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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 17:28 GMT
Tories ponder fatty food permits
David Cameron
The advisory group was set up by Conservative leader David Cameron
Firms could buy and sell permits to make alcoholic drinks or fatty foods under plans being put to Tory leaders.

The system would work along the same lines as carbon trading schemes aimed at tackling pollution.

The proposal, put forward at a Conservative summit on social responsibility, comes from an advisory group set up by leader David Cameron.

The advisers say companies that act responsibly could be rewarded by having less government regulation.

Business incentives

The group, which is floating ideas, wants the Tories to examine whether the methods being used to tackle pollution and climate change could also be used to confront other social problems.

Airlines will soon be able to buy and sell permits to emit carbon.

The group says enabling other firms to do something similar would give businesses incentives to move away from what is bad for society, and to rely less on government regulation.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
The aim is to give businesses incentives to do more good
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Mr Cameron told the conference such ideas contrasted with Gordon brown's "state-control".

Mr Cameron said: "The idea of some sort of trading system for social bads as opposed to environmental bads is also something we are looking at.

"I think that's much more difficult, it's still at quite a conceptual stage, but clearly emissions trading is working very well at putting a price on carbon, and reducing carbon emissions.

"So, the argument goes, well why not try and do this with some of the social bads as well as the environmental bads?"

Shadow industry secretary Alan Duncan said: "We want to harness the private interest for the public good.

"We want fewer rules for those who behave well and we're open to all ideas to embrace best practice."

BBC News political editor Nick Robinson says David Cameron is determined to prove his "big idea" - social responsibility - is a coherent alternative to what the Conservative leader dubs Labour's "big government" approach.

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