The Spectator

Letters | 23 June 2012

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Full steam ahead

Sir: Your cover story (‘A U-turn to celebrate’, 16 June) claimed that the government has ditched High Speed 2: we absolutely have not.

The article was built on three assertions, none of which stand up to scrutiny. Firstly, HS2 legislation has always been planned for the 2013–2014 session of Parliament, as set out in my department’s business plan of over a year ago, and never earlier as alleged in the story. There is no delay, no rethink.

Secondly, as the article points out, I do listen to the concerns of those opposed to the project because I recognise the impact HS2 will have and I care about how I deal with the local communities affected. But no one should think that means I no longer support the scheme. I remain absolutely convinced that HS2 is vital for the future of this country.

Finally, regardless of what an unnamed minister is supposed to have said, the prime minister reiterated just last week that HS2 is crucial for Britain’s economy; he is right and that is why this project is going full steam ahead.

Justine Greening

Transport Secretary
London SW1

Going the wrong way

Sir: Ross Clark is right to highlight HS2’s flaws but the Hybrid Bill will not automatically die at the next general election. The new Parliament may wish to keep it alive.

This is likely to rely on the Conservatives being re-elected with a clear majority (or the coalition continuing), since Labour now supports a better, cheaper, less destructive HS2 route via Heathrow — exactly the proposal supported by the Conservatives in opposition. It is astonishing that vast amounts of public money (£750 million in this Parliament), continue to be thrown at a ‘grand projet’ that lacks any semblance of a business case. HS2 repeats the mistakes of British Rail in their rail-centric planning of the Channel Tunnel rail link, before Arup’s successful private sector challenge resulted in the success of HS1. Until the government once again recognises the need for an integrated transport strategy, HS2 in its current form will surely fail. But how much money and political capital will be expended before that happens?

Mark Bostock

Project Leader, Channel Tunnel rail link (HS1), 1988-91
By email

Marriage lines

Sir: The Church of England should be more careful in its pronouncements (Leading article, 16 June). If it were certain that the legalisation of gay marriage would lead to disestablishment, there might be even more support for David Cameron’s project than the 70 per cent of the population indicated by a recent YouGov poll.

Tim Hudson

Chichester, West Sussex

Sir: Marriage, these days, is a romantic extravagance with no meaning, except on the day. As such, there’s no reason why a gay couple should not get married, but just as little reason why the state should get involved by offering financial and social advantages.

The authentic purpose of marriage, that St Paul alludes to in chapter seven of his first letter to the Corinthians, is to ask God for time off from spiritual contemplation to indulge in worldly activities (getting your leg over) for the purposes of reproduction, without affecting your chances of getting into heaven.

This has nothing to do with gay couples and is rarely adhered to by straight couples, most of whom indulge in meaningless sex, so making marriage a farce and turning the church into nothing better than a Las Vegas wedding chapel.

It would seem only reasonable to separate church from state and have two types of marriage: the true spiritual marriage performed by the church and a hypocritical and farcical arrangement performed, rather appropriately, by the state.

Tom Roberts


Pride of Chicago

Sir: I’m not sure why Bob Tyrrell (‘Drop the dead donkey’, 16 June) felt the need, in his obituary for American liberalism, to refer to the University of Chicago as a ‘provincial university’ and imply that it’s a centre of reactionary left-wing thought.  The university is, of course, one of the best in the world, and is famous, or infamous, as a haven of right-wing thought. It’s perhaps significant that Tyrrell was born in Chicago, and grew up not far from the U of C, but went to Indiana University.  

Jack Sexton


Freedom to offend

Sir: Despite Lord Justice Leveson’s protestations to Michael Gove that he does not need to be reminded of the value of free speech — I will judge whether this is true when I read his report — I agree with Matthew Parris (16 June) that the consensus gathering force in the ‘Leveson era’ on suppression of the right to publish information is worrying, and worryingly unchallenged. I found supportive evidence of this attitude only a few pages on, in the letter from Hiroshi Suzuki. I’ll take great care in future to avoid using the term ‘Jap’ unless I have a considered intention to offend. But if The Spectator were to censor James Delingpole, or anyone else, I would of course cancel my subscription.

David Costain

London NW8

Sir: I am mystified by Hiroshi Suzuki’s letter (16 June). So far as I am aware, we do not take offence when called ‘Brits’, either by the Japanese or by anyone else, so why the sensitivity about ‘Japs’?

Michael Willis


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