Go nuclear instead of building unsightly wind generators
Go nuclear instead of building unsightly wind generators
Sir: Your report of Lord May's speech and the article by Michael McCarthy (7 March) brings out the stark reality of climate change. While the measures under the Kyoto convention are a necessary start we need to go much further in reducing emissions.
On the one hand the Government is subsidising the desecration of the most scenic and ecologically important areas of our countryside by the construction of thousands of giant wind generators. To achieve the target of 10 per cent of electricity generation by 2010 requires around eight thousand 3 MW generators occupying in excess of 1600 square kilometres.
On the other hand, our nuclear power stations are being closed and combined cycle gas generators (that result in emissions of both carbon dioxide and methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas), are set to be doubled if the Government's Energy White Paper is to be believed.
It is technically feasible for the developed countries such as the UK to stop using fossil fuels for electricity generation within a few decades. This has already been virtually achieved in France, where about 80 per cent of electricity is nuclear, the remainder being hydro and tidal power. Modern nuclear stations are being built efficiently and to budget in a number of countries. Much is made of the nuclear waste issue, but the volume produced by such stations is much less than from older stations (such as those in the UK) and the technology exists for its safe long-term storage.
With regard to renewable energy it is a case of horses for courses. Hydro has a key role in many parts of the world but is not an inexhaustible source. Solar also has the potential to make a major contribution in many countries. As for the UK tidal power is potentially a major and predictable source of energy and the technology for harnessing it is established. While ecological objections have been raised for example to the Severn barrage the damage is much less than for wind power and it has the advantage of reliability.
We need also to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for transport and feasible alternatives such as hydrogen fuel cells and advanced batteries will require substantially increased electricity generation. This only makes sense if the electricity is generated free of greenhouse gases.
The fiddling has to stop and a major reappraisal of our approach to energy supply and demand is required.
Professor BRIAN EYRE
Genuine opposition to anti-terror law
Sir: Although the dog's breakfast of an anti-terrorism Bill has scraped through Parliament, it has at least shown democracy in action and the differences between the parties. It seems almost certain that the Bill was engineered by the Blair camp to whip up fear of terrorism for pre-election political gain. We should not forget that the reason there is a heightened threat from Islamic extremists is the illegality of the war in Iraq. It was then disturbing to hear Government ministers, particularly Peter Hain, twisting the facts of genuine cross-party opposition to the Bill in order to target Michael Howard as the pantomime villain.
The Government's handling of this sorry mess shows exactly why we shouldn't trust Tony Blair and his Cabinet.
Sir: It surprises me that in all the debate over the past few weeks on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill I have not read anything that recalls the last time internment without trial was used in Britain. We can learn from history but often we choose not to.
Internment without trial was introduced in August 1971 by the Unionist-controlled government of Northern Ireland as the best way of dealing with the increasing violence of the time. Its introduction was sanctioned by the Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, under Ted Heath's Conservative government.
As now, the intelligence of the security forces could not always be relied upon. Of the 342 interned during the morning house raids by the Army on 9 August 1971 almost one third were released within 48 hours as the security forces acknowledged the flaws of their intelligence. The remainder were imprisoned without trial and were subjected to torture (European Commission for Human Rights conclusion) or "inhuman and degrading" treatment (European Court of Human Rights conclusion).
The lesson we can best learn from this shameful period of human rights abuses is that imprisonment without trial was an utter disaster in its aim at reducing violence. Instead, it fuelled levels of violence in Northern Ireland to an all time high.
It led to widespread civil unrest and civil rights demonstrations, and brutality at the hands of the British Army on Bloody Sunday. It radicalised the nationalist community and supported the IRA's fund-raising efforts particularly in the US. The number of political deaths increased to 497 in 1972, more than two and half times those of 1971. Internment ended in 1975.
Reginald Maudling later wrote that the experience from 1971 to 1975 "was by almost universal consent an unmitigated disaster".
Sir: What lies behind last week's parliamentary ping-pong is the hubris of a prime minister eight years in power. At about the same stage in her reign Mrs Thatcher thought she could get away with the poll tax. American presidents can stay in office for a maximum of eight years. Mexican presidents are only allowed one six-year term. Other countries have learnt a lesson we should do well to ponder: that those in high office need regular replacement if they are not to start over-estimating their own opinions.
Chichester, West Sussex
Sir: Eileen Noakes (Letters , 11 March) writes that she does not know of a single, intelligent, thinking person who agrees with the Government's anti-terror laws. She needs to get out more. I have an IQ of 148 and am in total agreement with Tony Blair's stance.
Terrorism will not be defeated by a wishy-washy do nothing attitude.
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Safety vs freedom
Sir: Howard Jacobson's article headed "I would rather put my own safety before the next man's civil liberties" (Editorial and Opinion, 12 March) is misconceived. It is not "the next man's" civil liberties that have been prejudiced by the legislation, but his, and mine, and those of all of us. Now anyone who is the subject of suspicion by the police or security services (and we should realise how fallible the latter in particular can be) may be deprived of their liberty, or have it severely curtailed, without knowing why and without full judicial process. As Helena Kennedy said, a coach and horses have been driven through some of our long-cherished liberties, and it is a deprivation for all of us.
Sir: Howard Jacobson states that he has put his trust in the "agents of political pragmatism", referring to Peter Malkin, the Israeli agent who arrested Adolf Eichmann.
Initially I was perplexed by his article, with which I felt at odds, since I normally read Mr Jacobson in search of comforting reassurance for my own opinions. However, a modest twist of logic now puts me back on side with your writer, albeit on the opposite side of the same coin. My own agents of political pragmatism have yet to reveal themselves but, when they do, they will place their gloved hands around the throats of Rumsfeld, Sharon, Bush et al in order that the world may then become a safer place.
Minsted, West Sussex
BBC in the public eye
Sir: The Green Paper putting forward plans for the BBC has been well received in several ways. I join those who approve establishment of a BBC Trust, which increases the chance that its members will be seen as answerable to the public rather than presuming to run the BBC - when there is a perfectly good management board there to do that.
The easing of a self-imposed burden on the BBC to maximise audience sizes will allow its attention - and hopefully that of the trustees and through them, of the public - to attend to maximising the degree of appreciation of programmes and services. This is currently measured, systematically, for the BBC - but the results are, bizarrely, kept secret.
A second benefit of easing audience-chasing at the BBC will be to reduce the pressure on the commercial public service channels (3 4 and 5) to do likewise. They should be subject to firmer scrutiny and standards of service, by Ofcom - not less, as evidenced by the recent Ofcom decision to "let ITV off" commitments to religious and children's programming.
Former Deputy Head of Audience Research, IBA/ITC
Parents to blame
Sir: Educational standards are again hitting the media headlines - there must be an election due - but this is a serious subject and as a retired teacher I am fully aware of the problems.
Yes, it is a disgrace that children leave junior school unable to read and write, but how many of those under-achievers have a good attendance record? In my many years of teaching it was the children, together with their parents, who regarded school as something to fit in between weekends, with optional flexi-time, that were under my special needs care.
The countless individual education plans that I wrote and posted to their parents were never followed at home and it is difficult to follow them at school when the child is absent. These same children were always the ones who had no PE kit, no swimming kit, and would turn up on a school outing day with no packed lunch. These were the children who never returned library, reading or class books; this could add up to £100 worth of books in a term.
Discipline is impossible, because having been given notice of detention, their parents keep them at home. Yet these same parents never turn up to open days or parents evenings or bother to reply to letters. Sometimes the only contact is through the long-suffering welfare officer. Until parents are forced to be more responsible, these children will still fail, but please do not blame the schools and the teachers. It is impossible to teach a child who is not in school.
'Spliff' health risks
Sir: Dr Robert Newman argues that the danger from cannabis use is relatively "trivial", and does much less harm than that arising from "prohibition" of the drug's use (Letters, 11 March).
Maybe inhaling the products of the combustion of the cannabis plant is a trivial matter. But I suggest that there might be another well-established danger associated with cannabis use which no one seems to be interested in highlighting. This is the smoking of tobacco which is mixed with cannabis and rolled in cigarette paper to make a smokeable "spliff".
A large increase in cannabis use was reported after the drug was "liberalised". To what extent this was caused by established users smoking more, I can't say. But I think it reasonable to speculate that we now have many young people smoking cannabis who were previously put off by the fear of arrest. Because of this we also have many young people who would never have smoked tobacco now doing so in order to smoke cannabis.
I wonder whether the consequent nicotine addiction, long-term tobacco use, and the heart disease and cancer that follows will also be deemed by Dr Newman to be trivial? I would suggest that one thing that will certainly not be trivial is the massive increase in profits that will be made by drug barons and tobacco companies.
Asylum policy works
Sir: Peter Kessler (Letters, 8 March) says statistics show that asylum claims have plummeted over the last two years. Perhaps this is because asylum policies are beginning to work and we are no longer being seen as an easy target! In that case, allowing asylum seekers to work here while their claims are being validated could be a backward step.
Jordan, not Palestine
Sir: I read with great interest The Independent's report by Donald Macintyre ("Israel guilty of funding illegal outposts", 10 March). Referring to "more than 100 'unauthorised' outposts", Macintyre described them as part of "territory seized from the Palestinians in 1967". I seem to remember that the West Bank and East Jerusalem were annexed to Jordan prior to 1967. Is The Independent now telling its readers that Jordan is Palestine?
Sir: I remain mystified by the totally incomprehensible phrase "a burglary gone wrong" which Terry Kirby ("Murder without motive", 7 March) uses to inform us is almost always the cause of an elderly person's unsolved murder in their home. If I am killed in my own home by a burglar does this imply that it is some sort of accident, or could it perhaps mean that it's my own fault? I just don't get it. Can someone please enlighten this elderly person, and could they also define a burglary that "goes right"?
Sir: In view of the accelerating pace of global warming and the recent report in the journal Nature that the malarial parasite is much more prevalent than previously thought, is there not a degree of hubris in planning to hold the 2012 Olympics in the Lea valley, which only a couple of centuries ago was the area of the British Isles most affected by malaria?
A D HARVEY