ASI conference line up grabs headlines with drugs debate

There was a host of great ASI events at party conference this year, with our offering leading the Spectators fridge guide listings, but one talk really caught he media's attention. 

The Independent reported:

"A former Conservative justice minister has revealed that he was discouraged from asking difficult questions about drugs policy – for fear that looking at evidence could “unpick” the status quo.
Crispin Blunt, who was in charge of prisons and probations at the Ministry of Justice from 2010 until 2012, said he was told during ministerial discussions that it would politically unwise to ask how much the prohibition of drugs was costing the UK prison system.
The MP, who now chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said policy on drugs had “ceased to be based on the evidence” and that “a remarkable number of other public policy makers who’ve been in charge in policy in this area” had come to support decriminalisation, legalisation, or other fundamental change.
Mr Blunt suggested that the Conservatives should use their poll lead and the perceived long-term chaos in the Labour party to put forward ideas on drugs policy that might be controversial."

Buzzfeed reported:

"All drugs, including heroin and cocaine, should be regulated by the government, a Conservative MP has told BuzzFeed News. Crispin Blunt, the former prisons minister, said he would like to see measures in place so all drugs could be taxed and controlled, and has called for a public inquiry into whether the law should be changed.
Speaking after an event on cannabis decriminalisation at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Blunt said he believed prime minister Theresa May could eventually be persuaded to back him due to pressure from the international community.
Blunt said he was unaware of any Conservative parliamentary colleagues who supported him on drug decriminalisation, saying there was pressure on MPs who wanted to advance their careers to not speak up about the “politically difficult” issue."


Sajid Javid to announce planning reform inspired by ASI paper

Britain will build hundreds of thousands of new homes twice as quickly as normal, Sajid Javid is to announce at Conservative Party Conference today. And it looks like the Secretary of State may have taken policy inspiration from ASI's smash hit report, The Green Noose.

The plan will see enhanced planning powers to allow construction of houses and apartments on land, much of it derelict around railway stations especially in the South East.

The Mail reported that "calculations suggest that acquiring just 4% of the land adjacent to stations could create space for the construction of an extra 100,000 homes a year for some considerable time ahead", and you can read more about those figures in our paper. 

Ben Southwood, Head of Research at the ASI, responded:

“The ASI is delighted that Sajid Javid and the government are backing our strategy for planning reform and allowing the market to build houses where existing infrastructure already exists, without encroaching onto outstanding natural beauty.
“If the government goes ahead and allows 100,000 houses or more to be constructed each year it could make a huge dent in the UKs housing crisis, drastically increasing the affordability of rents and prices.”

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at | 07584 778207.

Dr Madsen Pirie tries to work out, just what is the worst Labour policy?

President of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Madsen Pirie, was trying to decide just what was the worst Labour policy in City AM this week.

Dr Madsen Pirie, founder and president of the Adam Smith Institute, says plans for an "interventionist state".

Should investment be decided by people using their own money to back the future goods and services that people might want to buy, or should politicians use other people’s money to decide what industrial support might win them votes?
Should we invest in the future, or pour money into supporting the present status quo? Labour has made a catastrophically wrong choice. Intervention raises prices and living costs. It uses taxpayers’ money to subsidise industries that cannot make it on their own in world markets, or it sets tariffs against foreign goods to make domestic consumers and producers pay more. It makes UK goods more expensive and less competitive on world markets.
Governments talk of “picking winners” but they lack the expertise or motivation to anticipate the future. Instead they support declining industries to gain the support of those involved in them, and divert investment from the up and coming industries that will yield tomorrow’s growth and jobs. Governments always pick losers.

Read the opposing side here

Good riddance Help to Buy

Following the news that Philip Hammond is to scrap the Help to Buy scheme, Sam Dumitriu praised the decision in the press:

"Philip Hammond is right to dump George Osborne's misguided mortgage guarantee scheme. The Adam Smith Institute has consistently called for the scheme to scrapped, publishing the paper "Burning down the house" in 2013, arguing that increasing liquidity in the housing market through government intervention will do little to solve the UK’s long-run housing supply shortage.
“Britain's housing crisis is the result of supply being unable to meet rising demand. Help to Buy only served to make this problem worse, pushing up prices through cheap credit, while doing nothing to address the underlying housing shortage.
“There is a better way. Liberalise our antiquated planning laws to allow new building in the areas that people actually want to live.”

The comment was covered by The Daily Express, MetroThe Sun, Daily Mail, ITVLBCSky News and 355 regional titles. 

Ben Southwood says Andy Burnham wrong to aim quotas at foreign footballers

Following Andy Burnham's suggestion we should slap quotas on the number of foreign players plying their trade in our football leagues, ASI head of research Ben Southwood said:

It’s Andy Burnham against the world as the MP proposes to slap quotas on foreign stars in the England’s top club competition, based on nothing more than a gut feeling.

If he studied the data, he'd find that cracking down on foreign players in the Premier League would undermine the quality of football there without helping England do any better in international competitions.

Though foreign players lead to a lower quantity of minutes played by natives, they raise the quality of those minutes, which seems to balance out overall. Do we really think our defenders would be better if they'd never faced up against Zlatan or Aguero?
Before Burnham pronounces on things he doesn't know anything about, he might want to read my paper Sweet FA.

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at | 07584 778207.

The link for the telegraph article is here.


A sinful amount of coverage for latest ASI report

The latest ASI report, SINNOVATION: How markets can solve public health problems, has caused a storm in the press. Unsurprisingly the promise of hangover free drinking caught the medias' imagination on Friday morning:

The Daily Telegraph reported:

Leaving the European Union will allow manufacturers to bring forward a new generation of hangover-free drinks, a leading think tank has said.
Strict EU regulations are holding back the development of synthetic alcohols, which give drinkers the sensation of being tipsy without a hangover or long-term health hazards, according to the Adam Smith Institute.

Sam Bowman wrote in the Daily Telegraph:

Consider this a peace offering from the libertarians to the public health lobby. We don’t want to fight any more. Let’s accept that people have the right to smoke and drink what they want – but design our regulations so that the market can give them the safest, least harmful cigs and booze possible.

The Scotsman reported:

A synthetic “hangover-free” alcohol product could have “seismic effects on public health”, a report from the Adam Smith Institute has claimed – but warns it is being blocked by government regulations. The study said that the innovation, currently named “Alcosynth” – which gives the drinker the sensation of tipsiness without the loss of control – could be up to 100 times safer than the real thing due to the lack of toxins.

The Sun wrote:

These safer products could save thousands of lives every year and it says post-Brexit innovation must be allowed to flourish so they are widely available. In the UK alcohol is responsible for 10% of deaths and disease and Alcosynth, a synthetic version, is 100 times safer and hangover free. Despite these benefits, at the moment it faces harsh regulations. And e-cigarettes are 95% safer than fags but regulations mean companies are not allowed to market the comparable health benefits.

City AM reported:

Think tank the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) has recommended the government replaces “self-defeating regulation” on products such as e-cigarettes and hangover-free synthetic alcohol with a system of “permissionless innovation”. Scrapping EU regulations such as the Tobacco Products Directive, which has choked off e-cigarette marketing, and ditching the UK’s emphasis on abstinence campaigns would pave a new regulatory pathway for alternatives to be developed and marketed, according to the report.

The Daily Mail reported:

The new research from the Adam Smith Institute says heavy-handed EU and UK government laws have held back the development of safer alternatives to drinking and smoking.
Public health officials are mindlessly pursuing abstinence campaigns, while ignoring risk reduction products that could save thousands more lives every year, it says.

The Daily Star reported:

The report also says e-cigarettes, which are 95% safer than regular cigarettes, can’t be widely marketed due to EU rules. The report calls on Theresa May to step away from EU regulation after Brexit and allow “permission-less innovation”.

The Daily Express reported:

The report claims that following Brexit, Britain has the “chance to be a leader in ‘vice’-related risk reduction and save thousands of lives every year – if it allows innovation to flourish”. 
The report refers to alcohol alternative Alcosynth, which could be up to 100 times safer than alcohol but is banned from being sold to consumers. It is a non-toxic inebriant based on benzodiazepine, a derivative of Valium.

The Daily Express was so pleased they wrote it twice.

As did the Daily Mirror, Daily Mirror.

The UK has the chance to be a leader in 'vice' related risk reduction and save thousands of lives every year - if it allows innovation to flourish, according to the study.
Products which could have seismic effects on public health are being kept off the shelves by 'morality police' and self defeating regulations, says a think tank.

ThisisMoney reported:

Despite slashing smoker numbers, e-cigarettes have been hampered by regulation. 
Although they are 95 per cent safer than combustible cigarettes according to Public Health England, e-cigarette companies are unable to market their comparative health benefits to the public.
And the latest round of EU regulations will make the development of newer, better, and safer e-cigarettes for consumers much more difficult.

The Independent reported:

Researcher Guy Bentley worked with Professor Nutt on a new report by the liberal think tank the Adam Smith Institute into alcosynth regulation. 
Mr Bentley told The Independent he hoped to persuade the government to accept the drug as a way of reducing the harm caused by alcohol.
“[The report] is trying to spark what happened with e-cigarettes and tobacco, but with alcohol," he said. "Professor Nutt has been experimenting on this for a long time, but I thought to myself - ‘where is it?’ I wanted my hangover-free booze.”

The Evening Standard reported:

Fans of alcosynth also suggest it could relieve a huge burden from the NHS, as alcohol is the third biggest risk factor for disease and death in the UK behind smoking and obesity.

Sam Bowman also appeared on Sky Sunrise, with the interview syndicated across the country.


New study reveals discoveries in cigarettes and alcohol sector could have seismic effects on public health, but are currently blocked by “morality police”

  • Alcohol responsible for 10% of UK death and disease
  • New synthetic alcohol, Alcosynth, 100 times safer and hangover free
  • Alcosynth faces harsh regulation despite being a major public health benefit
  • E-cigarettes 95% safer than combustible cigarettes but can’t market themselves as such
  • Post-Brexit Britain has the chance to be a leader in ‘vice’-related risk reduction and save thousands of lives every year – if it allows innovation to flourish

The UK has the opportunity to be a world leader in reducing the risks of drinking and smoking following its exit from the European Union, a new paper from the Adam Smith Institute released this morning reports.

The new study reveals how heavy-handed EU and UK government regulations have held back the development of safer alternatives to drinking and smoking, with public health officials pursuing abstinence campaigns to the detriment of risk reduction products that could save thousands more lives every year.

The report includes interviews with the developer of a new synthetic alcohol which gives users the sensation of being tipsy without the hangover or long term health hazards. The product, currently named ‘Alcosynth’, could be up to 100 times safer than the real thing but is blighted by regulatory burdens that are holding safer products back from consumers.

With as much as 10% of UK deaths and diseases caused by alcohol consumption, and upwards of 60 medical conditions associated with drinking, these risk reduction products should be taken seriously as public health goods, the paper argues. 

Despite slashing smoker numbers, e-cigarettes been hampered by regulation. Although they are 95% safer than combustible cigarettes according to Public Health England, e-cig companies are unable to market their comparative health benefits to the public, and the latest round of EU regulations will make the development of newer, better, and safer e-cigarettes for consumers much more difficult.

As the latest innovation of ‘heat not burn’ tobacco products is brought to market the report underlines the importance of fostering innovation and competition on safety. Regulators are becoming increasingly restrictive rather than fostering innovative and satisfying alternatives to smoking and drinking.

Theresa May’s government would be wise to utilise Brexit to throw out regulation like the the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive and save thousands of lives a year. Replacing it with a system of ‘permissionless innovation’ where a regulatory pathway for safer products to be developed and marketed is created, both by big players and by new entrants to the market.

Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said:
“It’s innovation not regulation that got us e-cigarettes. They emerged and prospered in spite of regulation, proving to be the best way to get people to quit quickly that we know of. But despite this, misguided public health officials are trying to clamp down on them because of evidence-free and dangerous fears that they ‘normalise’ smoking.

“Other products like synthetic alcohol and reduced-risk tobacco products promise to repeat the success of e-cigs for new people, but only if we let them. It is crucial that the government does not stand in the way of hangover-free alcohol.

“Regulation must be flexible and encouraging of new products that are safer than the vices they’re competing with. Britain can be a world leader in safe alternatives to alcohol and cigarettes, but we need regulation that foster those things instead of stamping them out.”

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at | 07584 778207.

To report “SINNOVATION: How markets can solve public health problems” will be live on the Adam Smith Institute website from 00:01 Friday 23rd September 2016 and is available here in advance.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.

Sam Bowman discusses the difference between a hard and soft Brexit with the Daily Express

Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, spoke with the Daily Express this week, explaining the difference between a hard and soft Brexit. The piece reported:

Sam Bowman, executive director of free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, argued that most voters would prefer a soft exit that does not “wreck the economy”. He said: “I think we are going to get a soft Brexit. I think that the political will is not there for a hard Brexit.” 
Mr Bowman, who advocates a soft EU exit, said that the popular terms came from the idea that there will be either a soft or hard hit to the economy. He said: “A soft Brexit is one where you have an extensive free trade agreement or stay in the European Economic Area and single market.” 
But he said that a hard Brexit would see the UK leave the EU and single market altogether without much of a free trade agreement with the EU. Mr Bowman said that the soft Brexit camp believes that UK should take its time in leaving the economic aspects of the EU “very carefully”.
Mr Bowman said that immigration was the key “sticking point” in talks over striking a soft Brexit deal with the EU. But he suggested that the UK try to stop stop EU migrants from getting benefits, coming over without a job offer or bring family.

Read the piece in full here


Network Fail report keeps the coverage rolling in

The ASI's recent paper on the failures of Network Rail and the HS2 project has continued to draw attention from the press.

Andrew Marr discussed the "damning report" on Radio 4 Start the Week with guests Sir John Armitt, the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and Dame Margaret Hodge.

The Mail Online also covered the story over the weekend, reporting:

"Last week a hard-hitting report the Adam Smith Institute described the high speed link as 'economically irresponsible' and said 'the numbers simply do not stack up'. The thinktank said the £56billion earmarked for the project would be better spent on building quicker train links between Manchester and other Northern cities like Leeds to boost the economy in the North of England. 
"MPs on the public accounts committee last week warned that ministers had failed to set out realistic estimates of the likely cost and construction timetable for rail link. 
They said the Department for Transport's timetable was 'overly ambitious'.
They also raised doubts over the DfT's claim that it had found savings of up to £9billion in the £28.5billion budget for phase two, questioning if they could be made 'without adversely affecting the benefits of the programme'."

Latest ASI Border Force paper inspires Daily Mail channel crossing

The ASI's latest report, "The Border after Brexit: How technology can secure Britain’s borders", has inspired one Daily Mail journalist to make the journey across the channel in an inflatable boat.

Journalist Sue Reid made the 31 mile journey to Dover from Gravelines saying:

"This [journey] coincided with a chilling report by an influential think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute, which warned that Britain is being left ‘exposed’ to a terrorist attack by its failure to check thousands of people arriving from abroad.
"To find out how easy it is to slip unchallenged into Britain by sea, I hired a skipper and a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) with an outboard motor from a maritime firm near Rye to take us from the Kent coast to France — and then, crucially, to make the return journey."

The article appeared in print and online and can be read in full here.