Ukraine, climate change and others

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Europe must stand with Ukraine against the new Russian dictator

Europe must stand with Ukraine against the new Russian dictator

Sir: I was born in western Ukraine when it was ruled by Poland. In 1939, we were told that the Russians were our liberators but we were soon subjected to the full horrors of Stalinist rule, including political oppression, collectivisation and transportation to Siberia.

The Russians also held a rigged election with bribery and intimidation, in order to secure a bogus mandate for our forcible incorporation into the Soviet system. Now the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin has employed the same methods as his NKVD predecessors, at least in those parts of Ukraine where his stooges still operate.

Since 1948 I have lived in Wales and made full use of the political freedom we enjoy in Britain. I sometimes think that we take our freedom so much for granted that we forget how precious it is. When I visited the European Parliament last year to lobby for my homeland's right to take its place as a free European nation, I received a polite but cautious reception.

Now the countries of the European Union and the rest of the free world have awoken at the 11th hour to the threat to democracy in Ukraine, the largest country wholly in Europe and at the very centre of our continent.

The Ukrainian people have demonstrated for centuries that they will stand up for their freedom and fight for it if necessary. I hope that this time the price of liberty will not be paid in blood, though it may yet come to that.

Like the rest of the Ukrainian community in Britain, I am wholeheartedly behind Viktor Yushchenko, who is a staunch supporter of the EU, Nato and above all a democratic Ukraine. I hope that all European nations will now stand four-square behind him and not appease the Moscow dictator Putin.


Shame on team for Zimbabwe tour

Sir: Angus Fraser tells a depressing tale of woe about the plight of the England cricket team ("Dejected England head for Zimbabwe", 26 November). I for one have no sympathy. This tour should not have gone ahead and if they had been able to pull out on a technicality it would have been a travesty.

England should have stood up and been counted and forgot about the financial penalty. As for the ban, can the rest of the world of cricket do without England? I think the ban would not have happened and if implemented it would have been short. Shame on this entire team.

Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire

Sir: Sharon Sukhram blames the poverty in Africa on "...debt, exploitation of resources by unregulated multinational companies and free-trade policies imposed by rich countries..." (letter, 20 November). She does not mention the unending corruption of African politicians who have plundered the wealth (and foreign aid) of their countries for many years.

Like it or not, multinational companies are often the only source of decent employment for the local workforce. In most cases the companies, being serious about their large investment in the country, provide good training to their staff, ensure a reasonable working environment and are careful to reduce environmental damage to a minimum. Almost all listed multinational companies now require their subsidiaries to follow a worldwide corporate governance programme.

It is very convenient, and it suits many African politicians, to continue to blame the many problems that Africa faces on external factors. While these external factors may indeed play a part, after more than 40 years of independence for most African countries it is time to start looking critically at how these countries have been, and continue to be, run.


Sir: What we need right now is a Peter Hain. Someone with courage and moral conviction who could lead an effective sports boycott against a tyrannical and racist regime in southern Africa. Some influence with government might be an advantage.


Sir: Saddam Hussein must be kicking himself now he has realised that all he ever needed to stay in power was an Iraqi cricket team.


Green industry

Sir: Stephen Tindale (19 November) is plain wrong in his assertions about the CBI and business positions on climate change and environmental policy.

Since the 1990s, we have been instrumental in pushing for an innovative approach to climate change through emissions trading. On waste, we have worked with the Government on how best to use future landfill tax revenue to help businesses to do the right thing. And Mr Tindale forgets that we have been working with his Greenpeace colleagues to develop a joint statement on a key part of EU chemicals legislation.

His claim that the Government "will allow industry to emit as much carbon as in the past" is also unfounded. Final allocations have yet to be made, but the approach for industrial energy users is based on emissions cuts already required under existing policies. Power generators will also deliver cuts through targets allocated to them. Neither of these principles has fundamentally changed in the latest government announcements on trading.

NGOs such as Greenpeace play a legitimate role in the debate on policy, just as we do at the CBI. But all of us must also exercise our roles responsibly.

Director of Business Environment
CBI, London WC1

Sir: Tony Juniper wonders if the Government is serious about its "war" on climate change (Letters, 23 November).

Without making a judgement on the reality or otherwise of human-induced climatic change, it seems to me that the Government cannot believe an iota of its own story: that we must reduce atmospheric CO 2 concentration by about a third. This would require a gigantic cut in emissions and many years for it to take effect.

If Tony Blair truly believed that "the threat of climate change is greater than global terrorism", we would already be decommissioning the 747 fleet, promoting e-conferencing and e-commerce, reducing the number and size of road vehicles, increasing rail and canal transport of freight, totally subsidising energy efficiency and much, much more. What, however, are we spending our money on? The 2003 Energy White Paper says it will be £1bn a year as "effective subsidy" to the renewables industry - almost entirely windpower - by 2010.

At the moment windpower generates about four thousandths of the UK's electricity and saves little more than one thousandth of our total CO 2 emission. When it finally misses the target, I fear that a grinning politician will appear on the TV screens assuring us nuclear power is quite safe, and is the only option left! Is this what they have always wanted?

Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire

Sir: I have been astonished at our failure to recycle batteries ("Waste Britain", 24 November) ever since I returned to this country after working in Norway, where all supermarkets had bins for used batteries - and that was in 1975, nearly three decades ago. Why is it that when we look abroad it is invariably across the Atlantic? Apropos many aspects of our lives we would be far better looking across the North Sea.

Settle, North Yorkshire

Speed kills traffic flow

Sir: The article by L J K Setright ("Increase speed to reduce congestion", 23 November) is misleading. Over 3,500 people are killed on Britain's roads every year and all available evidence emphasises that accidents at higher speeds are more likely to be fatal or lead to serious injury.

Driving at faster speeds results in sharper braking which in turn makes the traffic flow uneven. Trials on the M25 have proved that heavy traffic flows better if restricted to 50mph with fewer resultant accidents.

As for bus lanes, their purpose is to give priority to buses which can carry up to 20 times as many people using the same road space as cars. Twenty buses per hour can comfortably carry at least 1,000 people who (given current average car loadings) would require at least 800 cars. If all London buses went on strike tomorrow, the capital would grind to a halt if everyone jumped in a car; bus patronage in London is rising at an unprecedented rate following the additional services started last year before the introduction of the congestion charge.

Nottingham Business School

Seeing the doctor

Sir: Many general practitioners in England have over the years abused their virtual monopolistic powers. Although patients can change practices, most do not want to. The imposition of targets by the Government to provide 24-48 hour access is a very reasonable action to improve services.

In our practice, along with others, we have achieved it by offering unlimited open appointments every morning and afternoon to anyone who needs an urgent consultation, though not with any specific doctor. Although not perfect, it generally serves our population well. Mrs Dodds's mother (letter, 23 November) suffered from the appalling "advance access" system which her practice should abandon forthwith.

The medical profession is excellent at the care of individual patients, but it has an inability to understand the limitations of the structure of health care in England that has led to overdue targets coming at last from our employers. It is often the inadequate implementation of systems to meet these targets that has led to problems.

Tavistock, Devon

'Passive smelling'

Sir: The article in your health section "Trouble in the air" (9 November) may cause unnecessary worry because of the comparison made between "passive smelling" and passive smoking.

The presence of fragrances in the air is not proven to cause allergic reactions. Allergies to fragrances are triggered only by contact with the skin, not by contact with airborne particles.

The article also claims that fragrance ingredients are labelled on the pack only as "fragrance" or "parfum". From 11 March 2005, an amendment to the EU Cosmetics Directive will introduce a new labelling requirement for 26 individual fragrance ingredients when any is present in a product above a certain level. This additional information will allow consumers with a diagnosed allergy to any of these ingredients to avoid products in which they are present.

Director-General, Cosmetic Toiletry & Perfumery Association
London W1

City Hall art

Sir. Pandora's piece "Livingstone broke rules over art exhibition" (24 November) can hardly be faulted on fact. However, it should be said in addition that Peter Kennard is seen by many as one of the leading photo-montage artists in the world, often compared to Heartfield, whose attacks on Hitler are the best known works in this genre.

Livingstone may have muffed the paperwork - not surprising in one with so many irons in the fire - but he certainly doesn't need to apologise for giving exhibition space to Peter Kennard. Thanks for the publicity - I can't wait to get down to City Hall.

London N1

Political flirtations  

Sir: Self-confessed Tory Alex Swanson (letter, 26 November) should accept that "a youthful flirtation with fascism" does not compare to a similar attachment to communism. The latter, albeit subverted in practice, had ideals, whereas I look forward to hearing of anything admirable about the former.

Walsham le Willows, Suffolk

Officious question

Sir: I have just come back from a short stay in France. As I was about to drive on to the shuttle train on my return journey, I was approached by an HM Customs officer who enquired whether my journey had been "on business or for pleasure". I realise we live in changed times but might I ask what business it is of the British Government how I choose to spend my time in another EU country?

Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Country campaigners

Sir: I write in response to John Plumley's letter (25 November). The Countryside Alliance continues to campaign on the issues Mr Plumley mentioned. These campaigns run alongside campaigns for rural housing, rural jobs, broadband roll-out, hunting, shooting, fishing and many more. I offer one suggestion: the Countryside Alliance, like other organisations with active campaigns, is at the mercy of media coverage.

Cheriton, Kent

Small difficulty

Sir: As winter approaches, I have discovered a decided disadvantage of the compact size of The Independent. I can no longer use it to draw the fire.

Thurvaston, Derby