The tanks that think

April 4, 1997

Simon Midgley turns the spotlight on the Institute for Public Policy Research

The Institute for Public Policy Research was set up in 1988 as a left-of centre alternative to the free market think tanks. It has 15 researchers.

Its director, Gerald Holtham, is an economist and former fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford.

The IPPR modelled itself to some degree on the Institute of Economic Affairs, aiming to encourage public education on political and social matters through a programme of publications, discussions and demonstrations. It will not be publishing an election shopping list, but its past, present and future research initiatives are certain to have some influence if Labour wins.

Labour's English regional government policy follows lines proposed last year by IPPR, while institute research, published last December, provided a long-awaited blueprint for the party's planned University for Industry The recent report of its Commission on Public Policy and British Business created a furore among Conservatives by including a minimum wage among proposals for promoting industrial competitiveness. Last year's report on green taxes called for levies on energy consumption, pollution and environment-damaging economic activity, with a compensating cut in national insurance.

Other research includes work on a Bill of Rights, and the need for a Human Rights Commission to underpin it, and on freedom of information measures and health issues.

Current IPPR work emphasises the organisation of government: what are the functions of the State? Does the ministerial system of vertically separated departments of state work? Is there any limit to what can be contracted out? How do you combine managerial efficiency with democratic accountability? How do you make the public sector work?

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