Hughes on Cameron’s council tenancies plans: “It is not a Liberal Democrat policy, it is not a coalition policy.”

by Stephen Tall on August 4, 2010

Lib Dem Voice’s Sara Bedford reported here this morning her reaction to David Cameron’s suggestion that he wanted to look at fixed-term tenancies to help solve the issue of scarce council housing.

Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has been quick to make plain his outright opposition to the proposal, telling the Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh:

“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 the Liberal Democrats.

“We will not let anybody have their homes taken away. We must continue to suppport established and cohesive communities where people have the security of knowing that they will continue to have a home.”

Mr Hughes is convinced that the issue will now feature at the Lib Dem annual conference next month (in the form of condemnatory motions from the grass roots, I suspect).

“I’m sure that Liberal Democrats from all over the country will look forward to discussions with our coalition partners over these proposals and fully expressing their views. Labour floated this idea and quickly withdrew it because it had been badly thought out.”

He added that it was “perfectly proper” to have a debate about tenancies but warned the biggest priority was to build more homes.

Paul also has an interesting account of the behind-the-scenes discussions:

I’m told (not by the man himself, I stress) that Mr Hughes ‘exploded’ last night when he heard of the Cameron words.

He had first got wind of the controversial proposal recently when Andrew Stunnell flagged it up in the party hierarchy. He warned ministers that the party should ‘not touch this with a bargepole’ but it seems there was confusion as to whether Nick Clegg was alerted of the concerns.

Crucially, Hughes appears to have been assured that no announcement was going to be made on the subject until after discussions within the coalition.

It seems, therefore, that Mr Cameron was speaking purely in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the Coalition Government.