Letters: Solar scam, or a new UK industry?

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The Independent Online

Dominic Lawson's prejudices over anything vaguely climate-related have led him to the wrong conclusion ("Good riddance to the great solar scam", 15 November). Feed-in tariffs are a government programme to stimulate a new UK industry and have been successful .

In 1984, the then Chancellor (Mr Lawson's father) provided Nissan with support worth £118m to build a new car factory in the North-east. This created 2,700 jobs initially, and established a plant that has provided employment for over 20 years – around 5,000 now work there.

The feed-in tariff has seen the solar industry alone grow to eight times that size, employing 39,000 people according to latest government figures, and is supporting other renewable technologies. Solar costs have fallen rapidly and most serious analysts believe solar can be weaned off subsidy over the next five to 10 years (unlike other generators such as nuclear).

However, slashing support with just six weeks' notice leaves companies facing cancelled projects and unsellable stock, and will put many out of business. The solar industry is spread across the UK rather than being in one large factory. So it may be less noticeable, but destroying the solar sector after just 18 months is as stupid as it would have been to demolish the Nissan factory in 1986.

Martyn Williams

London E9

The news that the feed-in tariff for solar panels is to be halved is to be welcomed, as this is a most pernicious and highly unethical scheme which takes money from the poorest and most needy and gives it to those rich enough to fund all upfront costs and who have the financial security to take the risk of the scheme being abandoned before the end of its 25-year payback period.

The scheme operates in such a way that the tariff subsidies paid to monied solar panel owners are simply added to the electricity bills of the less fortunate; even of those who are already living in fuel poverty. Most people will agree that this is not to be tolerated and that the scheme should be terminated forthwith.

William Oxenham


David Prosser hit the nail on the head with his reference to the damaging government proposals to reduce the subsidy for solar power ("A warm embrace for SMEs" 11 November).

The confidence of small and medium-sized enterprises in the whole renewables sector has been shattered. In future, how will anyone believe a word the Government says on anything to do with SMEs? How did anyone in government think that such a short-term panic measure would do anything else?

David Pollard

Isle of Mull

Finding facts on animal research

You highlight the fact that the Freedom of Information Act applies to universities, not just central and local government ("Top scientist says FoI laws being used to intimidate", 14 November). And so it should – universities are publicly funded and engage in important and sometimes controversial research, which may influence public policy.

Sir Paul Nurse is quite wrong when he says that animal rights activists are using the Freedom of Information Act to discover information about scientists using animals. Such a request would rightly not get off the ground. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection is always careful to say that what we want to know is what is being done to animals and why, not who is doing it.

Animal researchers talk the talk about transparency but usually resist giving any information about particular experiments, even where there is no confidentiality issue. Last week, the Information Tribunal ordered Newcastle University to disclose to the BUAV information about brain experiments on primates. The university has used every conceivable argument to resist disclosure.

The lead researcher had been refused permission to carry out apparently similar experiments in Berlin. So why is the Home Office allowing the experiments to take place in this country?

Transparency is essential so that important questions like this can be debated in an informed and responsible manner.

Michelle Thew

Chief Executive, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, London N7

We do not shoot demonstrators

One evening last month, some members of a group of demonstrators outside a small police station in Qatif province in Saudi Arabia fired shots at the police and caused a number of casualties. Showing a commendable degree of restraint in the circumstances, the police responded with rubber bullets and order was restored. Some clips of the incident were posted on YouTube.

It was therefore with some surprise that we read in The Independent two days later a report of the incident which put the boot entirely on the other foot: it was entitled "Saudi police open fire on civilians as protests gain momentum" (5 October). In the ordinary course of things one might accept such a distortion as a casual inaccuracy. But where the message conveyed by this headline is that a Bloody Sunday event had taken place and that we, like certain other governments in the region, had turned bloodily on our own citizens, it is difficult to do so.

It is particularly difficult when it is not the first time that this has happened. Earlier this year The Independent published an allegation that police chiefs throughout Saudi Arabia had been ordered to shoot and kill unarmed demonstrators. The proprietors of the newspaper subsequently accepted in open court that there was no truth in the allegation and proceedings over it were withdrawn.

We do not shoot demonstrators on our streets. Nor do we find it helpful in today's difficult times in the Middle East that The Independent, alone so far as we are aware, publishes stories to the effect that we do.

Free and independent comment and debate on current events is corrupted if the events themselves are incorrectly reported. A failure of objectivity on the part of your reporters does your newspaper, your readers and others a disservice and subverts the purpose of a free press.

Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud

Ambassador, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London W1

Stop moving the police around

Much is made of the value of community policing and the visible benefit of coppers on the beat, but this is undermined by a conflicting policy of the Metropolitan Police Authority: the desire to give police professionals a varied career, covering different aspects of law enforcement.

This has resulted in a pattern of station inspectors departing after two years, taking with them their hard-earned knowledge of the local geography, villains, residents, employers etc. The replacement inspector is always keen to learn but his or her predecessor's experience has evaporated overnight.

As the chairs of voluntary local committees in central London which liaise with the police on crime prevention, we suggest that the primary police function of providing law and order is badly compromised in the attempt to offer police officers an interesting and varied career.

Roger Baresel

Chelsea Sector Working Group

Annie Redmile

Kensington Sector Working Group, London SW7

The origins of autism

Jeremy Laurance writes (9 November): "Autism may begin in the womb". He goes on: "Scientists have found that boys with autism have larger than average brains with more neurons in the prefrontal cortex, the part linked to social relationships and communication. Neurons in almost all brain areas are generated before birth. If confirmed, this makes it less likely that environmental factors after birth, such as vaccination, could be implicated in autism".

However, nature and nurture often have to come together to provide a health outcome, as in the recent case of a scientist, investigating psychopaths who were found to have an abnormal brain formation, who then discovered that he also had the same abnormality, but was not a psychopath. It was discovered that the psychopaths had had very dysfunctional childhoods (which he had not).

Penny Joseph

Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Europe kept busy at home

Yugo Kovach (letter, 9 November) is surprised that our politicians support a US "globalisation agenda, which favours an ever-expanding EU".

Our political and media classes are overwhelmingly oriented towards Washington rather than Europe. When the last major expansion was being considered, Tony Blair was a prominent advocate of enlargement instead of consolidation. Many suspected this was partly about ensuring that a fragmented EU could not become a significant force to balance the power of the US.

As long as the EU is struggling to integrate new member states, it will not be able to engage properly with global politics. Cui bono?

Chris Webster


After poppies, more wars

One can only be ashamed that our government is minded now to join in the dilution of the global ban on cluster bombs (report, 9 November). I imagine that not a single cabinet member (save possibly the international development minister) has met a child mutilated by one of these weapons, nor yet a family that has lost a child in this way.

As David Cameron and his colleagues stood before the Cenotaph last Sunday morning, sporting their poppies and laying their wreaths, we were left wondering whether they are there purely for conventional reasons, a kind of fashion statement, or whether they really care deeply about the obscenity of war and about the children likely to be killed or maimed by cluster bombs in future.

David McDowall

Richmond, Surrey

It seems to me that the release of the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 says a lot about mixed-up thinking in modern Britain.

While we berate the world football authorities for forbidding our footballers to wear poppies, young men hit the shops in a bid to recreate the horror of war in their own bedrooms.

This and other similar activities which glorify military combat, such as paintballing, show that for all our poppy-wearing our progress towards peace is shockingly minimal.

Paul Severn

Milton Keynes

At last, praise for a banker

I am eternally grateful to the "old-fashioned" bank manager who saved my life.

He helped me switch from an endowment mortgage at 10 per cent (what happened to them?) to a repayment loan at just over 6 per cent. He said that because of my age I would need a medical for life insurance purposes. The check-up revealed a congenital heart valve defect. The surgeon said before my operation: "You must have this or you will be dead in two years."

The only downside: my insurance premium was expensive.

Clive Goozee



You report that there are "plans to honour the first stripper to appear in London with a blue plaque" (14 November). Could you explain what exactly she did with the blue plaque?

Gordon Elliot

Burford, Oxfordshire