The tanks that think

March 21, 1997

Simon Midgley reports on Demos in the latest in our series on intelligence units

Demos, an independent think tank, was set up in 1993 to help reinvigorate public policy and political thinking. Geoff Mulgan, Demos's 34-year-old director, was formerly policy adviser to Gordon Brown, the shadow chancellor, and a lecturer at the University of Westminster.

The Demos manifesto looks to future elections as well as this year's, setting out a programme to be implemented over ten to 15 years.

Proposals include an anti-crime strategy incorporating the following: * Support for parents in low-income neighbourhoods; activities and jobs for teenagers

* Community crime boards to assess whether the accused should go before a court or be dealt with by a voluntary agency

* Greater use of electronic tagging

* Offender reparation to victims and new forms of community service

* Privately owned guns should be eliminated by 2000.

Adult drug use, pornography and prostitution would be legalised but be strictly regulated, with sales taxed. Cannabis would be taxed similarly to nicotine products; heroin and cocaine markedly higher.

Health proposals include more charging of patients, voluntary euthanasia where patients have made a living will, tougher regulation of the food industry and controls on the use of antibiotics in the food chain.

In education, the school-leaving age should eventually be lowered to 14, followed by a four-year spell offering formal education, work experience and community activities. Three-quarters of homes should have email and 80 per cent a personal computer by 2003.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy measures should create 50,000 jobs. Civil liberties would be safeguarded by a Bill of Rights and more rigorous controls on state surveillance.

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