Airport not at fault for soldier incident
Dear Editor, Further to the recent letter from Tessa Miller, let me assure you that Birmingham International Airport wholly supports our armed forces and will continue to do so at every opportunity and in every way that it can.

The incident that took place at the airport where a number of soldiers were asked to change on the Elmdon apron was not an instruction given by any airport employee.
We believe that the instruction was given by the commanding officer and we have since intervened to try to ensure this does not happen again at Birmingham International Airport.

However, we have to recognise that the soldiers remain at all times under the control of their commanding officer and the MoD is currently investigating why this incident has occurred.

Our current understanding of why the instruction was given relates back in time to when the IRA was at the height of its activity and when - for the safety of soldiers, and other members of the public - there was a requirement by the MoD for soldiers to change into civilian clothes.

At Birmingham International Airport we often have soldiers walking around the terminal in their military wear and we have absolutely no objection to this.

On Friday January 4, we had an MoD flight on stand here and I can confirm that many uniformed soldiers used the public areas, without hindrance.

Birmingham International Airport wholly supports our military and any reports to the contrary are both incorrect and very misleading.

I can absolutely assure you that the incident that occurred at the airport was not one that the airport either participated in, nor indeed would it support it in any way.
 JOE KELLY, Acting MD, Birmingham International Airport

New regime is failing to make ground at Villa
Dear Editor, Professor John Samuels is quite right to argue that the football clubs in the West Midlands are failing to match up to the competition, and that the biggest club in the area, Aston Villa, is doing particularly badly.

Most Villa fans think the club is a major force but this has not been true since the Premiership was formed. Alas, despite the Lerner takeover and an excellent manager in Martin O'Neill, there is little sign that the club is going to be able to challenge the Big Four and become a major European club.

The club has certainly made progress under Martin O'Neill, but does the board have the ambition needed to challenge for the top?

No genuinely big money signings have arrived to date and, while the academy produces superb young footballers, the squad remains the smallest in the Premiership and vulnerable to injuries.

Martin O'Neill deserves better than this, but while the fans backed John Gregory with the pound sign protest, the fans happily accept the current policy.

Prof Samuels is also right to say that Aston Villa has such a low public profile as to be almost invisible. A year ago fans suggested that Witton Station, the nearest station to Villa Park be renamed Villa Station in the same way that Gillespie Tube Station was renamed Arsenal in the 30s.

Villa's director general Charles Krulak told me the £50,000 it would cost was not a priority, yet it would have given the ground much needed publicity.

Martin O'Neill is doing wonders with a small squad, and the club is well placed to qualify for the UEFA cup, but he should not have to work on a shoestring.

Doug Ellis was roundly and often unfairly criticised for not investing in the team, yet there are no protests at remarkably similar policies by the current board.

It will take many more constructively critical reports by people like Professor Samuels before Villa realistically challenge for the top.
 TREVOR FISHER, Stafford

Commitment to truth deserves respect
Dear Editor, This is an open letter to Rt Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali.

I have great respect for leaders of other faiths as I believe that their faith must demand of them a commitment to truth, honesty and fairness.  They also, I believe, have been directed to be vigilant against the motives, desires and bias that surreptitiously enter our hearts and minds and blind us to the evil within.

At this stage, therefore, I do not wish to make any comment on his statement but would be very grateful if he would kindly specify the areas, which in his experience, have become "no-go" areas for non-Muslims. Perhaps he can also help me with information about the socalled Islamic extremists who, he says, are posing a threat to our society.

He has raised concerns about use of loud speakers for call to prayers. The fact is that city councils are very particular about the noise level and put restrictions on noise level to certain decibels and excludes early morning and late evening prayers.

He further says: "It is now less possible for Christianity to be the public faith in Britain." Is the call to prayer in a few mosques in England really causing this?

We have never considered church bells to cause any difficulty for us to live as Muslims. We are rather pleased to see churches, synagogues, mandirs and gurudwars proclaiming their faith in one God.
 DR M NASEEM, Chairman, Birmingham Central Mosque

What cost no fixed abode?
Dear Editor, As I understand it, the Birmingham Opera Company does not have a permanent home and therefore does not carry the additional burden of having to maintain a theatre building as a base.

Compare this with the Royal Opera House and Coliseum (both based in London), which between them have in the past received funding from the Arts Council for £240 million for construction work and renovation carried out on their respective "bases".

Am I being entirely cynical in suggesting that the Birmingham Opera Company could turn its lack of a fixed abode to its advantage by re-branding itself as, for example, the London & Midland Opera Company and applying to the London or the South-east region of the Arts Council for funding?

By following this course of action, I suspect not only would their £324,000 grant be restored, but most likely increased.
 KEITH DAVIS, Kinver

Wrong to punish jobless
Dear Editor, Two Danish professors are reported in your paper as saying people who have never been jobless should get higher old age pensions than the former unemployed.

In Britain, unemployment is mainly caused by the collapse of manufacturing industry, due to various factors.

Blaming individual jobless people for their plight is like blaming flood victims for the weather.
 J P LETHBRIDGE, Ward End