Papers find MOT not up to the test

Our latest paper, written by Alex Hoagland of Boston University, caused a storm in the British press this week.

We looked at how well the MOT test prevented mechanical failures in cars, looking at the experience of how removing tests affected failure rates in American states and biennial testing in countries like Germany. In essence, we're being ripped-off as the tests have no impact on safety but end up costing motorists over £30 in up front fees and hundreds of pounds in unnecessary repairs. 

The report was covered by papers including the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Times, the Daily Express, the i Newspaper, the Herald, the Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post, and over 100 local titles. 

Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, wrote for the Telegraph to explain why the outdated tests need to be scrapped. He made over 14 appearances on BBC radio and TV stations, including Radio 4 (from 46:54). 

Report author Alex Hoagland explained for the Times that a reliance on the MOT risked ignoring the real danger on our roads – drivers themselves.   

Gene editing is an opportunity not a cost

In light of the European Court of Justice’s ruling, requiring food produced using new and precise gene editing techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 to go through an expensive and lengthy approval process, the Adam Smith Institute’s Head of Research Sam Dumitriu said:

“By ignoring scientific advice, the EU has shot itself in the foot. The ECJ’s decision will hold back science, innovation, and agriculture in Europe.

“Gene editing has the potential to increase crop yields, reduce pesticide use, and even improve animal welfare. It is safe and fundamentally different to past GM technology. Any crop developed through this process could have been developed through conventional breeding techniques. Gene editing merely speeds up the process.

“Forcing biotech firms to go through a lengthy, expensive approval process will create a huge barrier to entry: locking out innovative startups and creating monopolies. Many will move to the US to take advantage of a pro-science regulatory environment.

“While the ECJ allows the pseudo-scientific precautionary principle to dictate policy, the rest of the world will move forward. After Brexit, when we are out of the European Union, we should follow the US and not require special regulation on any agricultural product that could have been produced through conventional breeding.”

To arrange an interview or further comment please contact Matt Kilcoyne via phone (07584778207) or email (matt@adamsmith.org).
 

Scrap outdated rip-off MOT tests

 Adam Smith Institute report says government mandated MOT tests are outdated and should be scrapped, saving Britons millions

  • Mechanical failures account for just 2% of accidents in both the US (where in most states annual safety inspections are not required) and the UK, with nearly two-thirds caused by driver error 
  • US evidence shows discontinuing MOTs would have no effect on the rate or severity of accidents due to mechanical failure
  • Scrapping MOTs could save Britons £250m a year, and the average driver £143 in unneeded repair costs
  • Government policy should bring itself into the 21st century and focus on driver error, the main cause of accidents
  • As a minimum, the age cars must be tested at ought to be increased and the frequency of inspections reduced to once every two years.

Motorists are forking out over £250m a year on MOT test fees and unnecessary repairs, a new report by the Adam Smith Institute argues. 

Twenty thousand garages throughout Great Britain provide the MOT service, which costs drivers up to £29.65 for motorcycles and £54.85 for cars, with the average fee coming in at £33.60. But on top of the initial fee, the average driver will pay £143 in small repair costs (including backlighting of dashboards and speedometers) before the vehicle is ready to pass inspection.

Yet, the Adam Smith Institute argues, much of this cost is unnecessary. The MOT is outdated and fails to target the main cause of vehicle accidents.

New research by Alex Hoagland (the report’s author) and Trevor Woolley found that MOT-style vehicle tests are unneeded. In a statistical analysis, the researchers found that when Washington D.C and New Jersey abolished their inspections (D.C in 2009 and N.J. 2010) on either the rate or severity of accidents due to mechanical failure, suggesting tests were ill-effective at increasing car safety. 

The main culprit of car accidents in both the US and the UK is driver error. Over 65% of accidents in the UK are caused by driver behaviour including: speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and not using a seatbelt—none of which an annual MOT test can prevent.

But cars are becoming smarter and safer, and accidents are directly declining as a result, the report argues. In Great Britain road accident fatalities have dropped by about 57% in the last ten years alone, from 3,172 in 2006 to 1,792 in 2016. These reductions track the introduction of new cars with better safety features into the UK suggesting that safety of new car models, rather than the MOT test, is driving the reduction in safety. 

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Just 2% of road accidents are caused by mechanical faults in the UK. The same rate as in the  majority of US states that no longer require vehicle safety inspections. On January 1st, 2018 Utah became the 34th US state to scrap the requirement. In 2015 a US Federal Government report compared crash rates between US states and found no evidence that mandatory safety testing reduced traffic fatality rates.

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When the MOT test was introduced in the UK in the 1950s many cars on the road were second-hand and manufactured prior to 1940. Many had defects and hadn’t been serviced since their initial sale. The Ministry of Transport required an annual test of vehicles older than 10 years for steering, brakes and lighting. This quickly spiralled down to cars older than 3 years with extra testing on emissions added in the 1990s. But while safety features have been on the rise the test’s core components have remained unchanged.

While campaign groups like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents continue to push the idea that recent declines in vehicle crashes and casualties in Great Britain were thanks in part to the MOT system, most recently in a government consultation in 2018, recent statistical analysis has shown these claims to be on shaky ground.  

Hoagland and Woolley highlight the repeal of mandatory inspections in New Jersey which had little—if any—effect on the car failures of fatalities rate, and that annual safety inspections have no effect on reducing either the rate of severity of accidents due to mechanical failures.

The paper suggests a number of reforms that the government could pursue to save Britons millions in garage fees and unnecessary part replacements, including:

  • Scrapping the MOT test altogether for all vehicles, except vehicles older than 3 years entering the United Kingdom from abroad.
  • Reducing the rate of vehicle safety inspections from annually to a less frequent interval (e.g., every 3 or 5 years).
  • Increasing the testable age of new vehicles from 3 years to 5 years (or more).
  • Separating the MOT into two tests: one less frequent test for vehicle safety inspection, the other testing only carbon emissions.
  • Focusing more resources on campaigns intended to reduce travelling without a seat belt, speeding, and/or substance abuse while driving.
  • Dedicate additional resources to the development and testing of driverless vehicles to remove driver-related accident factors.

Alex Hoagland, author of the paper, said:

“The UK has required MOT testing for decades, in order to prevent crashes and fatalities from unreliable vehicles. Nowadays, vehicles are safer than ever, leading some governments to re-inspect these programs. When these safety inspections were done away with in some US states, accident rates did not change. There’s no evidence that vehicle safety inspections improve vehicle safety.”

Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“MOT Tests are meant to prevent crashes and save lives, but they’ve never been put to the test themselves. New evidence from the US found that scrapping similar mandatory vehicle safety inspections had no impact on crash rates. Evidence, not gut feeling, should guide policy.”

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications, matt@adamsmith.org | 07584 778207.

To read the full paper, click here

Corbyn's policy picks the pockets of the many to subsidise the few

After Corbyn's swing to full Trump this morning with his Britain first announcement, Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, slammed the position of the leader of the Labour party:

“Corbyn’s Trump-style protectionism is a bad deal for consumers, taxpayers and the developing world. 

"His cronyist plan to dole out public contracts to British firms, even if it means taxpayers paying more, will effectively rule out any future trading relationship with the EU, US, or China – hitting exporters hardest.

"Free trade has lifted millions out of poverty while making ordinary consumer goods from t-shirts to food cheaper. 

"Corbyn’s policy would end up picking the pockets of the many to subsidise the few.” 

We've also sent the Labour leader a copy of the condensed Wealth of Nations as we know he's a busy man. 

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If you would like to arrange an interview please contact Matt Kilcoyne on 07584778207 or email matt@adamsmith.org

EU's record fine for Google is anti-consumer and anti-innovation

In response to the EU's decision to fine Google €4.3bn for 'anti-competitive behaviour', Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“The European Commission’s decision to fine Google €4.3bn will make smartphones more expensive and make the market less competitive. Thanks to Android, it’s now possible to buy a new smartphone for under £50. Without it, smartphone makers would have to create their own or buy operating systems with the costs passed on to ordinary consumers. 

“Switching web browsers may have been too much for most Windows users in 2001, but in 2018 switching from pre-installed default apps is commonplace. After all, one billion WhatsApp users did it.

“Restricting Google’s ability to pre-install its own apps through agreements with manufacturers will reduce the incentive for Google to invest in and improve the Android platform. It could even lead Google to charge manufacturers upfront licensing fees to use the Google Play store. 

“It could even lead to an increasingly fragmented marketplace where app developers are forced to create multiple versions of each app, increasing costs for smaller players.”

Please get in touch with Sam Dumitriu (02072224995) to arrange an interview or further comment.

Smoke and mirrors in Khan's taxi congestion charge plan

Following the news that London Mayor Sadiq Khan wants to introduce congestion charges for Private Hire Vehicles, we welcome the change but are puzzled why it doesn't extend to London's Black Cabs too. 

Sam Dumitriu, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, says:

"Sadiq Khan is right to try and tackle congestion through road pricing, but exempting Black Cabs is unwarranted and unfair.

"We need a level-playing field between Black Cabs and Private Hire Vehicles. Singling out Black Cabs for special treatement could mean more smog-spewing Diesel trips and fewer trips in cleaner Priuses."

For further comment or to arrange an interview, please contact Matt Kilcoyne via email(matt@adamsmith.org) or on his mobile (07904099599).

Uber ruling shows London is open to competition and innovation

The Adam Smith Institute welcomes the sensible ruling by Transport for London on granting a 15 month license for Uber in the capital. 

Head of Research, Sam Dumitriu, says:

"Uber have rightfully had their license reinstated, albeit on a short-term basis. Transport for London’s original decision to revoke their license sent a message that London was not open to innovation and competition. They should now open London’s minicab market up to other foreign operators such as Lyft and Estonia’s Taxify. In the long run, competition will be the best regulator."

If you would like to arrange an interview or further comment please contact Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications, via email (matt@adamsmith.org) or phone (07904099599, or 02072224995). 

Switching to vaping could save 1 million years of life

Adam Smith Institute report suggests if vaping replaces smoking Britons could save 1 million life years but young women risk being left behind.

  • Average smoker will lose a decade of life expectancy and have lower life quality compared to non-smokers

  • Access to alternatives and information on health risks key to switching from smoking but currently held back by domestic and EU rules

  • UK’s liberal harm reduction approach to vaping has worked to cut smoking but lifting EU legislation post Brexit could help more people kick the smoking habit.

  • Young women are being left behind by the vaping revolution and are risking their lives smoking

  • If women under the age of 24 vaped at the same rate as young men Britons could save over a million years of life

Reforms to laws that discourage switching from cigarettes to vaping could help save over a million years of life, a new paper by the Adam Smith Institute claims today with young women standing to gain the most.

Despite the overwhelming majority of UK smokers knowing the risks of smoking large numbers continue to smoke.

Young women risk being left behind as other groups move to vaping. While 8.9% of young men vape, for women it is just 2.6%. Women are however continuing to smoke with nearly 16% of women aged 16-24 smoking.

Data from the BBC’s Reality Check team revealed that vaping shops are the third largest growth sector in retail space in the UK, with 381 stores opening in 2017. Yet despite the rise in shops on high streets, vaping remains a predominantly male activity, especially among the young. While women continue to smoke they increase their exposure to carcinogenic chemicals which are heavily linked to respiratory diseases and cancers.

The paper uses World Health Organisation estimates of additional life expectancy from quitting smoking at different ages and Public Health England estimates of e-cigarette relative risk to estimate that 1,036,640 years of life could be saved if young women vaped at the same rate as young meng. In the United States estimates suggest wider adoption of e-cigarettes by smokers could lead to at least 1.6 million fewer premature deaths and 20.8 million fewer life years lost.

Despite Public Health England’s recent advice that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than cigarettes, the majority of smokers across the UK do not believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes and this situation has got worse over time. Even fewer are aware of the existence of newer reduced-risk products like "heat-not-burn" devices, warns Daniel Pryor of the Adam Smith Institute.

Daniel Pryor of the Adam Smith Institute argues that sensible reforms after Brexit to advertising restrictions, many of which were put in place at the European Union level, could mean fewer lives lost to smoking related illnesses in Britain.

Both vaping and heat-not-burn technology could be advertised directly to smokers within cigarette packaging, on online platforms and with reference to Public Health England’s advice on the benefits of swapping from smoking. While larger vaping liquid sizes, currently restricted by EU Single Market rules could be reformed to make it easier to ensure access to liquids and reduce the temptation to slip back into standard cigarettes.

Some reforms could happen at home now. The new report argues that Britain should look again at bans on indoor vaping in public places, on rail platforms and other shared spaces. This builds on calls from the British Lung Foundation to ensure e-cigarettes aren’t “banned in enclosed public spaces by legislation as smoking is.”

Reduced-risk alternatives to smoking matter, Sweden has one of the lowest smoking and cancer rates in Europe – linked to the prevalence of snus – which studies have shown to have little impact on life expectancy. In Japan, where heat-not-burn technologies are both openly advertised market share is now up to 10% of nicotine products and cigarette sales have plummeted by 12.4% in the past year.

Lack of alternatives matter too. In Australia, where e-cigarettes are banned, smokers as a proportion of the population dropped by just 0.6 percentage points between 2013-2016 (the last dataset available).

The UK by contrast saw a fall of 2.9 percentage points – and there are now more ex-smokers who use e-cigarettes than current smokers. The UK’s mostly liberal approach over the past decade has been a large part of the success of lower smoking rates and higher vaping rates, the report argues.

If Britain is to achieve a continued fall in smoking rates then more liberalisation for reduced risk alternatives is key.

Daniel Pryor, Research Economist at the Adam Smith Institute and author of the paper, said:

“To its great credit, successive UK governments and public health bodies have maintained a comparatively liberal approach to vaping and other consumer nicotine products. Domestic and international evidence shows that the health benefits of this harm reduction approach are enormous, but young British women who smoke are being left behind.

“It’s vital that we combat the widespread and worsening misperception that vaping is as harmful as smoking through sensible advertising reforms and public health guidance. We must also ensure that smokers who hold strong preferences for tobacco have viable quit options by making it easier to bring other innovative reduced-risk products (such as ‘heat-not-burn’ devices) to market.”

Sophie Jarvis, Policy Advisor at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“Women are being left behind by the vaping revolution. And it’s costing them years off their lives. The EU’s ban on advertising stifles innovation and is holding back people from switching from harmful cigarettes. As we leave the EU we have the chance to scrap these bans and save lives - in particular women’s lives.”  

Dr Roger Henderson GP, a leading smoking cessation expert, said:

“Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable early death and illness in England, with around 100,000 deaths in the UK attributable to smoking each year.

“In my surgery, increasing numbers of smokers are telling me they are trying e-cigarettes as an aid to cutting down smoking or quitting, we shouldn’t ignore them. Let’s save lives by making it easier to market safer nicotine products. It may be nicotine that makes it hard for smokers to quit, but it is smoke and tar that puts them in the ground.”
 

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications, matt@adamsmith.org | 07584 778207.

The report ‘1 Million Years of Life’ is available here.

Politicians, academics and think tanks call for cannabis legalisation

Following the call on the government from Lord Hague to look again at legalising cannabis MPs, Ron Hogg PCC, academics and think tanks write to the Telegraph to call for a Royal Commission to examine the evidence of legalising cannabis.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We believe that Lord Hague is right to say that the war on cannabis has been ‘irreversibly lost’.

The Adam Smith Institute has estimated that legalisation, regulation, and taxation of cannabis would raise at least £1bn a year for the Treasury, while the TaxPayers' Alliance has suggested nearly £900m could be saved from police, prisons, courts and NHS budgets from legalisation. The UK could use a ‘cannabis dividend’ on expanding access to addiction treatment centres and reducing wait-times for mental health services on the NHS. 

Ensuring the safety of citizens is the first duty of government. Prohibition of cannabis is failing to keep Britons safe. Pushing people into the hands of gangs that peddle drugs on the black market risks their safety and gives cash to criminals. Users have no way of knowing the potency of the cannabis they consume, which varies wildly depending on where they get it from. 

With cannabis legal in some form in a majority of US states, and Canada preparing to fully legalise recreational cannabis, we believe the status quo is unsustainable.

The government should appoint a Royal Commission to look again at how cannabis is treated under the law and consider legalisation. 

Crispin Blunt MP, former Prisons Minister
Michael Fabricant MP, former Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury
The Rt. Hon the Lord Lilley
Ed Davey MP, Liberal Democrat Home Affiairs Spokesperson
Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip
Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat DEFRA spokesperson
Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson
Norman Lamb MP, former health minister
Lord Foster of Bath
Ron Hogg PCC
Professor David Nutt
Dr Gary Potter
Professor Celia Morgan
Professor Adam R Winstock, Founder & CEO Global Drug Survey
John O'Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance
Rebecca Lowe, Director of FREER
Polly Mackenzie, Director of Demos
Dr Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute
Chris Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs
Oliver Wiseman, Editor of CapX
Miranda Larbi
Carrie Wade, Director of Harm Reduction Policy at R Street Institute

To arrange an interview or for further comment please contact Matt Kilcoyne (matt@adamsmith.org, 02072224995 or 07904099599).

The Cannabis Dividend

Lord William Hague has come out for cannabis legalisation and we are happy to say that we stand with the noble Lord. Sam Dumitriu, our Head of Research, says:

"Lord Hague is right to move beyond drug policy dogma and call for the legalisation, regulation, and taxation of cannabis.

"We estimate that legalisation would raise at least £1bn a year for the Treasury, on top of reduced policing and prosecuting costs. The ‘cannabis dividend’ could be spent on expanding access to addiction treatment centres and reducing wait-times for mental health services on the NHS. 

"Just as the prohibition of alcohol failed in the US, the prohibition of cannabis has failed here. Ensuring that licensed shops, not criminal gangs, are able to sell cannabis for recreational use will prevent sales to minors and ensure users are informed through product labelling. 

"We should follow Canada’s lead and regulate cannabis."

To arrange an interview, or for further comment please contact Matt Kilcoyne via email (matt@adamsmith.org) or phone (02072224995 or 07584778207).