We haven’t properly reported George Osborne’s speech of yesterday in which he called for encouragement of recycling (FT report).  This is a key extract from his speech to the Green Alliance:

"Right now, the UK has one of the lowest recycling rates in Europe.  In 2005, the most recent year for which comparable figures are available across the EU, UK households sent 22.6 million tonnes of rubbish to landfill.  The Government’s approach is an old fashioned one: use the threat of fines and punitive taxation to force people to recycle.  We’ve all seen how unpopular this heavy handed approach has been with the public.  What’s more, it is extremely expensive to administer and it encourages irresponsible behaviour like fly-tipping or back yard burning.  But if we look at what is happening in over 500 cities and communities in America, we can see that another way is possible.  There, instead of being fined for not recycling, households are actually being paid for their recycling.  Instead of using sticks, we can use carrots instead.  Instead of punitive taxes, we can use financial incentives.  This completely turns on its head the tired way that the government thinks about recycling."

It’s very welcome that there has been a switch in emphasis in Tory green policy.  For some reason we think of Aesop’s ‘Wind and Sun’ fable:

"The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: "I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin." So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.  Kindness effects more than severity."

It finishes a good week for the Shadow Chancellor:

Anatole Kaletsky tops it all off with his column in this morning’s Times.  Kaletsky was long-time very warm towards Gordon Brown but he’s written today that the Tories are coming up with thoughtful policies.  He writes this of Mr Osborne:

"If the Government automatically increased fuel duty whenever the oil price fell below a certain threshold, such as the $84 a barrel used in the Tory Green Paper, it would send a powerful signal to energy users that the era of cheap fuel is permanently over and efforts to conserve energy will never again be undercut, as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, by a collapse in the price of oil."

Next week we’ll be publishing a series of thoughts on next steps for Tory economic policy.

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