

Sir: As an old Peterborian I would like to leap to the defence of Peterborough after reading Mark Haddon's comments on the city ("Author in a spot of bother for 'horrible' view of Peterborough", 31 August). Unfortunately I can't.

Like Adrian Durham, I too spent the first 18 years of my life there, and couldn't wait to leave. On my infrequent visits (usually only a wedding or funeral will lure me back) I can attest that there are no restaurants worthy of the name and the only starred hotels in the city consider 9.30am too late to serve a cooked breakfast.

After the Peterborough Development Corporation got hold of it in the Seventies and it became a designated London overspill area the city completely lost its character. It now stands as an object lesson in how to ruin an historic city.



Sir: It was interesting to read Dan Matelbano's list of Peterborough's attractions, but he failed to mention its superb beer festival, now the biggest in the country. Perhaps Mark Haddon's view of the city's cultural and gastronomic pedigree would change if he came to next year's event. They certainly look better to me after a few pints and a kebab.



Preserving DNA of endangered species

Sir: As one of the members of the Steering Committee of Frozen Ark, I would like to point out that your description of the aims of the project was inaccurate.

As you described in your article "In the event of an emergency" (30 August), the Frozen Ark project works to preserve DNA and viable cells from species that are at risk of extinction. The Frozen Ark is organised by a UK-based consortium that includes the Natural History Museum, the University of Nottingham and the Zoological Society of London. It also has many affiliate organisations throughout the world.

The aim of the Frozen Ark is not to recreate extinct species, although this may be a popularly held misconception. The aim of this collection is in fact to provide a resource which will be of value to researchers in the future. Specifically, it is likely to have applications for evolutionary biology, biotechnology and medicine.



Some terrorists are beyond talking to

Sir: Michael Ancram seems to think that all terrorists can be lumped together, and that as it was possible to negotiate with the IRA, it must therefore be possible to negotiate with today's Muslim terrorists ("It's time to start dancing with the wolves", 24 August).

How does he propose that we negotiate with people who believe life to be merely a tiresome prelude to eternity, and who believe that by killing as many non-believers (and the wrong kind of Muslims) as possible, they will secure various perks in heaven? Should we perhaps offer them 72 virgins in this life instead? I doubt that Mr Ancram suggested such an offer as a means of persuading the IRA to lay down their arms.

No, all terrorists are not the same, and those who place no value on their own lives cannot be negotiated with for they do not believe that we and they live together in the real world. Would a doctor attempt to negotiate with a virus?



Sir: The terrorist attacks in Turkey attributed to Kurdish separatists remind us that the world is a little more complicated than the black and white interpretation pushed by Blair and Bush.

Kurdish terrorists put British holidaymakers' lives at risk, but it is Britain that liberated the Kurds and put their tormentor Saddam on trial. And yet Saddam's attacks on the Kurds were facilitated by weapons procured with the help of Britain. Saddam was never close to al-Qa'ida, despite what Bush says, and yet Kurdish groups will use al-Qa'ida tactics against British civilians.



Yes, there are worse trains than London's

Sir: The statement by Brian Cooke, the chairman of London's transport watchdog TravelWatch, that Melbourne has a better public transport than London is seriously off the mark (report, 30 August).

Although rail and tram infrastructure in Melbourne is adequate, service levels are appalling, with overcrowded peak-hour trains and 30-minute intervals in off-peak times. Long-suffering commuters have the French-based Connex corporation to thank for current service levels. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the announcement "Connex apologises for any inconvenience" I would be a rich man.

London's public transport, in both its coverage and service levels, is satisfactory, although - I would argue - significantly inferior to Paris, Munich, Madrid and Vienna. It is also horrendously expensive.



Sparrows return

Sir: I have just counted 10 sparrows in my local little park, Crabtree Fields close to Tottenham Court Road. They are the first I have seen in central London for four years. Have other readers noticed their return?



Rogue state

Sir: Dr John Newton (letter, 29 August) suggests that because we wish to maintain our military nuclear capability, we have no right to restrain Iran from developing hers. But we do not openly threaten the violent destruction of another state, nor have we sponsored mass murder by terrorism for the past 25 years. Doesn't that make a difference?



Refined breakfast

Sir: In your guide on "how to live" (30 August) you suggest there should be a generous helping of Marmite on your buttery toast. As a long-time lover of Marmite I question this liberal use of the ultimate breakfast and tea-time treat. In these days of extra this and king-size that, it is the very sparing use of Marmite on one's toast that make it delicious, not to be heaped on like peanut butter. Let's give Marmite the refinement it deserves!



Dresden's dilemma

Sir: It seems sadly ironic that after overcoming enormous odds to restore its war-ravaged 17th and 18th century treasures, Dresden finds its hard-earned UN world heritage status under threat because of its desire to solve the comparatively workaday problem of traffic congestion ("Bridge could cost Dresden its UN world heritage status", 29 August). Perhaps before pressing ahead with such a controversial solution, the city planners would have done well to reflect on the old adage that "if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it".



Unearned honour

Sir: The fraudster who nominated himself for an MBE (30 August) brings to mind the time when our French property agents in Cannes referred to me as Monsieur Holco MBE. I never did correct them for this appointment bestowed upon me due to a space malfunction on somebody's computer. C'est la vie.



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