The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign state in northern Europe which includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is governed under a constitutional monarchy and a democratic parliamentary system made up of two houses; an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords. It has a population of more than 62 million and has the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP. It is predominantly a Christian country, although successive waves of migration have contributed to the growth of other faiths. It is a member of the European Union as well as the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, G7, G8, G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization.
Would you pay to see the Peak Tower's view?
I suppose the main reason for the Peak Tower receiving criticism for charging entry to its observation deck is simple - the company has not imposed such a charge before.
Viewing charges of cityscapes in international cities around the world do not come cheap.
For example, last April, on a visit to Britain, a 30-minute ride on the London Eye (a Ferris wheel on the River Thames) cost my wife and I HK$500.
I haven't visited Paris, but I doubt if entry to the Eiffel Tower is free.
Therefore, I do not think a charge of HK$20 for a better view of one of the world's most stunning and spectacular harbours is excessive.
Also, people should bear in mind that the Peak Tower is privately run. Maintenance, security, the provision of lavatories and various other services are all costly.
Therefore, the company is entitled to charge a fee.
I find it strange that you have mainland visitors willing to lavish large amounts of money on a Rolex or Vacheron Constantin watch, but they object to paying HK$20 to see the view from the Peak Tower.
Wilson Siu, Ma On Shan
How can renovation of buildings be promoted?
To encourage renovation in Hong Kong we need to remove the automatic right to build higher and bigger than the existing building.
Yes, we need to protect property rights, but these should only be protected for the bulk of the existing development on any site.
Once the expectation of gaining additional gross floor area through redevelopment has been removed, owners will invest in the upkeep of their existing properties to maximise their revenue.
The upgrading of old properties into serviced apartments in SoHo is a clear example that it obviously pays to maintain and renovate even very old, small and dilapidated buildings.
This does not mean that we stop redevelopment altogether.
However, we need to realise that any further intensification of our land negatively affects our quality of life and thus the future sustainability and economic success of our city.
To promote renovation for one area or site while continuing redevelopment on others will require much more sophisticated land planning and control mechanisms.
It will mean replacing our current, simplistic plot-ratio controls under outline zoning plans with site-specific planning and approval systems.
At the same time we need to make land lease conditions transparent and cut back on onerous and inflexible building regulations.
This may somewhat increase the cost of planning because we need to strengthen our institutions by improving the capacity, independence and legitimacy of the Town Planning Board.
Paul Zimmerman, Causeway Bay
In my opinion, renovation has both its merits and curses.
The decision on whether to renovate or demolish a building depends on various factors. To me, the two most important are the financial aspect and the green principle.
Though many support renovation rather than removal, there are two sides to the argument, as the figures show ('Culture of demolition under attack', January 21).
It does not make sense to renovate some buildings, as they require frequent maintenance and repairs, and this could violate the green principle.
Our priority must always be deciding whether a project is sustainable.
If the renovation of a particular building can extend the lifespan of that building for 10 or even 20 years, then such a renovation project should be encouraged.
Nevertheless, we have to admit that demolition - together with ingenious land planning regarding the new development - can also be sustainable and environmentally friendly.
To encourage renovation, certain measures should be implemented. First, apart from building standards, 'green rules' should be added.
A special committee should be set up to supervise the planning of new construction projects, to ensure the new buildings are sustainable and the materials used are environmentally friendly. If such restrictions are placed on developers, more of them will opt for renovation.
Also, additional charges should be imposed on developers for the removal of industrial waste, if a building is being demolished. This will reduce the incentive to knock down a structure.
However, we do have to accept that some old buildings cannot be repaired or renovated. New building projects are inevitable, but they must be subject to 'green laws'.
Chan Tsun-yin, Chai Wan
Should companies provide paternity leave?
I wish to respond to Betty Chau Wing-yan's letter (Talkback, January 21).
First of all, does she realise what paternity means?
The right to paternity leave and pay allows eligible employees to take paid leave to care for their baby or to support the mother following birth.
How often do fathers receive paternity leave? This so-called benefit does not even exist in Hong Kong and it should.
My wife and I will be expecting our first baby in June and I am grateful to my company because it has allowed me to have three days of paternity leave.
You want to be there to share in the responsibilities and take the burden from your wife, who has been carrying the child for nine months.
I do not see how paternity leave can be linked to child negligence.
Are you a parent, Ms Chau?
David Oh, Sai Ying Pun
How can cigarette sales to minors be better policed?
This problem is probably as old as smoking itself.
Prevention rather than cure is ultimately the best way forward. Minors need to be reminded that smoking is not cool but harmful to their health.
Laws are already in place to punish vendors, but many operate on a small profit margin and do not want to lose customers who may buy magazines or other products as well. Furthermore, the authorities have a tendency to be lax in law enforcement.
Education is the best answer to this problem.
Wai Lai Ti-lai, Lantau