Liz Truss:

This can be a year of rein­vig­o­ra­tion for Bri­tain if we are true to our free­domlov­ing principles

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - LIZ TRUSSS

‘Take Back Con­trol” was the Brexit clar­ion call. Politi­cians must heed the de­mand. 2019 will see us re­turn many pow­ers from Brus­sels to West­min­ster. But this year we should hon­our that com­mand do­mes­ti­cally, too.

Peo­ple won’t want pow­ers be­ing handed back from bu­reau­crats in Brus­sels to be given to bu­reau­crats in Bri­tain. Our aim should be to give the Bri­tish peo­ple greater con­trol of their lives in all re­gards. In prac­ti­cal terms, that re­quires a three-pronged agenda: com­bat­ting Jeremy Cor­byn’s ideas for a state-on-steroids; de­liv­er­ing a grow­ing econ­omy; and finding more ar­eas in which we can trans­fer pow­ers from the gov­ern­ment to the peo­ple.

The stakes are high. Com­men­ta­tors, riff­ing off shadow chan­cel­lor John McDon­nell, talk about the turn against free mar­kets. In the ab­stract, cap­i­tal­ism is un­pop­u­lar. But free mar­kets are an ex­pres­sion of free will. As the Sun­day Tele­graph’s bold Cam­paign for Cap­i­tal­ism has high­lighted, mar­kets al­low peo­ple to make their own choices, and to own their futures, rather than be told what to do by a dis­tant author­ity.

De­spite Labour’s fetish for na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, most of the ser­vices Bri­tons love are pri­vately pro­vided, from cof­fee shops to Spo­tify. Choice is a na­tional in­stinct. This cap­i­tal­ist bedrock of our pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity is threat­ened by a Labour Party that wants to over­throw the whole sys­tem.

As free-mar­ke­teers, Con­ser­va­tives should unashamedly pitch this bat­tle as one of free­dom ver­sus Cor­byn’s con­trol. We should pitch to the young who are set­ting up more busi­nesses, and who want more per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and lower taxes than their fore­bears. We should back the power of new tech to trans­form lives and em­power in­di­vid­u­als, and re­sist those who want to shackle it. Busi­ness should join us. We are fight­ing a Labour Party whose avowed en­emy is cap­i­tal­ist bosses, whose in­stinct is to see in­come as a com­mon pool re­source, and whose lead­ing fig­ures find profit morally re­pug­nant.

But to do so re­quires us to be true to our ideals. We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to give peo­ple greater con­trol to­day. The best way to do so is to in­crease their fi­nan­cial well-be­ing, in turn giving them more spend­ing power and choice on how to gov­ern their lives.

Tra­di­tion­ally, Con­ser­va­tives have ar­gued that low taxes are a route to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. I agree. It is vi­tal we keep taxes low and the size of the state in check, to al­low peo­ple to spend more of their own money. And even if we opted oth­er­wise, it’s bad pol­i­tics to think we could ever win a spend­ing bid­ding war with Labour.

But with fis­cal pres­sures to come from age­ing, the far more im­por­tant chal­lenge is to raise growth rates as high as pos­si­ble. With strong growth, all other chal­lenges be­come eas­ier – from the pub­lic fi­nances, to the fact that with greater per­sonal fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity comes bet­ter pub­lic health and an im­proved en­vi­ron­ment.

This year’s Spend­ing Re­view will set gov­ern­ment bud­gets from 2020; and it’s vi­tal that, ac­com­pa­nied with sup­ply-side re­forms, we use it as a cat­a­lyst to un­leash the econ­omy.

We will con­duct a zero-based cap­i­tal re­view – ex­am­in­ing all ma­jor in­vest­ment projects across gov­ern­ment and judg­ing their con­tri­bu­tion to fu­ture pros­per­ity. We will also look at how bud­gets con­trib­ute to hu­man cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing how much they gen­uinely boost as­pi­ra­tion and op­por­tu­nity.

In re­view­ing this ev­i­dence, we must be pre­pared to junk the white ele­phants, the pro­grammes that haven’t worked, and roll back mis­sion creep, where gov­ern­ment in­volves it­self in ar­eas the pri­vate sec­tor can de­liver. Growth and bang-for-buck must take prece­dence.

Max­imis­ing the size of the econ­omy is about much more than just ef­fec­tive spend­ing and taxes. Fast growth re­quires get­ting into the weeds of reg­u­la­tory and com­pe­ti­tion pol­icy, and tak­ing on the vested in­ter­ests that of­ten shape poli­cies to their own ben­e­fit, at the ex­pense of con­sumers.

We must use best-prac­tice around the world to im­prove the way we reg­u­late im­por­tant goods and ser­vices or deal with mar­ket fail­ures. Could we in­crease com­pe­ti­tion and re­duce prices in en­ergy by sim­pli­fy­ing our ap­proach to low­er­ing car­bon emis­sions? Could we im­prove the qual­ity and af­ford­abil­ity of rail­ways through re­gional rail­way companies that own the train and the track, as in Ja­pan? Are there lessons for us from Canada on pri­vate fi­nance in in­fra­struc­ture? From Shang­hai on de­liv­er­ing a top-flight at­ti­tude to ed­u­ca­tion? From the US about-turn in reg­u­la­tory di­rec­tion and the man­u­fac­tur­ing re­vival? Ger­man nurs­eries and de­liv­er­ing child­care more cheaply? A gov­ern­ment se­ri­ous about growth and re­duc­ing liv­ing costs must be con­stantly an­i­mated by these ques­tions.

But the most press­ing mar­ket in need of at­ten­tion is surely hous­ing. Own­er­ship is im­por­tant for peo­ple to feel they can con­trol their own des­tiny. We have had the wel­come news that 25-34 year olds are now more likely to own prop­erty. But we still have fur­ther to go. The econ­o­mist Matthew Rogn­lie ar­gues that the re­cent in­crease in wealth in­equal­ity can be ex­plained through di­ver­gence in hous­ing wealth. Fix­ing our plan­ning sys­tem and open­ing up more land is cru­cial for so­cial op­por­tu­nity. We should be look­ing at the way Toyko has made its houses more af­ford­able through a more lib­eral plan­ning sys­tem.

But if we are truly to de­liver a “Take Back Con­trol” agenda, it can­not just be about eco­nom­ics. The state should not en­croach on peo­ple’s lives un­nec­es­sar­ily, in­ter­fer­ing in life­styles or pref­er­ences. Of course it needs to pro­vide essen­tial ser­vices, pub­lic goods and de­fence of the realm. But when de­ci­sions do have to be taken, it should be by those who are ac­count­able to the elec­torate, not un­elected quan­gos.

The most ba­sic ques­tion in pol­i­tics is not what is best, but who shall de­cide what is best. The pub­lic voted for West­min­ster over Brus­sels. As Con­ser­va­tives, we should lean to­wards the in­di­vid­ual, the fam­ily, and the lo­cal over cen­tral gov­ern­ment author­ity.

I’m con­fi­dent that 2019 can be a year of re­newal. If we agree the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal, Brexit can re­vive our pol­i­tics and give peo­ple con­trol over the des­tiny of our coun­try. We have a chance to re­shape our in­sti­tu­tions, and to de­liver free­dom and pros­per­ity, not just for our gen­er­a­tion but for many to come. But for this to hap­pen, we must have con­fi­dence in our cause, take the fight to Cor­byn and his false so­cial­ist utopia and, above all, be will­ing to give back con­trol our­selves. Let’s grab this op­por­tu­nity.

We can learn from Ja­panese rail­ways: tak­ing lessons from suc­cesses around the world will im­prove our spend­ing and our lives

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