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"On nanny state issues, she is surprisingly sound" - IEA's Snowdon on Theresa May

By Christopher Snowdon , 15-Jul-2016

What does the anointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister mean for pubs? Her record is a mixed bag.

She gained a reputation as being something of an authoritarian at the Home Office, but how many Home Secretaries haven’t?

She introduced late night levies and Early Morning Restriction Orders – neither of which have been widely adopted - and appears to be an opponent of Labour’s Licensing Act which she claims has led to ‘an increase in the number of alcohol related incidents and drink-fuelled crime and disorder’.

This is simply untrue. Violent crime and public order offences have both fallen since so-called ’24 hour drinking’ was introduced.

Much will depend on her successor at the Home Office, Amber Rudd. In so far as May is interested in alcohol policy, it seems to be the traditional basis of public order rather than temperance and ‘public health’.

On nanny state issues, she can be surprisingly sound. She voted against the ban on smoking in cars and was one of the senior Conservatives who convinced David Cameron to abandon minimum pricing. It would have been easy for her to have capitulated to the public health lobby on both of these issues so perhaps we can infer that she has some liberal principles buried away.

It is too early to say whether these will come to the fore now that she is in Downing Street but the question may be academic since the nanny state agenda that was started by Blair and continued by Cameron must be low in the government’s list of priorities now that Brexit is a reality.

All the alcohol statistics are going in the right direction as far as the government is concerned and it is obesity, not drinking, that is the priority at the Department of Health.

With uncertainty about Britain’s trading relationship with the European Union rife, the domestic economy is more important than ever. Pubs have taken a pounding in the last decade thanks to taxation, the smoking ban and the National Living Wage. Token efforts to help the trade by turning unviable pubs into ‘assets of community value’ will have a trivial impact, at best.

The government has a golden opportunity to repeal unnecessary EU regulation that has stifled British business. Every industry, including the pub trade, needs to let Whitehall know about any EU directives that have hampered it.

Perhaps – and I know this is unduly optimistic – the government might even get a taste for cutting red tape and start reviewing some of its own legislation. 

Join the conversation on twitter: @cjsnowdon @morningad

Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA. He is the author of The Art of Suppression, The Spirit Level Delusion and Velvet Glove; Iron Fist. His work focuses on pleasure, prohibition and dodgy statistics. He has authored a number of publications including Sock Puppets, Euro Puppets, The Proof of the Pudding, The Crack Cocaine of Gambling and Free Market Solutions in Health.

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