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'No Fault Evictions' Ban Epitomizes the Paucity of Tory Economic Thinking

April 29, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Who killed Tory economic thinking? That is the question
addressed in a recent essay by Stian Westlake rippling through

The former Treasury adviser laments the paucity of well
thought-out Conservative economic policy. He speculates on a
culprit: the cultural dominance of “Home Office
thinking” in Theresa May’s administration.

A law-and-order department’s raison d’être, he
notes, is righting wrongs, keeping good people safe and punishing
the bad guys. It cares little for economic concerns such as
incentives or scarcity and considers trade-offs and unintended
consequences unfortunate collateral damage from enforcing its

The affliction of
believing deeply embedded economic problems can be solved by
whack-a-mole legal remedies is rotting Conservative economic

For Home Office veterans such as the PM, economic policy is
therefore often viewed through the prism of “cracking
down”, “tightening up” or “sending a strong
message”: helping the good guys and punishing the bad.
Energy prices unfair? Cap
. Wages too low? Hike the minimum wage. Plastic pollution?
Ban the products.

Other Tory tribes aided and abetted in relegating robust
economic reasoning. David Cameron wanted to set economics aside and
focus on social reform prior to the financial crisis. Even many
Tory MPs who pay lip service to the dismal science engage in
“karaoke Thatcherism”, preaching low-tax,
low-regulation mantras divorced from new challenges or detail.

A Government announcement last week though provides grist to the
mill for Westlake’s “Home Office” hypothesis.
With great moralising, James Brokenshire, the Housing Secretary,
announced the Government’s intention to protect renters
against “unethical” landlords by banning so-called
“no-fault evictions”.

Under plans open for consultation, the Tories would abolish
Section 21 notices. These allow landlords to reclaim properties
“without reason” after fixed-term tenancy contracts end
(usually with two months’ notice). Essentially, then, the
Government is proposing moving towards indefinite tenancies.
Landlords could remove tenants
only for Government-prescribed “legitimate
, such as a desire to sell the house or for the
landlord to move in.

It’s sadly unsurprising that Tories would not take a
principled stance in favour of individual property rights and free
contract. But this proposed decision goes further. Ministers are
setting up a goody-versus-baddy paradigm. The charitable
explanation is they are oblivious to the potential consequences of
their actions. The less charitable interpretation is that,
unwilling to address broader housing market supply dysfunctions,
they want to set up a landlord bogeyman to send a political signal
to tenants.

Conservative MP George Freeman, for example, celebrated the move
as “a real signal of support by Conservatives for all those
being badly treated by bad landlords”. Brokenshire himself
even claimed that Section 21 evictions were one of the biggest
causes of family homelessness. This is a bit like saying that
shooting …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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