25/10/2013 12:15 BST | Updated 25/10/2013 12:25 BST

Simon Hughes Demands Limit On Foreigners Buying London Property

Britain's Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Simon Hughes at his leadership launch at the City of Manchester Stadium Manchester, England, Friday Jan. 27, 2006. Earlier in the week Hughes a front-runner in the race to become Liberla Democrat party leader acknowledged he has had homosexual relationships. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Simon Hughes has called for a clampdown on wealthy foreign investors buying up London homes in order to stop property becoming "a mere commodity for the global super-rich".

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader proposed that wealthy investors could be made to pay extra taxes on any property purchases or ministers could limit the number of sales each year to foreign buyers.

"There are lots of countries which require non-domestically based individuals or companies to have to have permission to buy properties other than for their own personal use and they're not all raving socialist republics, like the United States, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, Singapore, the Channel Islands."

Hughes said the "strident and interventionist" proposal could include making foreign buyers pay extra stamp duty or taxes on their purchases, with the revenues going to build more affordable homes.


The Liberal Democrat deputy leader also threw his weight behind the "use it or lose it" idea put forward by both Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson, which would force developers to build on their land with the threat of it being taken over by local authorities.

However, he warned that the scheme was a "simpler and slightly more extreme variant" of his own preferred idea to tax developers for their unused land at higher levels, equivalent to the rate for developed land.

Hughes joined in with a growing chorus of critics warning that the government's 'Help to Buy' scheme could push up house prices due to the persistently slow pace of housebuilding, including Vince Cable.

"There is a risk," he admitted, adding: "I Hope it doesn't have overly adverse effects. I don't think it's the end of the world will cause the housing market to become significantly worse than it is."

Hughes said the rising level of household debt is "significant and dreadful". According to the Money Charity, the average household has nearly £54,141 in household debt.

"We absolutely need to be having policies that go in the other direction," he said, calling for a programme that "delivers the amounts of housing a year that happened in the old days under Harold Macmillan."

The LibDem deputy leader admitted he was "very surprised" at the result of the recent cabinet reshuffle, which saw the job of housing minsiter effectivey abolished as Mark Prisk was removed as housing minister and replaced with Kris Hopkins, who serves as parliamentary under-secretary of state.

"I think it sends the wrong signal, I didn't think it was consistent with the coalition's proirities and I don't know how that came to pass," he told HuffPostUK.

In response to criticism of the handling of the housing minister role, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: "Housing is clearly an important issue… There have been measures around affordable housing, helping people to buy their own home and improving the planning system, which shows the importance attached to the issue across government."

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