The Prime Minister made it clear in his speech in New York that while developing technology is important, it won't give us all the answers to tackling climate change. He also rightly stressed the difficulties there have been in developing international agreements, but the ratification of the Kyoto protocol owes much to the international lead he has given.
While we must focus on international agreements we must not be restricted in our action by the pace of the slowest. Tony Blair has instigated the Gleneagles dialogue and action plan and involved the major emerging economies of China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Brazil. The EU-China and EU-India summits also saw commitments to further co-operation, including a UK-led initiative for the demonstration of near zero emissions coal technology in China. Under our G8 Presidency we are next week (5-6 October) hosting a major conference with business on climate change and under our EU presidency we are working with the commission to include EU aviation in emissions trading.
We want action to tackle climate change on all fronts; domestic, European and international. Moving ahead with multilateral and bilateral agreements can often go further than the Kyoto obligations, as our own domestic emission targets do. None of this undermines our commitment to international agreement through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process, but it does underline the UK's commitment to lead by example.
MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE, DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS, LONDON SW1
Labour follows Bush in silencing dissent
Sir: As an American, I couldn't help noticing the way the Labour Party silenced dissent by Walter Wolfgang during the party's annual conference. All of George Bush's meetings and rallies are invitation only and anyone who shows the slightest hint of dissent is thrown out or arrested.
One couple was ejected from a meeting because a presidential staffer objected to a bumper sticker they had on their car. The usual routine is for a staffer or Secret Service agent to have the local police arrest the person. When a judge later frees the person because it is (supposedly) legal to dissent in this country, the Secret Service says it didn't order the arrest, so no one is held responsible and dissent is kept well away from all Bush events.
I'm sorry to say that Tony Blair seems to have picked up this oppressive habit from his close friend Bush. If Blair would just stop consorting with unsavoury people, he wouldn't pick up bad habits such as this. Let's hope he sees the light before he becomes as unsavoury as Bush and his crowd.
SEVERNA PARK, MARYLAND, USA
Sir: Tony Blair's ghastly grinning televised "apology" was almost as shocking as the assault on Walter Wolfgang itself. To say as Blair did "I wasn't in the hall" - so it wasn't my fault - was childish and disgraceful.
From the time of his election as leader of the Labour Party he has worked to ensure that dissent would not be tolerated. The stewards were doing what they thought was expected of them.
SOUTH NUTFIELD, SURREY
Sir: The ejection from the Labour conference of 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang, for minor heckling, and delegate Steve Forrest, for defending the right to heckle is just the latest example of the Government's policy on dissident voices.
Under a combination of new police powers and offences, two cornerstones of democracy - freedom of speech and the right to protest - are being suppressed, with minimal coverage from the mainstream press. Despite government assurances, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, along with numerous others, have been used largely to persecute peaceful protesters.
Unauthorised protest is no longer allowed within half a mile of Westminster under the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act. A new bill, which prohibits inciting or condoning terrorism, is an affront to freedom of speech itself and will also give police powers to detain suspects for three months without being charged - an outrageous proposition.
Proposed bills must be subjected to more stringent scrutiny to prevent us being led blindly into a police state. Tony Blair applauds our efforts to bring democracy to Iraq while at home our civil liberties are being snatched one by one, because the implications of the legislation being passed are not subject to wider public debate.
When the Prevention of Terrorism Act was passed, who could have foreseen that it would one day be used to prevent a pensioner from re-entering his own party conference?
PRINCIPAL SPEAKER, THE GREEN PARTY, LONDON N19
Sir: The manhandling of the party veteran who had dared to voice some dissent made me think about the similarities between New Labour and the old East European regimes. Like those dictatorships, New Labour:
- Supports a separate political class speaking a language different from that of ordinary people
- Sees party discipline as the supreme virtue and its hold on power as necessitating strict control of discussion within the party
- No longer looks to citizens for active support but is content if they acquiesce in its rule
- Is preoccupied with bogus targets and plans
-Boasts of endless improvements while covering up serious failings in society
- Has seen party membership shrink as idealism is abandoned and only careerists, power junkies and oddities remain
- Says it is engaged in a worldwide battle with an evil ideology and uses this to justify arbitrary imprisonment and the suppression of free speech
- Is allied to the leader of a superpower who is doing great damage to the world
- Faces an ineffectual and divided opposition
The more I reflected, the more disturbing the likenesses seemed. Roll on our Velvet Revolution.
Sir: Walter Wolfgang is clearly Hero of the Week. The way he was treated was certainly stupid, but that in itself does not mean he deserves any great respect, let alone adulation. He is alive today because this country gave him refuge from the Nazis. He repaid this debt by campaigning to leave Britain defenceless against the Soviet Union and now by wanting it to surrender to the psychopathic murderers of the Iraqi "resistance".
I am myself an East European Jew whose family came here to get away from the Soviet bloc, having survived fascism and Nazism, and have no doubts as to where my loyalties lie. What about Mr Wolfgang's?
DR M SCHACHTER
Sir: Might the appalling treatment meted out to Walter Wolfgang be a precursor of what we may routinely come to expect once this government achieves its aim for identity cards to become law?
A law that will surely grant further power to already officious, overzealous jobsworths who, it seems, positively revel in the prestige that a uniform brings and relish the least opportunity to enforce their powers to the hilt. This in the full knowledge that they themselves will, almost certainly, never be asked to account for their actions.
Sir: Despite the furore over Mr Wolfgang and the widespread critical coverage of his treatment, the most chilling thought is that nothing will change. The present government has no introspection about its policies and it seems the more they are censured, the more determined they are to plough on regardless.
Sir: Clearly Mr Wolfgang has not been set a proper example. For a masterclass in how to conduct himself when politicians are speaking, let him attend the House of Commons.
Sir: After the unpleasant manhandling of Walter Wolfgang and Steve Forrest at Brighton, can we take it that Labour has now abandoned "touchy-feely" politics for good?
D P KING
Saddam a tyrant but no Marxist
Sir: While I agree wholeheartedly with most of Maurice Vassie's letter (27 September), he refers to "Marxism in its Iraqi Baathist form". This is factually incorrect.
Baathism in all its forms was avowedly anti-Marxist and eschewed all class analysis and politics. Baathists purported to be "Arab socialists" though they spent little time in saying what this meant in theory or practice. In fact the Iraqi party devoted much effort to extinguishing Marxism as it existed in Iraq, many members of the Iraqi Communist Party being tortured and murdered, for which service it was supported by the West. In fact the 1963 coup was supported by the CIA for that very reason.
Certainly, Saddam consciously adopted the personal style and cruel methods of Stalin, but that is another matter.