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Give me your entrepreneurial masses, yearning to work hard

By Tom Papworth
March 28th, 2012 at 9:54 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Graeme Cowie has launched an e-petition on Direct Gov calling on the coalition to Abandon the Government’s Arbitrary Non-EU Immigration Cap.

The wording of the petition is as follows:

We the undersigned believe that the attempts by the Coalition government to restrict non-EU immigration by way of a cap has no evidential basis and that it should be removed. Contrary to the aims of its advocates, the cap harms the UK economy and with it the job prospects of UK citizens by discouraging enterprise and foreign investment.

Given that the Coalition government recognises in its agreement that immigration has “enriched our culture and strengthened our economy” it should not pander to populist and protectionist measures which allow our labour market to stagnate and our skills-base to insulate itself from modernisation.

We consider that the existing points system does not benefit from an arbitrary cap on non-EU immigration. Removing the cap will send out two important messages. Firstly it will show that Britain is open for business. Secondly it will make us a more tolerant and culturally enriched society.

It is certainly true that combining a points-based system with an arbitrary cap is less belt-and-braces and more flogging a dead horse. In fact, the points-based system is itself deeply flawed, ignoring as it does the huge demand for unskilled labour in this country which – under our current welfare system – is not being met by the domestic “reserve army of labour”.

Personally I hate the expression “Britain is open for business”, but I’ll forgive Graeme that small slip because it’s otherwise a great petition.

I urge all Liberal Vision readers to sign the petition.

Lazy, immigrants, freeloading off the state.

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Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step”

By Guest
March 26th, 2012 at 4:23 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government, health, Nannying, Nudge Dredd, Personal Freedom

Last week witnessed a remarkable low when the leader of a coalition between a party claiming to oppose top down dictatorial government and another claiming to be liberal, announced his support for exactly the  kind of mass social engineering that most of us hoped had died a death with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Sir Ian Gilmore

As I pointed out in a previous post, minimum pricing adherents are not at all ashamed of the totalitarian nature of their plans and indeed have actively sought to persuade our elected representatives of the “rewards” to be gleaned from emulating Soviet policy on alcohol. They did in the process of course focus on short term successes and completely failed to mention the disastrous longer term consequences of said Soviet policy. Zealots and fanatics rarely allow the truth to get in the way of their endless campaigns which is one reason why it is generally a bad idea to appease them.

David Cameron and his government appear to have ignored conventional wisdom with regard to appeasement by caving in to a deeply dishonest campaign for minimum alcohol pricing spearheaded by the medical establishment. A campaign that has, amongst other unsavoury tactics, seen the public lied to about the real price of alcohol, misled over the number of hospital admissions related to alcohol and kept in the dark about positive trends in both attitude and consumption.

At least I have to assume The Prime Minister’s spineless capitulation is an attempt to appease the zealots as the alternative explanation that he and his cabinet truly believe a 40p minimum price per unit will “mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths per year by the end of the decade” would be evidence that the country really is being run by fools.

One of the reasons it is generally considered a bad idea to appease fanatics is that it only encourages them to greater excess and also encourages others to emulate them.  On Saturday the BBC ran what should have been an upbeat news item about major food companies co-operating with the DH on obesity by cutting calorie content in their products. It sounds like just the sort of thing that people who care about obesity might applaud but this being a BBC news item it had to feature some rather severe criticism from a spokesperson for one of the myriad obscure “charities” that taxpayers are forced to fund.

According to the BBC, Children’s Food Campaign spokesman Charlie Powell said:

 “The food industry wants to be part of the solution but altogether refuses to admit that it’s a big part of the problem. And it’s to the government’s disgrace that the food industry is actually helping to set government health policy. I think we should look at what’s happening on the alcohol network and actually the government have decided that the way to go is actually to mandate companies in terms of their pricing. While they grapple with voluntary approaches, we’ll see these weasel word pledges continue.”

Charlie describes himself as “Left-thinking vegan feminist, campaigning for a fairer and more sustainable world.”

Clearly this otherwise gentle soul has scented blood following the government’s surrender on alcohol and will be crusading for minimum pricing or maybe even outright banning of foods he doesn’t think that we should be eating.  I assume that will include meat if he dares to dream that big. After all, all he needs to do is gather support from the more unscrupulous and fanatical elements of the medical establishment and anything might actually be possible.

His first port of call could be Jonathan Waxman, whose words are living proof if more was needed that passing a medical degree is no guarantee of intelligence, humility, decency or common sense.

“Not only do we need to ramp up the public health campaigns that encourage us to ditch the doughnuts. But we will have to go further and ban adverts for high-fat foods. It is wrong that manufacturers can produce mayonnaise with a 70 per cent fat content, so we should tax food laden with saturated fats. 

Some will argue that this is an affront to personal freedom. But the people with the least ability to make informed choices are the poor, who happen also to be more likely to smoke or be fat.”

As Dave and his elitist mates seem to share Waxman’s view that the people in general and the poor in particular are too stupid to be allowed to make their own choices I think it likely that it will not be long before minimum pricing becomes the preferred option to reduce consumption of anything the medics and activists decide they don’t like.

I recommend stocking up on digestives and other “sinful” foods before it is too late.  I wouldn’t worry about alcohol because it is ridiculously easy to make.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:  Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation? and  What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists.

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Planning in a Free Society

By Tom Papworth
March 16th, 2012 at 12:00 pm | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Last week the Adam Smith Institute published my policy paper on reforming the UK’s sclerotic and highly damaging planning system.

The land-use planning system in the UK has created a housing crisis, stifled our economy and had a negative effect on our environment.

You can download the full report from the Adam Smith Institute.

If you want to engage in the lively debate, you can do so at Lib Dem Voice, here and here.

 

Plain packaging – a dirty war alright!

By Angela Harbutt
March 13th, 2012 at 2:49 pm | 7 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Some of you might have read the Independent article today “The PM, his pro-smoking aide, and a dirty war over cigarette packaging“. In the article it says (amongst other things…)

“…The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health has asked Vince Cable, the Trade and Industry Minister, for reassurances that Mr Littlewood will not be advising on tobacco-related matters because of his “clear conflict of interest”.

“….Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking organisation ASH, said: “Mark Littlewood is not independent, he has nailed his colours to the mast by supporting the tobacco industry-funded campaign against plain packs, just as he did its campaign to bring smoking back to our pubs.”

Nailed his colours to the mast ? Too right he has – and years ago. Mark Littlewood (founder of, and former blogger here at LV) has been a passionate smoker, and blogger on the issue for years – and not just on tobacco. He has stood up to governments on tobacco and alcohol and drugs and gambling and a number of other lifestyle issues time and again here on this very blog, on the media. You name it Littlewood has been there.

…And long before he started this blog, when he was the spin doctor for the Lib Dems  he was positively evangelical about people’s freedoms, civil (co-founder of no2id) and  personal.

And who did he report to when working at the Lib Dems ? A certain Lord Rennard. The same Lord Rennard who just happens to be the vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health – (which is also chaired by Stephen Williams MP – also a Lib Dem) – the group that happened to make the complaint about Mark Littlewood to erm… fellow Lib Dem Vince Cable. Priceless! What is that about? Memory loss?

There can be nobody on the APPG – not Lord Rennard the vice chair or Stephen Williams the chair, nor anyone at ASH or indeed Vince Cable that doesn’t know Mark’s stance on tobacco – nor that he has held this stance for decades.

Surprised the Independent didn’t seem to know any of that  – or perhaps just chose not to mention any of that in their article. No – Their stance is to allude to what monies Mark Littlewood’s current organisation might receive from tobacco. As if this would make any difference to Mark Littlewood. It would be laughable were it not all so darned serious.

Personally I find it utterly hypocritical that the entire anti-tobacco health industry feels free to spout their “personal heart-felt beliefs” on smoking to Andrew Lansley and the Department of Health without any qualms. Indeed self-confessed tobacco-haters are commissioned and paid for by the Department of Health  to produce “independent” government policy papers on smoking. Yet these people – or their mouthpieces – go charging off to the Trade and Industry Minister as soon as someone, whose personal beliefs are at odds with theirs, gets anywhere so much as a foot into the doors of power. And who was it I wonder that gave this story to the Independent?

What ever the “Independent” might imply or the APPG disingenuously assert, this attack has nothing to do with tobacco funding any organisation.  It is indeed, as the “Independent” headline says, a dirty war. Because this is an attempt to use the power and privilege of parliamentary position to blacken a man’s name; to cow Mark Littlewood personally into shutting up, or attempt to force his employers into gagging him. I sincerely hope that neither will occur.

As for the APPG on Smoking and Health – a group that receives funding, “admin support” and “briefing papers” from the anti-smoking campaign group ASH – well it is about time this parliamentary loophole to power and influence was plugged once and for all.

Angela Harbutt is a proud campaigner for the Forest run campaign Hands Off Our Packs , opposing the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco.

Update : read also related pieces here – Velvet Gove Iron Fist , Alex Massie at the Spectator and Simon Clark-Taking Liberties

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Clegg’s solution to complex tax code: another tax!

By Angela Harbutt
March 10th, 2012 at 12:51 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

A rather depressing Telegraph online headline today reads “Nick Clegg goes after the ultra-rich” . Nick Clegg  has apparently recently “uncovered evidencethat our tax code is too complex and that complexity is benefiting tax-lawyers and the super-rich.

The Deputy Prime Minister says he has uncovered evidence that hundreds of millionaires are paying a tax rate of less than 20 per cent on their earnings by using an “army of lawyers and accountants……. A wide array of tax loopholes and reliefs are exploited by the wealthy to reduce their tax bills, leading to them paying overall rates on annual earnings beneath those faced by ordinary workers, he said.

“Uncovered” really? Good grief – where has he been for that last couple of years ? Here is an article from Mr Littlewood (formerly of this parish) now of the Insititute of Economic Affairs back in Autumn 2010.

Early this year, an IEA research paper showed that with over 8,000 pages of primary legislation – in very rough terms about six times the length of War and Peace – Britain has the longest tax code in the world. For those inclined to believe that other Western European countries are always more bureaucratic than Britain, it was worth noting that the German and French tax codes weigh at a comparatively modest 1,700 and 1,300 pages respectively” Mark Littlewood: Telegraph 8 September 2010

Then again one year later Littlewood said it again …

The Tax Commission research points to the incredible length and complexity of our tax rules as the principal culprit. Tooley’s corporation tax guide, for example, has nearly trebled in length in the last decade. It now has a word count not dissimilar to the complete works of Shakespeare. The TPA amusingly illustrates the farcical scale of our tax code by showing that one of the fastest readers on the face of the Earth would take five days to read it out loud.  Goodness knows how long it takes to understand it“. Mark Littlewood: IEA blog 16th August 2011

Er.. And again a month later…

“The UK’s tax rules are now so complicated and lengthy that British businesses spend around £20bn a year simply trying to comply with the rules . Not handing over a single penny in tax, just filling in paperwork and attempting to calculate their liabilities. That’s an overall cost of around £300 for every man, woman and child in this country every year.

Things are getting worse, not better. When a country’s tax rule book is five times longer than the complete works of Shakespeare – and growing – you can only expect this kind of ludicrous waste and inefficiency. If the laws of association football were this long and confusing, you’d probably need hundreds of referees at every game and it’s doubtful the sport would be viable at allMark Littlewood: Mail On Line: 29th September 2011

Littlewood’s answer to the problem – simplify the tax code by employing best practice from other countries. That (according to Professor Philip Booth (IEA)) would save about £5billion in regulatory costs but also disproportionately assist small businesses being crippled by the burden. It would, of course, also eliminate a lot of the highly complex loopholes much beloved of the rich.

Clegg’s answer to the problem – introduce another tax!  If it was April the 1st I would be laughing. It isn’t and I am not.

Any chance that Clegg’s bizarre approach to this (much-publicised) problem is connected to a certain event being held in Gateshead this weekend?

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