100 Policies for Mrs May
Dear Prime Minister,
Back in June you called on Conservative Party members and the public to develop and deliver 1000 policies. Believing in the benefits of the division of labour as we do, we loved the idea. So our staff have decided to help you get 10% of the way there.
We’ve got in this document a collection of 100 policies that, if implemented, could transform Britain. These policies would help make us all richer, freer, and happier.
In the 1980s and 1990s the Conservatives pioneered policies that put power back into the hands of individuals: building a property owning democracy through privatization, helping people own their own homes through right-to-buy, and radically reforming business taxes to get Britain booming.
Since 2010 the Conservatives have, through pension auto-enrolment ensured share-ownership for millions, sparked a jobs miracle by bringing down corporate tax rates and taking millions of low-earners out of tax altogether.
As we leave the European Union, the Conservatives in Westminster have a chance to transform the country for the better again. Mrs May you are often seen as being on the backfoot, you needn’t be. The Conservative Party can, through free market ideas, lead the debate on what Britain will look like after March 2019. We think Britain’s best days lie ahead, and that these policies will lead us to those better times.
At the Adam Smith Institute we like to pride ourselves on being radical but reasonable. This list of 100 policy ideas pushes at the boundaries of what’s seen as possible at Westminster, but nonetheless should inspire bold politicians to take action to tackle intractable issues.
Politically, the slim working majority of the Conservative Party and the DUP means this list will not be implemented in full in any circumstance. Yet if the Conservatives were able to implement just a handful of these recommendations, they could help raise living standards, create thousands of decent jobs, and future proof the economy.
There are MPs and Ministers with an instinct to expand liberty, remove barriers to competition, and reduce the burden of the state. This list is in no way exhaustive but we hope that this will put them and you on the front foot.
Now you have the ideas, the Conservatives can implement them and change the country.
Over to you, Prime Minister.
1. Allow businesses to immediately deduct all new spending on plants and equipments
The decision to reduce Corporation Tax from 28% to 19% has made the United Kingdom a more attractive place to do business. But the decision to part-fund the cut by restricting capital allowance has weakened the incentive to invest. As a result, the Marginal Effective Tax Rate on Capital, the rate that firms actually take into account when deciding to invest an extra pound, only fell by 3pp even though the headline rate fell by 10pp. We should copy the United States and allow firms to immediately deduct new spending on plants and equipment from their taxable income. This would dramatically simplify Corporation Tax and bring the UK in line with international best practice. Evidence suggests that similar reforms in the US boosted investment by 17.5% and created high-paying good jobs.
2. CANZUK Free Movement
The government has, for a number of decades, been making it harder for citizens of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to move to the UK. This is despite deep historical ties and the huge affection British citizens and citizens of those countries have for each other. If we want to rebuild the case for immigration, we’d do worse than start where it’s popular. When Brits are asked where they’d like to move, these countries come top and it’s the same vice versa. There are a number of different ways this could be done: by extending the Common Travel Area of the UK & the RoI to include CANZ; including the UK and Canada in an enlarged Trans-Tasman Agreement; unilaterally allowing citizens of those states to move and work here; providing residency to citizens of those states after just two years of living here. It could be done incrementally, for those under a certain age as an acquired right, or all at once. But however it’s done, it would be an easy win: popular with voters, make something meaningful out of the Global Britain soundbite, and be transformational for millions.
3. Making Childcare Affordable
Corbyn’s childcare subsidy might have made headlines last week at Labour conference, but there was nothing new in what he announced. More money, more state involvement. Higher demand and stricter control on supply. That means either higher real costs or shortage. But there is a better way. By far and away the largest cost for childcare providers is labour. We have some of the strictest requirements on carer to child ratios in the western world, and it’s no surprise we have some of the highest childcare costs as a result. If we relaxed our rules on childcare to Norwegian or French levels we could end up halving childcare costs. And we wouldn’t be compromising on quality either. High staff to child ratios aren't just expensive, they can harm the quality of care too. Studies show that looser mandated child to carer ratios encourage higher qualified staff to enter the industry at higher wages. So let’s scrap child-staff ratio mandates altogether. It would leave more money in the pockets of parents without undermining quality of care.
4. Legalise Recreational Cannabis
The UK’s prohibition of cannabis jeopardises children’s safety, encourages gang violence and leaves millions in the dark about what they’re taking. Our current policy has failed. The UK should instead follow much of the United States and Canada by embracing a harm reduction approach. Legal regulation will reduce underage use, make safer alternatives to high-strength skunk available for adults, raise £1 billion in tax to fund treatment services for problem users, and deprive violent gangs of a lucrative profit opportunity. This activity can then be taken up by reputable and regulated companies, financed by regulated banks and insurers. More Britons support a legal, regulated cannabis market than oppose it and the time has come for the UK to adopt a sensible, pragmatic approach to the drug.
5. Replace Business Rates and Council Tax with a simple Land Value Tax
While there is always a lot of noise whenever business rates change, it is often forgotten that it isn't businesses who bear the cost of business rates, but landowners. Over time, most of any cut in business rates will be offset by a proportionate rise in rents - meaning that it's predominantly landlords who benefit from cuts and lose out from rises, not businesses. It would be better if we were to merge council tax and business rates into a simple tax on land values. It would remove the distortion caused by changing purpose between using land for residential or commercial purposes, and ensure that business investment is not discouraged.
6. Scrap Stamp Duty
Stamp Duty is Britain’s most damaging tax. It has to go. Not just for first time buyers, but for everyone. For every £1 raised for the Treasury, the tax destroys a further 80p of economic activity. Stamp Duty penalises older people for downsizing after their children have left home and stops these homes being sold to new and growing families – making the effective supply of family-sized homes even tighter. The tax means that people too far from work don’t take the job they want or are good at, and they don’t move to where they’ll be most productive. Removing Stamp Duty won’t solve our housing crisis alone, but it will boost housing and labour mobility, as well as economic growth and productivity.
7. Release 3.7% of Green Belt land for residential development
If we really want to solve the housing crisis then we need to transform planning. One of the easiest ways to do this to scrap the Green Belt. It hems in our productive cities, it holds back the careers and lives of millions of Britons and it makes us all poorer. For no benefit either, the Green Belt is misnamed. It is not a rural idyll of rolling hills but includes things like a disused petrol station in Tottenham Hale, as well as pesticide and herbicide use on high-intensity farmland contributing the lion's’ share of air pollution in our largest cities. Releasing just 3.7% of land of London’s greenbelt, all within 800m of existing railway links, could help provide over a million new homes and consign the housing crisis to the past.
8. End Help to Buy
You might have gathered by now, but Britain is in the midst of a housing crisis. We haven’t built enough homes in the right places. Our productive cities have more people that want to move to them, than homes to fit them into. We have a lack of supply and a high level of demand. That means higher prices. Help to Buy was brought in with the good intention to make homes more affordable for the young. Unfortunately it’s a demand side policy. It boosts demand. But demand is too high for the level of supply we have. It’s costing the Conservatives votes, with people forced into renting as they’re priced out of the ownership market, and they’re associating this loss of choice with a crisis of Capitalism. It’s regressive too, giving a hand out to the rich at the expense of the poor. Let’s cut this subsidy and reduce pressure on the prices of homes.
9. Give travellers airline-style choice and competition on long distance inter-city rail routes through Open Access competition
Don’t get us wrong, privatization has been good for Britain’s railways. We’ve got record numbers using the trains and investment at a record high. But there’s more that can be done to introduce private competition and expand consumer choice. As it stands, franchises are over-specified by Westminster and on most lines there is a single monopoly operator. We should expand Open-Access competition to give consumers a real choice. Where open-access already exists, consumers get better value and report higher levels of satisfaction. To restore public support for privatised rail, we need to deliver genuine competition on inter-city routes.
10. Take minimum wage workers out of tax and National Insurance
Unemployment might be at its lowest for four decades, but the current political debate is dominated by discontent at working poverty. So let's stop taxing low-paid workers by taking those on the minimum wage out of income tax and National Insurance altogether. As long as income tax and National Insurance remain separate, the threshold where people begin to pay both should be set at the equivalent of a full year, full-time minimum wage and linked to future minimum wage increases. At a stroke, the government could provide a much-needed boost to those struggling to make ends meet.
11. Sell off 49.9% of Network Rail assets to long-term investing institutions
12. Remove ‘Powered Transporter’ restrictions to legalise the development of dockless e-scooter schemes
13. End annual MOT tests by moving the minimum testable age to 5 years from 3 and then testing for emissions and safety every 3 years
14. Increase the speed limit on British motorways to 80 mph
15. Scrap HS2 and devolve spending and debt raising for rail and road projects to local authorities and city regions
16. Allow private investors to finance, build and operate new train and tram lines at the invitation of devolved city region authorities
17. Introduce road pricing throughout the Strategic Road Network, and use all additional revenue to cut fuel duty
18. Give central government approval to all subsidy-free airport expansion plans
19. Hold auctions to allocate new landing slot capacity when airports expand.
Energy and Environment
20. Introduce a border-adjusted Carbon Tax and:
Eliminate the Climate Change Levy
Eliminate Air Passenger Duty
Remove all subsidies for renewables
Review and eliminate energy efficiency requirements Post-Brexit
Leave the Emissions Trading Scheme Post-Brexit
Use any remaining revenue to cut National Insurance and Corporation Tax
21. Abandon the introduction of energy price caps
22. Stop guaranteeing prices for wholesale production
23. Invite Big 6 to sell-off 10% of customer base to stimulate competition
24. Scrap the Smart-meter rollout
25. Commit to the auctioning off of more public spectrum airspace with allowance for a secondary market to develop
26. Remove planning barriers to 5G adoption by allowing 5G Small Cells under permitted development
27. Eliminate EU Net Neutrality Restrictions
28. Commit the UK to repeal of the EU’s Copyright Directive post-Brexit
29. Commit to repeal of the EU’s Link Tax after Brexit
30. Sector regulators such as Ofcom, OfGem and Ofwat should be given a new mandate to promote innovation within that sector
31. Treat data-mining by Machine Learning (ML) firms as fair use under copyright to allow innovative firms access to large high-quality datasets
32. Ban local authorities from capping or restricting ridesharing services like Uber
Fiscal and Monetary Policy
33. Scrap Inheritance Tax
34. Merge Employee's National Insurance, Income Tax, and Employer's National Insurance into a single simplified tax
35. Lower the VAT registration threshold to the OECD average with an exemption for firms in their first two years of operations
36. Eliminate VAT lower or zero rating
37. Reduce the standard rate Insurance Premium Tax back to 5%, the higher rate to 10%, and remove all exemptions
38. Commit to removing the EU’s cap on banker’s bonuses
39. End the Bank of England’s stress test programme and instead raise capital requirements
40. Reduce the UK’s marginal effective tax rates on investment to zero
41. Replace the Bank of England’s 2% Inflation Target with a 5% Nominal GDP Target
42. Abolish the National Living Wage and return to the apolitical Low Pay Commission recommendations
43. Scrap the Apprenticeship Levy
44. Scrap all creative industries tax reliefs (Orchestra, Museums & Galleries, Film, Animation, High-end, Children’s TV, Video Games, and Theatre)
45. End Pillar One Payments of the Common Agricultural Policy in any agricultural funding review Britain post-Brexit
46. Allow bridging payments for farmers, not landowners, to prepare for the reduction in subsidy
47. Introduce an Icelandic-style system of tradable fishing quotas
48. End EU ban on GMOs and gene-edited crops post-Brexit
49. Allow imports of hormone treated and pathogen reduction treated products approved safe by the European Food Safety Authority with clear labelling
50. Commit Britain to expanding the Everything But Arms scheme post Brexit with no reintroduction of tariffs as countries develop
51. Privatize Flood Re and replace government funded flood reinsurance with a fully private market
52. Scrap the net migration target
53. Eliminate the Tier 2 Visa Cap
54. Maintain Freedom of workers with the European Union, but implement additional restrictions on access to welfare and remove arrivals without a job-offer within 90 days of arrival
55. Easier visa access for workers and students under any US-UK free trade agreement
56. Reinstate the post-study work visa
57. Move to freer movement of workers from across the Commonwealth
58. Introduce the auction of employer permits to hire foreign workers
59. Introduce a new visa classification for seasonal workers from the poorest countries in the world modelled on New Zealand’s programme with Tonga and Vanuatu
60. Introduce a real-time border database and biometric scanning system with a private sector operator paid by results
61. Remove the cap on fees for EU students post-Brexit
62. Remove the cap on 2 year courses for all students, allow students to continue to access full funding credit systems under current repayment provisions
63. Remove international students from net migration figures
64. Commit to accepting up to 10,000 Venezuelan refugees per year
65. Repeal the regressive Soft Drinks Industry Levy
66. Legalise the use of financial incentives to increase bone marrow and blood donor rates
67. Legalize the practice of drug testing at festivals, nightclubs and city centres by regulated companies & NGOs
68. Extend patient co-payment from dentistry and opticians to other non-essential procedures
69. Decriminalize prostitution to increase worker safety
70. Legalize Snus
71. Legalize Vaping in public outdoor places, including train platforms
72. Scrap Public Health England’s chief nutritionist position and Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)
73. Legalise supervised drug consumption rooms
74. Repeal the Psychoactive Substances Act
75. State guarantee for social care costs for those in care for more than 6 years to enable development of a private insurance market in social care
76. End the Pensions Triple Lock and index pensioner benefits to inflation
77. Mutually recognise pharmaceuticals and medical instruments approved by other developed economies such as the United States and Japan.
78. End council opt-outs for acceptance of permitted development rights
79. Allow streets to vote on planning permission to allow themselves development up to a maximum of six storeys
80. Devolve planning law on greenbelt designations and permitted development rights to city regions
81. Allow local councils to swap areas of pristine greenfield for areas currently protected by greenbelt designation that are developed or otherwise environmentally degraded
82. Remove requirements for minimum unit numbers of housing designated ‘affordable’ in new developments
83. Lift requirement of new-build or converted units to have floor space greater than 38sqm to allow new studio flats and microhomes to be built in city centre locations
84. Allow councils to grant planning permission on land they own and retain the sale value difference
85. Abolish protected views in British cities
86. Privatization of London and Continental Railways Ltd. combined with expansion of permitted development right of developments made above train or tube stations and for developments over existing rail lines
Culture & Sport
87. Pass a free speech act modelled on US First Amendment case law
88. Scrap the BBC Licence Fee and move to a subscription model
89. Privatize Channel 4
90. Privatize S4C
91. Abolish the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
92. Tie university funding to student loan repayment rates
93. Remove caps on fees and places for two-year undergraduate courses
94. Safe Standing at football stadiums
Privatization & bonfire of the quangos
95. Full sale of government stake in CDC Group Plc
96. Full sale of government stake in Post Office Ltd. and Post Office Money
97. Abolish the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
98. Sale of land assets held by the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Duchy of Cornwall
99. Sale of government department land assets in Central London with leaseback for core functions
100. Scrap all departmental payments to trade union 'Pilgrims'