The ASI at Tory Conference: Rebooting Consumer Capitalism, Cannabis and Saving 1 Million Years of Life

As usual, the ASI will be tackling vital but often neglected issues at this year’s Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. We're hosting three events inside the secure zone (that means to attend you'll need a conference pass): one on Sunday and two on Tuesday.

Our Sunday panel (4pm-5pm in Exec Room 2 of the ICC) asks what lessons the UK can learn from abroad on reforming our approach to cannabis. With the coming legalisation of medical cannabis following public outcry over the plight of children being denied access to life-changing treatment, Canada legalising recreational cannabis, and increasing calls for the UK to follow suit, we’ll be examining the arguments for parting ways with prohibition that international experience provides.

The UK’s prohibition of cannabis jeopardises children’s safety, encourages gang violence and leaves millions in the dark about what they’re taking. This approach has failed and the public know it. More Britons support a legal, regulated cannabis market than oppose it. We will ensure evidence, not hyperbole, guides the debate around recreational and medical cannabis legalisation. Chaired by our resident vice expert Daniel Pryor, our speakers are George Freeman MP, Crispin Blunt MP, VolteFace’s Paul North and Hanway Associates’ George McBride. For more info, click here.

On Tuesday, we’re spoiling you for choice by having two panels occurring simultaneously from 4pm-5pm. First, we’re partnering with Octopus for a session on rebooting consumer capitalism in the ICC’s Executive Room 8. There is growing public sentiment that the retail energy market isn't working, water firms aren't delivering, rail franchising is failing, and broadband availability is too low. These industries affect nearly everyone in their daily lives. Competition should be at the heart of any solution. Streamlining the sector regulators could minimise producer capture, cut bureaucracy and simplify regulations. The innovation spurred on by Open Banking could spread to other sectors if consumers are given more power over their data. Various reforms to the rail franchise system can promote a greater role for on-track competition, delivering on the promises of choice and better service.

We will discuss the most effective reforms that could restore the public’s trust in these vital sectors, and consumer capitalism at large. Chaired by our Head of Research Sam Dumitriu, speakers include John Penrose MP, Chris Hulatt of Octopus, Bim Afolami MP, Fingleton Associates’ Eleanor Mack, and Oliver Wiseman (Editor of CapX). For more info, click here.

The second Sunday panel focuses on Britain’s vaping revolution and how we can save over one million years of life with the right policy reforms. Vaping is at least 95% safer according to Public Health England, and current evidence suggests that it doesn’t act as a gateway to smoking. But reduced-risk nicotine products could be even better. Whatever your view of Brexit, it presents us with an opportunity to become a world-leader in liberalizing e-cigarette and reduced-risk tobacco products regulation.

Right now, the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive limits choice, drives up costs, and severely restricts the ability of vaping companies to advertise their products. Current advertising restrictions are especially harmful: many smokers simply haven’t been exposed to what vaping actually is, or readily accept the myths that surround it. Plain packaging rules prevent firms from inserting information on switching to less harmful products into cigarette packets. All of this is up for debate and has the potential to be changed. At Party Conference, we would therefore aim to discuss the arguments for taking a liberal regulatory approach to e-cigarettes and reduced-risk products for the sake of public health, as well as consumer choice. Confirmed speakers include Martin Cullip of the New Nicotine Alliance, UKVIA’s John Dunne, the ASI’s Daniel Pryor (author of our recent “One Million Lives” report) and Ems Barr of the Centre for Policy Studies (chair). For more info, click here.

Be sure to join us for what promises to be a fantastic conference!