POLITICS

Tory MP Under Fire For 'Driving Poor Tenants Out' With Rent Rises (VIDEO)

02/07/2014 17:19 BST | Updated 02/07/2014 17:59 BST

Tory Richard Benyon, Britain's richest MP, has been savaged for putting families in east London at risk of losing their home by hiking their rent.

Labour MP Diane Abbott asked David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions today about the millionaire ex-minister, who has been accused of "social cleansing" by local residents in Hackney.

Residents at the New Era estate in Hoxton, Hackney, have seen rent rates soar by 10% in the last year, with others fearing that they will be made homeless by July 2015 after Benyon's family firm bought the estate.

Abbott praise Benyon sarcastically for his "distinctive contribution" to London's housing crisis, adding: "Families in Hackney are facing eviction and being put on the street. Is that the prime minister’s idea of compassionate conservatism?"

Cameron avoided directly defending Benyon, who was present in the chamber as Abbott launched her attack.

"We all know we need to see more houses being built, and over a fifth of affordable homes have been built in London," he said. "We need more house-building and more houses provided and therefore we'll see more affordable rents."

Benyon is director of this family's £125 million firm Englefield Estate, which has a portfolio including the Benyon Estate that has a stake in the private investment company that bought the estate.

In response to the furore, the Tory MP has previously stressed that his family business was a "small shareholder" in the consortium that ran the business, adding: “I do not manage this building."

The controversy comes after Tory housing minister Kris Hopkins defended saying that it would be "perfectly legitimate" for private landlords to evict tenants on housing benefit after being attacked by Labour for his "appalling" remarks.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Hopkins told MPs that he wanted to "clarify" his remarks that were broadcast last week in a Panorama documentary about homelessness.

“May I clarify what I said?” he said. “It is not appropriate for a landlord to remove somebody just because they are on housing benefit, but an individual can make a commercial choice about who they want to live in their accommodation."

“It seems that the Labour party, in its forthcoming manifesto, will prescribe who can live in an individual’s house. A private investor who has purchased a house should have the opportunity to choose who lives in that house.”