Author Archives: Michael Hall

Tackling the Housing Crisis – Policy Paper 155 – Motion F31

This policy paper deserves careful study in advance of our Conference in Bournemouth, as it contains many good ideas for tackling the housing crisis, which must be one of the most important priorities of a Liberal Democrat-led Government.

The section on the very important and complex issue of leasehold reform at the end, has been included in the chapter on The Planning System, and says “(we) would fix the flaws in the current planning system by…” and there follow four bullet points, of which the last is “Abolish leasehold for residential properties and cap ground rents to a nominal value.”  The law relating to leaseholds is not, of course, actually part of the planning system, and this subject of leasehold reform would have merited a chapter of its own, or indeed a whole policy paper.

The authors of this policy paper do not seem to be proposing simply to abolish residential leases, so that leaseholders no longer own an estate in land, and can be evicted without a court order.  Reading between the lines it appears to be suggested that leaseholders should automatically be given commonholds instead of their leases.

However, paragraph 11.6.1 suggests “introducing changes to the planning system to curb the worst excesses of England’s leasehold system”. So, it seems it is not intended to change property law, but only planning law. But planning law does not relate to freeholds, leaseholds or commonhold. It is about controlling the use of land, rather than the ownership of land.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

The Reform of The English Council

It is only occasionally that articles about the English Council appear in Lib Dem Voice. I am not a member of the English Council but an ordinary member of the party in Bromley.

Liz Leffman who was the Chair of the English Council wrote about proposals for reform of the English Party organisation in December 2017. There was also an article by Rob Davidson in May 2020 and Simon McGrath wrote an article in December 2020.

As mentioned, efforts have been made to make the English Council more democratic and accountable to members of the party in England.  The final proposals of the English Review Group under the Chairmanship of Sally Symington in 2017 were rejected by the English Council.

Federal Conference decided in 2014 that Federal Conference Reps should no longer be elected by local parties, so that every member is now entitled to attend the Federal Conference.  Since that time we have had reason to believe that a similar reform of the English Party might be imminent.

Some efforts are being made by some members of the English Council to communicate with ordinary party members, through social media, but not in a structured manner.

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What this country needs: the conversion of life peerages into hereditary ones

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK Parliament

The House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill was published only yesterday and was scheduled for a second reading today.

It is one of a number of Bills introduced by backbench Conservative MPs listed for second reading which seem off the wall and it is a wonder that they were scheduled for second reading debate without having first been printed.

One would assume from its title that this Bill has the sole purpose of limiting the number of active peers. It does that and, no doubt because the Bill has been rushed into print at the last minute, the dates for it to take effect are all in the past.

It provides for a maximum number of 650 peers, and it also provides for compulsory retirement in order of seniority to reduce the number of active peers to that magic figure.

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The Chancel Repairs Bill 2014 (more interesting than you might imagine)

Creeting St Peter churchI am delighted that Lord Eric Avebury has moved the first reading in the House of Lords of the Chancel Repairs Bill. Eric ( the former MP, Eric Lubbock – the famous Orpington Man) must be our longest serving Parliamentarian. Having been elected as MP for Orpington in 1962, with a massive swing from the Conservatives, he succeeded to the Peerage as Baron Avebury in 1971, and has held his seat as one of the 93 elected hereditary peers.

Over the years he has continued as a keen and active supporter of the Liberal Democrats in Orpington, and one of our most hard working peers.

He has also published an Explanatory Note with the Bill.

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Opinion: Reform of the Duchy of Cornwall – on the cards?

Lord Berkeley’s “Rights of the Sovereign and Duchy of Cornwall Bill” is due to have its second reading in the Lords on 8 November. He has been quoted as saying he wants to “provoke a debate”, and it may be supposed that Bill is likely to be defeated at its second reading. As it would affect the Prince’s private interests, it would require his consent in order to progress. He has given his consent to several bills in the past, according to the Parliament website. It is surprising how many bills require his consent. This is

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Opinion: Civil Liberties or taking liberties?

On 11 March we will debate at our Spring Conference in Gateshead an innocuous- sounding motion about Civil Liberties, but it needs to be looked at carefully to see if it is not more about letting people take liberties, than protecting our right to protest.

I know the Liberal Democrats do not support anarchy and mob rule, but you could be forgiven for thinking they do if you just read the motion, to be moved by Dr Julian Huppert, the MP for Cambridge and summed up by Tom Brake MP for Carshalton and Wallington.

I cannot see why the offence of aggravated …

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Opinion: Public services and tax policy

Nick Clegg shocked me when he said that the UK fiscal deficit is increasing by £400m every day.

Since then we have had a broadly fiscally neutral budget from George Osborne, intended to stimulate the economy. True, VAT rose to 20% but in other ways, this was a give-away budget. VAT is a regressive tax, which we all have to pay, when we buy what we need, whether we can afford it or not. There should be lower rates for household essentials such as fuel. There should be no VAT on the first £1,000 of fuel bills.

The income tax …

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