U.K. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said his party will seek to block legislation proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron to force nonprofit housing associations to sell homes to their tenants.
While Cameron has a majority in the House of Commons, the Liberal Democrats may be able to hold up the legislation temporarily by voting against it with Labour and neutral members of the House of Lords. The Conservatives included the plan, which echoes Margaret Thatcher’s sale of local-government housing in the 1980s, in their manifesto for the May election, so parliamentary convention means the Lords can’t veto it.
“Housing is the biggest single issue that politicians don’t talk about, well, we are going to talk about it, campaign on it, go on and on and on about it,” Farron will say in a speech to his party’s conference on Wednesday, according to extracts released by his office. “Communities up and down this country have spent 25 years building housing-association homes, picking up the pieces of Mrs. Thatcher’s destruction of council housing, and we will not allow David Cameron to destroy that work too.”
There are 1.6 million households on social-housing waiting lists, Farron’s office said in a briefing note, and 90,000 children in temporary accommodation waiting to be housed. Farron’s promise to make housing his “No. 1 priority” follows the decision by the new leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, to appoint a team of spokesmen devoted to housing.
Farron is making his first keynote conference speech since the Liberal Democrats lost all but eight of their 57 House of Commons lawmakers in May and is seeking to lead a party revival before the next election in 2020.
Ed Davey, who was a Liberal Democrat minister in the Coalition government before May, compared Cameron’s proposal to force private charities to sell their properties to the seizure of white-owned farms by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
“The state has no right to sell off these homes because they’re not the state’s,” he told a meeting at the conference in Bournemouth, southern England.
Housing associations say they will take legal action to block the government’s proposals if they are passed by Parliament.