Government Brexit strategy isn't in crisis, says Tim Worstall in CityAM

Senior ASI fellow Tim Worstall appeared in CityAM online and in print, quashing fears that the Brexit strategy was "in crisis":

To claim that anyone’s Brexit strategy is in crisis is to misunderstand what a strategy is. It is the goal that you have decided to reach.

Britain’s strategy in World War II was the unconditional surrender of Germany – everything else was tactics. Hulk’s strategy is “Smash!”. Britain’s strategy with respect to Brexit is: “Thank you, it’s been great, we’re leaving. Maybe we can do lunch some day?” Everything else is simply tactics.

Do we stay in the Single Market? The Customs Union? Allow free movement? These are all tactical decisions – ones we cannot possibly make until we know what cost the EU will impose for each. My own prediction is that the cost of staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union will be free movement – the one price we’ve said we’re not willing to pay. As every general knows, tactics are to be dealt with by junior officers.

Having voted to leave the EU, the strategy has been set. We must now let the junior officers get on with it.

High Pay Centre's Fat Cat Wednesday figures don't make sense, says Sam Bowman in the IB Times

Executive Director Sam Bowman's comments appeared in the International Business Times, criticising the High Pay Centre's figures on executive pay:

"None of these complaints are valid unless the High Pay Centre thinks it has a better way of estimating the value of executives to firms than those firms themselves. Can the High Pay Centre tell us how much CEOs are worth? If not, how can they say that they are overpaid?

"Chief executives can be worth quite a lot to firms, as is shown by huge moves in company share prices when good CEOs are hired, or bad CEOs are fired. Steve Jobs can make a firm; Steve Ballmer can break a firm. The High Pay Commission's complaints only make sense if you assume firms don't actually care about making money – which is to say, they don't make sense at all."

Council Tax hike to pay for social housing - Sam Bowman comment

Ahead of the government's announcement that it will allow English local authorities to raise council tax bills to pay for social care, Sam Bowman made the following comment:

Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said:

"If the state is going to shoulder a large part of the social care burden it makes sense that other benefits to the elderly should be cut to help pay for it. The triple lock, in particular, is forcing us to divert funds to those who do not need it – with inflation at just over 1 percent the triple lock requires a 1 percent real terms increase at a minimum when all other areas of government spending are being cut.

"Council tax rises would hit landowners, who may be older on average, because when council tax bills rise, rents generally fall in proportion to that. But a tax rise would be a blunt tool. If it’s cost-effective to means test things like free bus passes and the winter fuel allowance, that might be another way to make sure we’re not wasting money on wealthier pensioners, but all means testing that looks at assets (like the size of your pension pot or the value of your home) is a harmful disincentive to saving, which makes us all poorer.

"All of this is a poor second-best for making people pay their own way: the government should start planning for the long-term by requiring people to save for their old age care now, topping up the contributions of people on low incomes, so that when they get older they have a pot of savings dedicated to their social care. This is the only way to guarantee care for all in the long run and create a stable path for an ageing society. "

For further comment or to arrange and interview please get in touch: flora@adamsmith.org, 02072224995.

Reassuringly boring, but a missed opportunity - Adam Smith Institute on the Autumn Statement

In response to the Autumn Statement the Adam Smith Institute made the below comments.

For further comment or to arrange and interview please get in touch via flora@adamsmith.org, +44 20 7222 4995.

Missed Opportunity:

“Philip Hammond should be congratulated for delivering a dull, quiet Autumn Statement that was largely free of gimmicks, but it was a missed opportunity for pro-growth tax cuts that could have strengthened the British economy.
“Scrapping the Autumn Statement and only having one major fiscal event every year is a good thing – the temptation is for Chancellors to tinker and buy off voting groups with little policies that add up to more complexity in the tax system and more distortions in the economy. With only one Budget a year, we may see a more sober and holistic approach to Britain’s finances from Mr Hammond’s Treasury.
“Though we’re pleased this didn’t have quite as many giveaways and gimmicks as the average Osborne budget, the Chancellor could have cut the taxes that hold back growth the most to boost economic growth. Stamp duty is a terrible tax that gums up the housing market and stops people from moving into better jobs; our corporation tax rate is still too high; and capital gains tax deters investment. By not touching these anti-growth taxes, the Chancellor has not done enough to buoy the economy after Brexit.” – Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute


Growth and Debt:

"It is encouraging that the Chancellor has got the UK’s three biggest problems exactly right: productivity, housing, and regional divides. Autumn Statement policies like investing in Northern infrastructure, devolving power to city regions, and deregulating the housing market will go some distance towards chipping away at these.
"And the overall outlook is relatively optimistic. The employment rate is at an all-time peak—74.5%—unemployment is at an 11-year low, and we are predicted to grow solidly over the next five years, except for a 2017 dip to 1.4% due to Brexit uncertainties. We may like or dislike policy tinkering, but it seems that the macroeconomy lumbers on steadily regardless, and small changes pale into comparison versus these headline effects." - Ben Southwood, Head of Research of the Adam Smith Institute


Fuel Duty:

"It's nonsense for the Chancellor to claim that he's saved motorists £130 a year by cancelling a planned rise in fuel duty. The Fuel Duty Escalator exists in name only - it hasn't gone up for the last five years and has been frozen for two more.
Whatever the merits of raising or cutting fuel duty, it helps no one for the government to constantly announce then scrap rises in the tax. Businesses want certainty to plan for the future, if he's not going to stick to his promises then the Chancellor should scrap the escalator altogether." - Sam Dumitriu, Head of Projects at the Adam Smith Institute

A tidal wave of coverage for latest Tide Effect report

Our most recent report on legalising and regulating cannabis in the UK, in partnership with Volteface, has received blanket coverage across national, broadcast, consumer and regional media.

The story topped UK Reddit as well as trending on Facebook on launch day. 

This morning The Daily Telegraph ran Sam Bowman's letter to the editor, signed by key supporters of cannabis legalisation, from MP's to scientists, whose support led to the following coverage for the report.

National media:

BBC News reported on the story twice, creating an animation of the key report findings. 

The Times ran four print articles. 

The Daily Telegraph ran the story as the page 2 leader.

The Sun also covered on page 2, and ran two stories online.

The Daily Mail ran as the main story on the inside page.

The Daily Mirror also ran on page 2.

The Guardian's article received over 1,000 reader comments and was shared nearly 5,000 times.

Metro readers supported the report in the papers online poll, with 93% wanting legalisation.

The i ran the story in print.

The Independent's piece received nearly 500 comments, was shared 11,000 times and trended on Reddit. They ran a second piece focussing on the tax revenue.

City AM ran the story in print and online.

The Daily Express, The Scotsman, and The Herald also covered the report. As did key sites including Guido Fawkes, Conservative Home, the IBTimes, and The Week.

Broadcast:

Sky News ran a poll in response to the report, revealing support for legalising medicinal cannabis.

Sky News also ran the story in their news bulletins throughout the morning and interviewed cannabis campaigner Clark French.

Sky interviewed Peter Lilley MP later in the day on the benefits of legalising cannabis.

Before finally interviewing Dr. Henry Fisher of Volteface for the evening news.

Sky Sunrise conducted an excellent interview with Baroness Molly Meacher, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform on the report.

Good Morning Britain ran an interview with Sam Bowman in their news bulletins throughout the morning as well as a full segment on the topic with Peter Lilley MP expressing his support.

ITV 1 interviewed Sam Bowman for their lunchtime news segment on the report.

 

BBC 2's Victoria Derbyshire featured an interview with Norman Lamb MP, and ran it as part of the news bulletin throughout the programme. 

Channel 4 included the story in its news bulletin throughout the day.

Channel 5 News spoke with Sam Bowman and ran the story through the day.

LBC's Nick Ferrari also spoke to Sam Bowman on the report.

5Live ran an hour long discussion with Flora Morris up against David Raynes. 

BBC Radio 4's Today Programme included the report in their news bulletin.

And finally, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 6, BBC Sussex, BBC Wales, BBC Bristol, BBC Tees, BBC London, Talk Radio, Heart FM, Kiss FM and many more also covered the story in their news bulletins throughout the day.

Consumer titles:

As with our Sinnovation paper, cannabis legalisation caught the attention of the consumer titles landing coverage on The Debrief, Esquire, Vice, Lad Bible (not twice but thrice), and Mashable.

Regional:

The paper received a write up from the Yorkshire post and a further 220 regional papers and radio stations.

Additional links and broadcast clips will be added to the above, for any further information please contact flora@adamsmith.org. 

UK DRUGS POLICY AN EMBARRASSMENT, WE MUST MODERNISE AND LEGALISE

UK DRUGS POLICY AN EMBARRASSMENT, WE MUST MODERNISE AND LEGALISE
New study reveals shameful failures in UK’s drug strategy and calls for legalisation and regulation of cannabis in the UK

  • California among latest US states to legalize cannabis
  • Major western democracies taking pragmatic policy decisions, leaving UK floundering
  • UK cannabis market worth £6.8bn a year, and as much as £1.05bn to the Treasury
  • Cannabis related offenders in UK prison hits 1,363, costing taxpayer £50m a year
  • World leaders, international institutions and medical bodies all calling for legalisation over political posturing

The government must acknowledge that cannabis legalisation is the only workable solution to the problems of crime and addiction in the UK and modernise and legalise, says a new report released this morning by the Adam Smith Institute and Volteface.

The current policy around cannabis in Britain is a messy patchwork of legislation intermittently enforced by regional police forces. The Home Office, which is responsible for developing and enforcing the UK’s drugs strategy, has been accused of trying to alter Whitehall reports that show no link between tough laws and the levels of illegal drug use, putting political posturing above real outcomes. 

The report urges politicians and the public to recognise that the UK’s drugs strategy has failed in its core aims to prevent people from using drugs, manufacturing drugs, and to put a stop to the crime, corruption and death that is taking place on an industrial scale around the world. More than half of the British public and three quarters of MPs believe that Britain’s current drug policies are ineffective and a new approach is needed.

The time for a root and branch reform of UK cannabis policy is long overdue. Following the lead of the USA, who legalised recreational marijuana in a further four states in November, we must start discussing ways to regulate cannabis in the UK. The UK should legalise cannabis to ensure that the product meets acceptable standards, remove criminal gangs form the equation, raise revenue for the Treasury and protect public health.

The legal UK cannabis market could be worth £6.8bn annually, and produce benefits to the government of between £750m and £1.05bn in tax revenues and lower criminal justice costs. The numbers of offenders in prison for cannabis related offences in England and Wales would also be likely to drop from the current 1,363 inmates, costing the taxpayer £50m a year.

The World Health Organisation agrees that prohibition has led to policies and enforcement practices that entrench discrimination, propagate human rights violations, contribute to violence related criminal networks and deny people access to the interventions they need to improve their health. The British Medical Journal has come out in support of legalisation, stating that the ban on the production, supply, possession and use of some drugs for non-medical purposes was causing huge harm.

More than 90 countries have at least begun to introduce harm reduction policies alongside those aimed at enforcement and punishment. The Netherlands has effectively decriminalised cannabis since 1976 and Portugal since 2001.Germany is on the brink of fully legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes and Canada is paving the way for full legalisation and regulation.

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said: “Knowing what I know now, I would resist the temptation to resort to the law to tackle the harm from cannabis.” We must overcome the prejudices and the negative language surrounding cannabis to create a new drugs strategy that actually works for the UK. 

Liberal Democrat MP Nick Clegg said:
“British politicians need to open their eyes to what is happening in the rest of the world. Cannabis prohibition is being swept away on a tide of popular opinion and replaced with responsible legal regulation. Now is the time for Ministers to start writing the rules for this legal market, including age limits and health warnings, so that we can finally take back control from the criminal gangs.”

Co-Leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP, said:

“The ‘War on Drugs’ has been an abject failure, and the continued criminalization of cannabis users is deeply counterproductive. Britain needs an evidence-based drugs policy, rather than continuing the expensive and ineffective prohibition regime. I welcome this study and urge Government ministers to urgently take a fresh look at our drugs laws.”

Labour MP Paul Flynn said: 
“The UK's 45 years of harsh prohibition has multiplied use and harm. A legal market would destroy the drug's attraction as forbidden fruit and encourage users to ingest cannabis, of known strength and quality, in ways that will the avoid deadly dangers of smoking.”

Conservative MP Peter Lilley said:
“It is time we legalized cannabis.  Currently cannabis can only be obtained from illegal gangs who also push hard drugs.   So we are driving soft drugs users into the arms of hard drugs pushers.”

Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said:
“While recognising the harm that can be caused by enriched and artificial drugs based on cannabis, I do support the legalisation of natural cannabis and would welcome an independent inquiry into the effectiveness of drug policy in general. There can be no doubt that just as Prohibition – on the sale of alcohol – failed in the United States and encouraged gangsterism, the banning of drugs has promoted a wicked and lucrative black market which pushes illegal drugs on the innocent. The argument that excessive amounts of even natural cannabis might do harm just doesn’t wash. The same can be said of alcohol or even sugary drinks; both of which can eventually lead to death. We need a grown up debate on this whole issue and a national education programme on the use and abuse of drugs.”
 
Steve Moore, Director, Volteface, said:
“The global movement towards legalisation, regulation and taxation of cannabis is now inexorable. Today in the UK there is capricious policing of cannabis and no regulation of its sales and distribution.  This quasi-decriminalisation of cannabis leaves criminals running a multi-billion dollar racket and exposes teenage kids to criminality. The evidence is now clear that regulated markets for cannabis cut crime and protect vulnerable children. The Government's current policy vacuum is untenable in the face of this evidence.”
 
Sam Bowman, Executive Director at the Adam Smith Institute, said:
“As Canada becomes the first G7 country to legalise cannabis for recreational use and more and more big US states do the same, Britain needs to re-evaluate its own drugs policies to make sure this growing market is in the hands of legitimate, regulates businesses – not criminal gangs. We have a growing body of evidence from abroad that legalisation and smart regulation are much better ways of curbing the harms cannabis can cause to users and their communities, and that straightforward bans just push users into the hands of criminals. Cannabis is enjoyed by many otherwise law-abiding people and making criminals of them makes an ass of the law – the only sensible approach now is to legalise and regulate.”

Hurrah for Sajid Javid and his planning reforms

Following the news that the government plans to relax planning restrictions to allow more homes to be built, Ben Southwood made these delighted comments:

“Hurrah for Sajid Javid, as he proposes to drop light restrictions in order to build more terraces and mansion blocks.
"Cities do not need to be like Hong Kong to give everyone decent living space at reasonable rents: places like Paris and Barcelona are far denser than Oxford, Manchester or London, without being dystopian. Inner London itself has shed people since we replaced its terraces with towers, and those that remain are widely sought after.
“Javid and the government must push ahead with these reforms and more, including building on a small fraction of the Green Belt, so Britain’s cities can look more like central Paris and less like suburban Moscow."

For further information or to arrange an interview please email flora@adamsmith.org.

Sam Bowman calls for the abolition of Stamp Duty in The Daily Telegraph

Sam Bowman writing for the Daily Telegraph has called for abolition of Stamp Duty, calling it the worst tax we have.

This week we learnt that George Osborne’s 2014 reforms of the tax created nearly as many problems as they solved, reducing both revenues and transactions. It might well be the worst tax we have, and it generates less than 2 per cent of total tax yields. Forget reforming stamp duty – we should be scrapping the damned thing altogether.
The more buyers and sellers there are in a market the better things are for all of these people. Lots of buyers and sellers means more output for everyone, and competition keeps prices down. Stamp duty land tax is often what gets in the way. It is what economists refer to as a 'transactions tax', meaning that it gums up the system and adds costs to buyers and sellers of properties, putting both off that exchange.
The case against stamp duty is simple and powerful. It locks people into properties they don't want to be in and imposes huge costs on one of the most important purchases people will ever make. It is rightly resented by all who have to deal with it, and the forgone revenues would likely be made up for by the increased economic activity that scrapping would generate. The new Chancellor has a lot to do, but eliminating stamp duty should be top of his agenda. 

Read the article in full here.