Ann and Alan Keen and the state confiscation of private property
Hounslow Council said that the Keens' house in Brentford, West London, appeared to have been empty since last November, and so the Keens have been given notice of the council’s intention to issue an ‘Empty Dwelling Management Order’, allowing it to ‘repossess’ a property if it remains unoccupied and dilapidated for a period of six months. The council is permitted to carry out works on the property house and use it to accommodate other people without the permission of the owner.
Cranmer is disturbed to hear of this, and not because of the further abuse of expenses which this highlights.
Hounslow Council cannot repossess that which they have not previously possessed. This is not a council house, and neither has the council provided the Keens with a mortgage on the property. This is not, therefore, a ‘repossession’.
What it is, however, is something both sinister and grave in a liberal democracy.
This is the lawful expropriation of private property; seizure by the state. The Housing Act 2004 was amended by the Housing (Management Orders and Empty Dwelling Management Orders) Regulations in 2006, and it is a murky piece of New Labour legislation. When an EDMO is in force, the local council assumes most of the rights and responsibilities of the owner and may exercise them as if it were the owner even though it does not become the legal owner. Yet the legal owner is not entitled to receive any rent or other payments from anyone occupying the dwelling and may not exercise any rights to manage the dwelling whilst an EDMO is in force.
Conservative housing spokesman Grant Shapps said it would be ‘deeply ironic’ if the Labour government's powers to allow the state confiscation of private property were used against ‘absentee Labour members of Parliament’.
Actually, the greater irony is that a Conservative controlled council should be applying this Marxist legislation at all.
It is fundamental to Conservative philosophy that the state should guard the rights of individuals in respect of their private property. The rules of property defining rights of owners are both moral and legal. Inherent to capitalism is the owners’ rights to use what they own in any way they choose so long as they respect the moral or natural rights of others. This appropriation, whether by gift, bequest or exchange, permits the owner to profit by it in whatever way they see fit.
The concept of communal property is associated with Marxism and socialism, and assigns rights to the community as a whole rather than to the individual. Decisions concerning the use of property are made collectively and profits realised are distributed to that community.
Grant Shapps should be less concerned with the ‘irony’ of the plight of Mr and Mrs Keen, and thoroughly keen to repeal this odious statutory instrument. It is an unjust redistribution of private property, an infringement of the freedom of owners, and a thoroughly un-Conservative piece of legislation.