Monday 26 September 2016 7:00 pm

What is the worst policy to come out of the Labour party conference so far?

Dan Lewis, senior infrastructure policy adviser to the Institute of Directors, says the ban on fracking.

Fracking has been transformative for the United States, leading to reshoring of manufacturing, bringing down energy prices, reducing emissions, creating jobs and raising taxes. No serious US politician seeking power wants to reverse that.

And in this country, it will be even safer and more regulated too. So what’s not to like? It can’t be about safety or health. The Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the former Department for Energy and Climate Change all tell us it is safe. Just yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority comprehensively rejected misleading statements on the health risks from Friends of the Earth.

Fracking is a lot safer and cleaner than mining coal or going to the bottom of the North Sea but we don’t ban those. Shale is the only energy source out there that is not asking for a subsidy and actually wants to give government money. To oppose fracking is to embrace increased energy imports and higher emissions.

Dr Madsen Pirie, founder and president of the Adam Smith Institute, says plans for an "interventionist state".

Should investment be decided by people using their own money to back the future goods and services that people might want to buy, or should politicians use other people’s money to decide what industrial support might win them votes?

Should we invest in the future, or pour money into supporting the present status quo? Labour has made a catastrophically wrong choice. Intervention raises prices and living costs. It uses taxpayers’ money to subsidise industries that cannot make it on their own in world markets, or it sets tariffs against foreign goods to make domestic consumers and producers pay more. It makes UK goods more expensive and less competitive on world markets.

Governments talk of “picking winners” but they lack the expertise or motivation to anticipate the future. Instead they support declining industries to gain the support of those involved in them, and divert investment from the up and coming industries that will yield tomorrow’s growth and jobs. Governments always pick losers.

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