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Alternative EU Constitution

Type: ReportsWritten by John Hopkins | Tuesday 20 November 2007

John Hopkins  won the Institute's £1000 prize for the best draft EU Constitution under 3000 words in length. The contest was inspired by widespread and growing concern that both the original rejected constitution and the new draft treaty are far too long and complex to be comprehensible to the citizens of EU member states. The new draft Treaty (English version) is 67,000 words long. The US Constitution, by contrast, is just 7,700 words long.

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Land Economy

Type: ReportsWritten by Mischa Balen | Tuesday 20 November 2007

Land Economy proposes the most radical change in land use in decades, putting the case for redeveloping agricultural land into a combination of woodland, housing and infrastructure.

By converting just 3 percent of the farms in England and Wales over a ten year period, covering 90 percent of the land with trees and the other 10 percent with houses, we would create 950,000 new homes and almost 130,000 hectares of new woodland.

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Open Access for UK Schools

Type: ReportsWritten by Marek Hlavac | Tuesday 20 November 2007

Open Access for UK Schools: What Britain can learn from Swedish Education Reform argues for a radical overhaul of the UK school system.

Inspired by Sweden's experience, the report calls for the UK to implement a universal open access scheme, which would allow parents to send their children to any school of their choice – whether state, private or religious – and make these schools eligible for government funding on a per–pupil basis. Two conditions must be met: the schools must not charge additional fees, and must accept pupils on a first-come-first-served basis.

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Working Welfare

Type: ReportsWritten by Katharine Hirst | Tuesday 20 November 2007

Inspired by the successful US welfare reforms of the 1990s, the proposals in Working Welfare would make work central to the benefits system. All working age people not meeting national disability criteria would face "immediate work requirements". This requirement would be backed with tough sanctions – "no work, no benefits" – and any absence from mandated work without good cause would trigger a pro rata reduction in benefit payments. The ASI proposals would also revolutionize the delivery of welfare. Responsibility for its provision and administration would be devolved to local agencies, which would be paid according to results. Agencies would be rewarded for getting people into work for a set period of time, ensuring an ongoing and personalised service for jobseekers. The report also advocates raising the personal income tax allowance to £12,000, to tackle high effective marginal tax rates for those trying to enter the workforce, and to make life easier for those with low incomes.

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Transforming Higher Education

Type: ReportsWritten by Terence Kealey | Tuesday 20 November 2007

Dr Terence Kealey highlights the reasons as to why American universitites are superior to ours, and other economically advantaged nations. He states that the aim of all universities must be to move away from state dependence to independence, with there being an urgent need for their endowments to be restored to assist in this move.

The best universities in the world are independent, but in the UK we've made the mistake of allowing governments to fund - and therefore control - the universities directly. The Higher Education Funding Councils should be abolished, and the universities should be freed of state control. The HEFCs' funds should be transfered to needs blind funding agencies to allow students, regardless of background, to access higher education on the grounds solely of merit.

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Independent Scotland: The Road to Riches

Type: ReportsWritten by Gabriel Stein | Tuesday 20 November 2007

If an independent Scotland chose to follow the Republic of Ireland's low-tax route, as SNP leader Alex Salmond has indicated it would, Scotland's growth rate might be expected, over a five-year period, to move closer to Ireland's trend growth rate of 7 percent. Given a further five years of Scottish growth at that trend level, and before diminishing returns set in, Scotland's growth over the ten-year period would put its index 71.5 higher, more than a two-thirds increase in GDP.

By contrast, says Stein, the rest of the UK would be expected to have grown rather less, by just over a quarter. The result would be dramatic for Scotland. Measured in household income per head, Scotland, which started £1,700 behind the rest of the UK, could be expected to be £6,000 ahead of it at the end of that period.

We believe that the new research study shows just what can be achieved if countries choose to follow the low tax route to prosperity, a route which took the Republic of Ireland from the poorest country in the EU (per head) to the richest. Scotland, it says, could match that performance.

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Stemming the growth of UK regulatory agencies

Type: ReportsWritten by Keith Boyfield & Tim Ambler | Tuesday 20 November 2007

The ASI's regulation supremos, Keith Boyfield and Tim Ambler, have published a new briefing paper as part of our Regulatory Monitor project, entitled Stemming the growth of UK regulatory agencies.

The ultimate objective is to merge all the existing regulatory agencies into a single Fair Trade Authority, which would be formally responsible to parliament and which would intervene only to ensure free, competitive markets. A great deal of the regulation aimed at protecting the consumer could be left to the courts, while the greater use of market mechanisms, such as mandatory insurance, would serve to improve standards.

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A Parliament for England

Type: ReportsWritten by Tom Clougherty | Tuesday 20 November 2007

This paper calls for an English Parliament, but in a novel form. Unlike proposals which involve a new layer of representatives, a fresh set of elections, and a new building to house it, the ASI proposal uses existing institutions. Under the ASI plan, following the next general election the MPs representing English constituencies should meet in the Palace of Westminster as the Parliament of England, having equivalent powers over health, education, policing and transport as the Scottish Parliament presently has.

They would elect a First Minister, as the Scots do, who would then put together a cabinet which would govern England in the designated areas of responsibility. The UK Parliament would remain responsible UK-wide matters and would control the various departments in charge of them: security and immigration, foreign affairs, international development, defence, employment and social security, energy, constitutional affairs, and tax and the economy.

A YouGov poll found that those in favour of this proposal outnumbered those against by a margin of two to one.

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Safeguarding civil liberties

Type: ReportsWritten by Tom Clougherty | Tuesday 20 November 2007

This paper itemizes how recent government acts have compromised or removed many of the legal protections traditionally enjoyed under common law. These include habeas corpus, right to trial by jury, right to remain silent, freedom from double jeopardy, among many others.

It is proposed that a new judicial panel be established, independent of government, to review the effect of recent legislation on long-standing liberties, and to make recommendations as to how the impairment of liberties might be redressed. While the body's recommendations would not have the force of law, it is envisaged that it would be so prestigious that governments would find it impossible to ignore or sideline their pronouncements.

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Depoliticizing the NHS

Type: ReportsWritten by Tom Clougherty | Tuesday 20 November 2007

This paper documents the bewildering and counter-productive range of political initiatives and interference which has wreaked such havoc on our nation's healthcare system.

The paper's proposal is for a distinguished panel of health professionals to be appointed to run the NHS, to allocate its budget, determine its priorities, and operate it according to medical needs rather than political aims. A YouGov poll taken on the subject shows massive popular support for precisely such a proposal, with 69 percent in favour and only 12 percent against.

The NHS budget would be set by Parliament every five years, and up-rated each year in line with inflation. The ASI's YouGov poll showed that this idea, too, enjoys widespread popular support, with 74 percent in favour. The suggestion that "the NHS has become a political football" receives 72 percent backing.

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