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Behavioural Insight Team

Volume 521: debated on Wednesday 19 January 2011

I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the behavioural insight team is now well established. It is beginning with work on three areas: improving the nation’s health; empowering consumers and encouraging people to give money; and protecting our environment.

“Nudge” author, Richard Thaler, has said that he believes that groups of friends can reduce their alcohol consumption by ordering from a bar tab rather than buying rounds of drinks. What savings from the national tab is the Minister making by applying behavioural economics at the heart of Government instead of creating yet more legislation?

I am glad that my hon. Friend asks that extremely interesting and important question. Of course, there has to be legislation about some things, but legislation has strict limits. The Opposition should be well aware of that, as they wasted £1.1 billion on ID card legislation—a totally ineffective example of authoritarianism. They also proposed to engage in bin taxes, and the evidence is now very clear: those measures would have increased fly-tipping and burning at home and have had counter-productive effects. The comparison with the RecycleBank initiative that Windsor and Maidenhead council and others are taking up, which nudges people into successfully recycling, is very striking. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that we can do—[Interruption.]

Order. May I just very gently say to the right hon. Gentleman, whose mellifluous tones I always enjoy—

Has the insight team considered an independent think tank’s judgment that the Government’s health reforms are like trying to resuscitate a corpse, which has not been done successfully since the time of Lazarus? How will the Government’s reforms help the nation when they are imposing chaos on the health service?

I do not think that the national health service is anything like a corpse at all; it is a living, breathing body that does a fantastic amount of good for our nation, and we are trying to improve it. The behavioural insight team has, as a matter of fact, been involved with the Department of Health—I was hearing about it just this morning—in thinking through ways in which we can nudge improvements in the health service, too, and try to make it more effective without imposing additional regulation on it.