Letters: In a drought, fracking is the last thing we need


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The Independent Online

According to the Environment Agency more than half the UK is now in a state of drought. Water-table levels are extremely low and still going down, so the long-term impact could be dire. The Government has called on consumers to take responsibility for finding a way out of the water crisis and to help by using less water, starting from now.

Considering that fracking requires huge amounts of water and that there is a risk that the groundwater could become contaminated (letter, 18 April), I would add that fracking in the context of a severe drought is pure folly. Considering that droughts are becoming more frequent and the demands on the UK water resources are increasing, fracking should be banned because it will not be sustainable.

Geoffrey Matthews

Lyon, France

I was dismayed to read that the Government's first official report concludes that there's no reason why fracking can't continue in the UK. This report only looks at the risk of earthquakes and not at the full environmental impact.

It would be highly irresponsible for the Government to make a decision about the future of energy policy in the UK with its eyes half shut. The Government needs to carry out a full scientific assessment which includes risks such as the possibility of groundwater and drinking water being contaminated with dangerous chemicals and natural gases. This is a huge concern which needs to be understood, particularly in areas such as the South-east where water supplies are already scarce.

Shale gas is not a panacea for our energy needs. It is more carbon-intensive than conventional gas, and so fracking will do nothing to help us meet our EU carbon reduction targets. Instead we should be concentrating on real investment in clean renewable energy which we can depend on for many years to come.

I will be responding to the Government's consultation to highlight the gaps in this report and will ask them to explain how they propose to fulfill legally binding climate targets while expanding shale gas extraction in the UK. I would urge others to do the same.

Keith Taylor MEP

(Green, South-east England)

London N1

To bring some balance to your letters column following the alarmist contributions from a handful of "warmists", may I offer three cheers to the scientists who have given "fracking" the green light? How wonderful it is that we have been blessed with between 50 and 100 years' supply of energy.

Martyn Shepherd


Getting rid of Qatada

The Home Office should consider passing the Qatada case to the US authorities. They don't have much of a problem in getting our students, retired business people and others extradited from this country, so I presume they would take a lot less time than the Home Office has done to deport Abu Qatada.

Philip Suter

Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire

With all the furore over time limits with regard to Abu Qatada, the European Convention on the Calculation of Time Limits gives clear guidance on this very issue. Surely this is the point of reference for every lawyer and analyst.

It has been argued that the courts have not given explicit guidelines. However Article 4 Paragraph 27 gives two clear examples on time-limits in practice that show that Teresa May and the Home Office have made a genuine mistake and should admit the error of their calculations rather than stubbornly defending the indefensible.

Shahban Aziz

Law Student


Cruel 'cures' for homosexuality

I was horrified to hear that an aggressively homophobic Christian group has paid £10,000 for anti-gay posters to appear on the sides of London buses! Good news – it won't happen. Mayor Boris Johnson has stopped this outrage saying: "It is offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness which can be cured."

In 1976 my partner Terry was offered electric aversion therapy to "cure" his homosexuality. We have all moved on. The British Medical Association has attacked these primitive practices as "discredited and harmful to those treated".

On a personal level, I have been profoundly disturbed witnessing three people brain-washed by ignorant religious groups who have turned previously healthy gay men into miserable zombies claiming to be heterosexuals – in fact, deeply repressed homosexuals.

Accordingly, I pay tribute to Johnson and former minister Chris Bryant MP who said the bus advert was "Cruel, causing emotional damage and would hurt teenagers struggling to come to terms with their sexuality".

Narvel Annable

Belper, Derbyshire

Can the cure for homosexuality be adapted to cure religious inclinations, asks David Monkman (letters 16 April). In my experience: yes.

Way back in the 1950s, when homosexuality was illegal, my admiration for Greek statues threatened to expose me as a born criminal. My father's Sunday tabloid, my sole source of advice on the subject, told me that the only cures for my condition were prison or religion. My nosey parents would be sure to notice if I was sent down for two years' hard labour, so I opted for religion, as less conspicuous, and I arranged to have myself spontaneously converted by Billy Graham.

De-conversion came one rainy afternoon three years later during National Service when, in a flash of revelation, I realised that I had been struggling to believe the unbelievable only to please my nice Christian friends. Having wasted precious opportunities for wasting my precious youth (in Oxford of all places), I plunged recklessly and promiscuously into the gay milieu to make up for lost time, taking risks of health and discovery, and finding love, self-respect, and responsibility years later than I might have done but for the sense of guilt fostered by prurient superstition.

Peter Forster

London N4

We must keep our promises on aid

We write in response to the report by the Lord's Select Committee on economic affairs, The Economic Impact and Effectiveness of Development Aid (report, 29 March).

The target of spending 0.7 per cent on aid was agreed internationally 40 years ago, and reaffirmed by all 190 UN nations in 2000. Contrary to the report's assertion, the 0.7 per cent target is not an arbitrary figure; according to the United Nations, it is the figure needed to ensure adequate funding to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals and provide essential support for 1.4 billion people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

When aid is spent well it stabilises communities and saves lives. Since 1990, international development has contributed towards more than 1 billion people lifting themselves out of extreme poverty. It has also contributed to initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and malaria, which has saved an estimated 7.7 million lives in 150 countries. There are few international commitments that have stood such a test of time, and to now abandon the UK's promises to the world's poorest people would diminish the international leadership the UK displays on these issues.

The report is right in its insistence that international aid must be effective, and that efforts to tackle corruption and misuse must continue to be upmost in the minds of DFID ministers. However, both the quality and quantity of aid is vital, and enshrining the 0.7 per cent target in law ensures politics is removed from the job of helping save lives and working with communities to find a sustainable way out of extreme poverty.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

Lord Chidgey

Baroness Massey of Darwen

Baroness Jolly

Baroness Sherlock

House of Lords

Ratings for food hygiene

Michael S Fishberg wonders whether the Food Standards Agency has plans for making the hygiene standards of food outlets publicly available (Letters, 7 April). I'm pleased to inform him that our national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme already has over 250 local authorities on board in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with numbers growing all the time, and over 217,000 food businesses have now been rated on a scale from zero to five.

A top rating of five means that a local-authority food inspector has rated the premises "very good" for hygiene standards, and a zero rating means "urgent improvement necessary". The ratings, available on our website food.gov.uk/ratings, give customers an idea of the hygiene standards in the places they eat out or shop for food. They can then judge for themselves whether they want to give them their custom.

Andrew Rhodes

Director of Operations, Food Standards Agency, London WC2

In brief...

Church in a panic over women

In 900 years nothing has changed. The response of the Catholic church to feminist nuns ("Vatican censures 'feminist' nuns for supporting US healthcare reform", 20 April) echoes exactly the panic that gripped the church in the early Middle Ages when women like Hildegarde of Bingen and Mechthild of Magdeburg wrote their mystical works, indicating a new approach to God which didn't require priests as mediators. Keep it up – you might get there one day!

Dr Michael B Johnson


Labour's loss

Matthew Norman (18 April) fails to mention that Labour has a handicap in the next election. If Labour had David instead of Ed, it would not start from a mile behind. Success will depend on how many of us traditional Labour supporters will be prepared to forgive the manner of Ed's election as party leader and his weak performance in the job, and hold our noses to vote for him as Prime Minister. It'll be a struggle.

Sarah Cullum

Hampton, Middlesex

Tory jitters

Andrew Grice wonders if the Government's problems are a blip or something worse (Opinion, 20 April). Looking at the CVs of Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne I suspect it is something worse. Before entering politics Mr Cameron's experience of work was limited to PR for a television company. Mr Osborne's was entering deaths on an NHS computer and folding towels at Selfridges. I wonder how many employers would offer even a junior management position to applicants with those backgrounds.

John Naylor

Sunningdale, Berkshire

Smaller society

On April Fools' Day the Greenest Government Ever cut the Bus Operators' Grant by 20 per cent. A fortnight later my weekly trip to volunteer at my local maritime museum costs me 45p extra, and after two years in this splendid but underfunded facility I realise that I can no longer afford the fare to get there. Whither the Big Society? Withered?

Eden Blyth

Wrelton, North Yorkshire

New truants

Please enlighten a simple northerner: how do "truanters" and "truanting" differ from "truants" and "truancy", and why do we need to the new versions?

Chris Newman

Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire