Philip Booth: A Queen’s Speech wishlist to set us free to prosper

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AHEAD of the Queen’s Speech, the Institute of Economic Affairs has compiled some key policies which would encourage deregulation, increased competition and growth in the UK. With our economy still experiencing poor productivity, measures to cut spending, tax and red tape should form the core of the government’s agenda for the rest of this Parliament. Here are our priorities:

Tax: HM Government, conscious of the stealthy implications of fiscal drag, will pass a law such that all major tax thresholds (for income tax, NICs, inheritance tax, and stamp duty) will increase by the higher of earnings growth or CPI inflation each year.

Childcare: Bring forward a Childcare Bill which will repeal swathes of regulation on childcare and childminding, including on staff-child ratios, Ofsted inspections and qualifications. Existing statutory funding streams will be scrapped, except for a means-tested subsidy for single parent households in receipt of welfare where the adult is in close-to full-time work.

Healthcare: Abolish the concept of “catchment areas’ in healthcare. Every patient will be allowed to register with any Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) regardless of their place of residence. This means that CCGs will cease to be local monopolies. The “internal market”, which has so far been about competition on the provider side, will be extended to the commissioning side. Healthcare commissioning will be opened up to non-NHS organisations. The “any qualified provider” policy will be extended by an “any qualified commissioner” policy. CCG budgets will take greater account of differences in health needs.

Planning: Put forward a Land Use Planning Bill which will consolidate and simplify existing planning law and abolish distinctions of green belt, green field and brownfield land. The Bill will devolve planning decisions to local authorities. Significant tax-raising powers will also be devolved to local authorities such that the costs/benefits of development decisions are felt by local authorities and their populations.

Abolish the licensing of residential landlords including owners of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Subdivision of houses into flats and bedsits, together with a larger range of extensions, will not require planning permission.

Transport: Bring forward legislation to privatise Network Rail through stock market flotation. The franchising system and subsidies will be phased out, and the infrastructure firm and train operators allowed to merge and de-merge. Decisions on new rail infrastructure, including HS2, will be transferred to the privatised Network Rail and determined by commercial criteria.

Devolve decisions on airport expansion to the local level.

Lifestyles: Amend the 2006 Health Act to allow owners of pubs and clubs to provide ventilated, indoor smoking rooms for their patrons.

Abolish grant funding for charities and other non-governmental organisations.

Extend the Department for Communities and Local Government’s “anti-sock-puppet clause” to all departments to prevent taxpayers’ money being used for political campaigning.

Other: Abolish all forms of statutory funding of the BBC except for the World Service which will be financed by a Foreign and Commonwealth Office grant. The BBC Trust will be made independent of government and it will be entirely free to determine its own corporate structure and methods of funding.

HM government will repeal legislation requiring it to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid. The Department for International Development will have its budget cut by 25 per cent and will provide foreign aid strictly on a project-by-project basis.

Recent Queen’s Speeches have offered little to comfort those in favour of smaller government and deregulation.

We hope this Conservative majority government will favour free markets, and introduce legislation which will lower government spending whilst also increasing choice and improving outcomes.

While politicians have acknowledged the symptoms of high costs in areas such as childcare, rail and housing, there has been a complete failure to admit that the fundamental cause of these rises is government policies themselves.

It is now crucial that we see pro-market policies and a slashing of red tape to ensure Britain is a country in which both people and businesses can prosper.

Professor Philip Booth is Editorial and Programme Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.