1722 Committee: Nick - Legalise Drugs And Bring Back Nazanin

10 June 2019, 12:07

Nick wants to legalise - and tax - drugs
Nick wants to legalise - and tax - drugs. Picture: PA

Nick is Friday's candidate for the 1722 Committee - and he's got some big ideas on Brexit, drugs and the economy.

Every night at 17:22 we're going to hear from a potential candidate and then we'll get our committee together to choose who we think should be the next Prime Minister.

This is Nick's manifesto.

Brexit
Possibly the thing I care least about.  I’d put myself in the Theresa May camp – a reluctant Remainer, I accept most of the criticism directed at the EU (expensive, undemocratic etc) but I was and am still concerned about the uncertainty and its impact on investment/trade.  To break the deadlock I would propose a referendum on how we leave with 3 options 1. No Deal 2. Theresa May’s deal 3. Norway type model (name only Brexit).  Plenty of planning in advance and whatever comes first in the referendum is what happens. 

Law and order
Legalise, regulate and (heavily) tax currently illegal drugs.  This may lead to some increased use but I think would lead to a net reduction in harm.  I think it’s in-keeping with conservative values in so much as what you do, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, is your business, not the state’s.  Indeed David Cameron famously argued as a backbencher that the war on drugs wasn’t working – before he became leader of course!  I think there would be lots of further benefits.  We have strong suspicions that many of the knife crimes are fuelled by drug gangs.  The police, courts and prisons would be able to spend their time/resources elsewhere.  I also think there would be windfall for the exchequer (estimates vary but I think a few billion/year is not unreasonable).   I would allocate all of the revenue to social care – I think that’s the area in greatest need.

Hugely reduce the use of custodial sentences.  All sentences less than 1 year to be replaced by community alternatives.  I appreciate that some people are dangerous and that the public needs to be protected but the cost of keeping someone in prison is very high (I believe something like £50k/year) and once released their chances of finding meaningful work and ever contributing significant taxation are poor. 

Remove hate crime laws.  I understand that these are well meaning but I think they impose on individual liberty.  Being a protected group has a degree of arbitrariness about it (what about being short or overweight or unattractive or having a low IQ (?)).  Inciting a crime should be a crime but in the way that manipulating someone to steal something for you is a crime.  Holding an opinion and/or expressing that should never be a crime, regardless of the offence it may cause.

Economy
Ultimately, I think capitalism is overwhelmingly a force for good.  Across the globe, huge numbers of people have been lifted out of poverty due to trade and globalisation.  I’m not a big reader but a glance at anything by Dickens and the idea that we’re hugely worse off than ever and there’s been no progress falls apart.

Deficit reduction was/is the right thing to do – at the time every party agreed the deficit needed to come down, the only disagreement was whether that would be achieved by spending vs taxation and what rate.  Roughly spending in 2010 was £700bn and revenue £550bn.  Now spending is £800bn and revenue £765bn (or so).  This is in the region of a 5% real terms drop in spending.  Whilst that has not been felt equally (e.g. social care) I don’t think that this really constitutes ‘austerity’, certainly when compared to Greece or Portugal.  So essentially,  this is all going in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.

I would like to encourage employers to allow flexible working, particularly working from home and the use of video conferencing.  I think this would ease the demand on housing in certain areas (ie if you could work at home 3 days a week) and allow people to do the important things in life e.g. take kids to school, look after/live near parents and so forth.  This would also need rail firms to offer season tickets to reflect regular use but not Monday-Friday.

I would also like to encourage on-site childcare wherever possible

I wouldn’t want to tinker with tax too much but the first I’d change, if funds allowed would be inheritance tax.  I think many people and often conservative voters see this as a real injustice (as they’ve already paid tax on it!).  I would initially allow people to leave money in bundles i.e. inheritance tax is paid on the amount each person receives rather than the total, so if a millionaire splits up their estate sufficiently, there is no tax due.

I would also want to reduce business rates, thinking specifically about the high-street.  To be clear though I think that Amazon etc are successful because they operate efficiently and offer excellent value – I don’t want to go after them!

Health
In terms of IT, we are decades behind.  This would be the focus – as much automation and reduction in physical paper as possible.  In keeping with this, I think nursing, Medical and other healthcare students should have some training in computing/computer programming  - I think they’re best placed to make the systems of the future.  I have just finished a medical degree so I know there are some things that could make way for this (e.g. some of the anatomy and physiology that is just learnt for exams and then forgotten)

Health and social care becomes one budget (and significantly more (billions) is spent on the social care part).  Huge emphasis on keeping people out of hospital.  ‘Step-down’ area in hospital for elderly people who can’t leave due to social reasons (i.e. less staffing no need for access to so much medical kit and so forth)

Make better use of pharmacists in the community  - give them more autonomy and responsibility to those who want it/complete the relevant training. 

With the focus on obesity, I think there is some complacency creeping in with regard to smoking – this is absolutely still the number 1 public health villain as far as I’m concerned.   

There is an issue with current medical research.  If you find something that is effective at treating cancer then you may reduce mortality for that condition but have little effect on total mortality because, due to ageing, the person whose cancer you’ve successfully treated is likely to develop another age related condition soon e.g. heart disease.  As such we need to view ageing (not wrinkles!) as a health condition in itself and look at ways of changing how our bodies (our cells really) age.  If we did this effectively then we could make huge progress with a vast array of age related diseases (heart disease, diabetes, dementia cancer etc). 

Education
I would want all kids to have a good grasp of maths, the English language and ICT.  If they can do those things well, then they can learn anything else easily as and when.  So essentially I’d like to scale back the national curriculum and the number of formal assessments.  There could be random inspections and maths/English tests to see how a school (not the pupil) is doing. Less teaching for exams, less paper work and more freedom for teachers to teach and share their passion.

I think that heavily subsidised university education is a tax-giveaway to the middle class.  However, without any subsidy it can’t cost £9k/year to run many degree courses.  Expansion of OU and online/part time options.  This would allow people to work and live at home whilst studying if they wish.  It would also help older students/career changers top up their knowledge which is exactly what will be needed with changing technology and longer, more varied working lives. 

Housing
Build millions of homes (maybe a million in London and an extra 2 million in the rest of UK).  Embrace modern manufacturing and pre-fab.  Build up in cities and reduce planning restrictions.  If the government sells or rents the houses it builds then it should be reasonably cost neutral.  Have to be prepared to sacrifice green belt that isn’t areas of outstanding natural beauty (green belt includes shrub land, golf courses etc)

Environment
I am unconvinced that efforts to reduce CO2 emissions are effective – I believe they are still increasing.  I think we should shift the balance to trying to adapt to changes and unpredictable events.  This involves simple things like painting roofs white in cities, pumping water in Antarctica back onto the ice so that it refreezes etc.  I would prefer to use the current subsidies for renewables for research to make them better/more competitive e.g. how to store solar power.  The long term aim would be renewables particularly hydro (we are an island after all).  In the short to medium term I am pro nuclear and fracking with appropriate safety procedures in place.

International
I want a trade deal with the US - regardless of who the President is.  I think the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe should be a national priority.  I essentially want the foreign secretary to go to Iran and not leave without her safely on the same plane back.   

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