Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes is facing both ways at once; the ‘friendly critic’ of the Lib Dem coalition.
When David Cameron floated the idea of ending security of tenure for Council tenants Hughes issued this statement:
“Council tenancy agreements have not been discussed by the coalition, and any idea or proposal floated so far is nothing more than that – an idea or a proposal and not a policy. So the ideas put forward by David Cameron this week in no way represent the policy of the coalition and certainly do not represent the policy of Liberal Democrats. There was no mention of this issue in either election manifesto or the coalition agreement.
All Liberal Democrats will continue to support stable and cohesive communities where people have the security of knowing that they will continue to have a home. We will not let anybody have their homes taken away.
Debates about tenancies and the right to buy are of course perfectly proper, but the biggest housing priority must be urgently to increase the supply of good quality, energy efficient and secure homes, and particularly in areas of greatest need.
Of course Liberal Democrats are willing to talk to our coalition partners and anybody else about any ideas for council housing. As always, we will not be backward in expressing our personal and collective views.”
He also submitted a motion at the party conference in September which called for the government to “rule out removing secure tenancies for current and future council tenants”.
Simon Hughes later told the Defend Council Housing campaign (which he has supported for many years):
“The last thing we want is more insecurity. You can’t say it builds up community cohesion to threaten the last bit of security in tenants’ lives. People and communities need that security.”
However, in an interview with Inside Housing Hughes appears to have reneged on his commitment on tenure. Although threatening to vote against the government in relation to changes in housing benefit, the article says this in relation to security of tenure:
“Although he still rigorously opposes plans to move from tenancy for life to fixed-term tenancies, Mr Hughes said he was in favour of giving councils discretion over whether to offer a lifelong tenancy. (our emphasis)
A government consultation due to be published within the next few weeks will propose that councils and housing associations can choose whether or not to scrap tenancy for life in their area. Mr Hughes conceded that this would make housing a political football in some areas, but said: “At least this will encourage people to take an interest in local government and increase turn out at the polls”.
This represents a reneging on the principle of maintaining security of tenure. Mr Hughes is facing both ways in order to preserve Lib Dem participating in the coalition.
It mirrors his support for the coalition’s proposals on student fees despite the fact that the Lib Dem commitment in the General Election was to oppose all increases in fees and to work in the long term to end fees altogether.
You can demand that Simon Hughes sticks by his previous commitment to oppose ending security of tenure for current and future tenants by emailing him at: