Saturday, 28 November 2015

Simon Hughes rallies Liberal Democrats to challenge the removal of security of tenure

Lifetime tenancy row threatens coalition

One of the Liberal Democrats’ most senior MPs will hit out at Conservative opposition to security of tenure at his party’s conference this weekend.

Deputy leader Simon Hughes has submitted a motion to the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference, which starts in Liverpool tomorrow, calling for the government to rule out the removal of lifetime tenures for social tenants.

This contradicts prime minister David Cameron’s announcement in August that he was considering scrapping tenancy for life in favour of fixed-term tenancies, which would end when a tenant’s economic circumstances improved.

Mr Hughes’ motion, which delegates will choose whether to debate at the conference, comes as party backbenchers wage a growing campaign against the coalition’s proposed cuts to housing benefit.

The motion calls on the government to ‘rule out removing secure tenancies for current and future council tenants’ and to ‘investigate alternative ways of managing occupancies when circumstances change, such as different levels of rent’.

Mr Hughes said: ‘Proposing this motion for conference is one obvious way we could move the debate forward and ensure the voice of Liberal Democrats is clearly heard.’

Meanwhile, Mike Hancock, Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, has written to work and pensions minister Lord Freud, condemning plans to cut housing benefit. Other Lib Dem MPs, including Stephen Williams and Andrew George, have also written to ministers asking for more detail on the cuts.

At an adjournment debate on Tuesday Bob Russell, Lib Dem MP for Colchester, accused the government of ‘economic cleansing’ through its cuts and said low-income families would be ‘forced out of their neighbourhoods’.

The rebellion comes after chancellor George Osborne announced he would make a further £4 billion in cuts to the welfare budget, on top of the £11 billion already announced in the Budget. But work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he ‘did not recognise’ the £4 billion figure when giving evidence to a committee of MPs on Wednesday.

Twenty MPs, including four Lib Dems and Tory MP Peter Bottomley, signed an early day motion by Mr Russell, challenging the decision to link benefits to the consumer price index.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson also warned this week that 17,000 families could be forced to move in London as a result of the caps to local housing allowance.

A Conservative spokesperson said there was ‘no split’ in the coalition over tenure. He added: ‘The government is absolutely committed to protecting the security of tenure and rights of those currently living in social housing.’

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