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Greg Mulholland shows his liberal credentials

By Angela Harbutt
February 4th, 2010 at 8:29 pm | 11 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Having given Greg Mulholland a bit of a hard time recently, it’s only fair that I highlight this Early Day Motion (EDM) – also from Greg. Great stuff. This particular EDM concerns the Sec state for health “considering” an extension of the smoking ban to include beer gardens and the outside of pubs. I did not agree with every word in the EDM and would have liked some reference to some of the other measures (such as the possible move to enforce plain-packaging on all cigarette packs) but I did approve of his point that  “there needs to be a reasonable balance between protecting the rights of non-smokers and the rights of adults who smoke”. Nice one Greg. 

It should be noted that NO OTHER MP signed this motion. Not one. I am not sure quite how an MP goes about getting signatures- but, assuming there was not some clerical cock up of some description, where or where are the Liberal Democrat MPs signatures?

You can read the EDM here…

EDM 785: EXTENSION OF THE SMOKING BAN 03.02.2010 ” That this House is concerned over the Secretary of State for Health’s review of the current smoking ban legislation and its possible extension to include beer gardens, outside pubs and designated smoking areas; notes that pubs, bars and other similar venues have already had to make considerable alterations to their premises in order to adapt to the smoking ban; further notes that pubs have already suffered serious economic repercussions since the introduction of the smoking ban by way of lost revenue and the costs incurred by building smoking shelters; observes that smoking has serious health implications and supports measures to discourage it; however believes that there needs to be a reasonable balance between protecting the rights of non-smokers and the rights of adults who smoke; deems that this balance would not be maintained if smoking in an open air beer garden or legal smoking shelter were banned; further believes that pubs play a hugely important function in the communities they serve; fears that if pubs are required to place further draconian restrictions on smoking then people will choose to stay at home and pubs will no longer be able to perform an important function at the heart of the community; and is concerned that if people are forced to stay at home and smoke this may have health implications on family members and visitors, including young children, due to the dangers of passive smoking”

 Update: Simon Clark over at “Taking Liberties”  has echoed our nod to Greg Mulholland. He says.. “Obviously I don’t agree with every single word – the dangers of passive smoking on “family members and visitors” has been greatly exaggerated – but beggars can’t be choosers so congratulations to Greg Mulholland for making a stand on this issue”

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Govt proposals written on a back of a fag packet..

By Angela Harbutt
February 1st, 2010 at 7:26 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

fag-packet-initiativesAndy Burnham today announced his plan to cut the number of smokers from 21% of the population to 10% in the next decade. This seems to be at the cost of intellectual property rights and freedom of trade of tobacco companies; will result in a huge increase in counterfeiting, causing pain for legitimate companies and consumers; put money into the pockets of organised crime, whilst reducing government tax revenue; and will impinge on our rights as European citizens to move goods and trade freely around the EU. How many lawsuits will follow? Plenty I reckon.

 To be specific. Todays illiberal plans announced by Oberführer Burnham include…

*A review of the law to consider if areas like entrances to buildings should be included in the smoking ban as part of further measures to protect children which would include the promotion of smoke-free homes and cars.

Yes folks they really are thinking of banning people from using a perfectly legal product within their own homes. If Government had its own way we would have neighbour spying on and reporting neightbour. Remind you of anything? Mr Burnham has said that he thinks that banning smoking in ones own home may be a step to far against freedom of choice – ha! – but you can tell he would do it if he could. More likely this will involve a ban on smoking within say 10 (20?) yards or so of any entrance to a public building. Assuming that is in anyway enforcable, non-smokers entering a pub may not have to walk past a dozen cold and wet individuals puffing on their smokes – but where does anyone expect smokers to go. You may say glibly “into the side alley”. But if you are really proposing that young women are forced to stand in dimly lit side alleys to indulge in a perfectly legal activity – then be prepared to see a increase in assaults, rapes and goodness knows what else as a result. Expect a further reduction in smokers visiting pubs – and therefore another swathe of pub closures – as people choose to stay at home.

* Stopping the sale of tobacco from vending machines, considered a significant source of tobacco for young people.

The argument is that this is to stop easy access of cigarettes to children. Never mind that solutions such as machines requiring a token to be handed from the owner of the vending machine for the machine to work would solve this problem. And if kids want to smoke – trust me they will find a way – they always do.

* Immediate investment in extra overseas officers to stop 200 million illicit cigarettes entering the UK every year.

I dont have a problem with this – except I can think of ooh about a hundred ways to spend the money on things that actually matter. And by the way has no one told Mr Burnham we know , even if he doesnt,  that we dont have the money for this sort of frivolity. And if this becomes an excuse to stop the ordinary consumer from purchasing large quantitities of cigarettes for their own consumption from countries within the EU then I do have a problem – you cant pick and choose which bits of free trade within the EU you are going to allow and which bits you are not.

* NHS support for every smoker who wants to give up, at times and in places that suit them.

Did no one tell this Govt that we are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy – yet here we have a government spending money like a man with no arms. This is because, we are told, that the NHS bill of smokers is £2.7 billion a year. Whats the Government income from excise and VAT from tobacco companies? About £10 billion? What is the government doing with the other £7billion that’s what I want to know?

* Government consideration of the case for plain packaging for cigarettes.

The most obvious result of such a move will be mass counterfeiting – mainly from organised crime I imagine, and it will impinge on intellectual property rights and freedom of trade of the legitimate tax-paying companies.  This will surely be vigorously challenged in courts of law -and rightly. I wonder how much tax revenue the Government will actually lose as  result? Consumers will no longer know if they are buying authentic or phoney products. Lawsuits aplenty will follow. I also fail to see what real EVIDENCE there is that branding on cigarette packets is causing people to take up smoking. Sure, without branding people may SWITCH from an expensive brand to a cheaper one – but that is about market share, not the size of the market. Cigarettes are sexy to kids because they are not allowed them – not because Marlboro or Silk Cut have marketing skills on a par with Derren Brown.

CONFUSED?

I am . The Health Bill 2009 was introduced to Parliament on 15 January 2010. It already includes proposals to tackle smoking. Specifically it proposes to remove tobacco displays in shops and to restrict the sale of cigarettes from vending machines. So why are the government proposing a DOUBLE ban on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines or is Andy Burnham and this decaying Government up to their old tricks – cobbling together new iniatives that are not throught-through and rehash old initiatives ( just not THAT old on this occassion)to make it look more impressive than it is. Why introduce a HEALTH BILL dealing with tobacco on January 15th, then introduce FURTHER regulation on smoking a couple of weeks later.? I will tell you why. Because this sad and sorry Government has announced yet another set of “initiatives” cobbled together on the back of a FAG packet to grab a few cheap headlines.

So muggers, rapists, crime lords, counterfeiters and lawyers rejoice.This charter is for you. Liberals, law-abiding citizens, young women, pub-goers, parents, taxpayers, publicans and newsagents, be afraid because its you they are out to make your life a whole lot harder if not down-right dangerous.

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GUEST POST: The Era of Laissez-Faire?

By admin
February 1st, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Comments Off on GUEST POST: The Era of Laissez-Faire? | Posted in Economics, International Politics

klein_06_smallOne of the established memes about the financial crisis is that it demonstrates the failure of unfettered capitalism, the dog-eat-dog, laissez-faire environment that prevailed in the West over the last few decades, all driven by the ideology of “free-market fundamentalism.” This seems to be a truism among most of the Commentariat. Of course, as pointed out repeatedly on this blog, the truth is virtually the opposite: there was never any “deregulation,” the Bush Administration spent public money like a drunken sailor, and government continued to expand as it always does. But a picture is worth a thousand words, so try these on for size. (US data; click charts for sources.)

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One response I sometimes hear is “Sure, there are more regulations and more government spending, but the set of things that should be regulated and the amount of government spending the economy needs are growing even faster!” This is essentially the Krugman-DeLong view about the stimulus: it just wasn’t big enough. Or they say that financial markets were “deregulated,” de facto, because the number of regulations and regulators increased more slowly than the number of new financial instruments and new markets. I wonder, though: are these falsifiable propositions? No matter how big the government is, if there are any problems, it’s always because the government isn’t big enough!

This post is authored by Peter G. Klein, an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri and Adjunct Professor at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration. He usually blogs at Organizations and Markets, where this post first appeared.

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