It was David Cameron himself who wanted Right to Rent checks on tenants’ immigration status – despite overwhelming lack of support from his ministers.
Former cabinet minister David Laws makes the revelation in his new book about the coalition government.
In it, he recalls that just before a meeting at Downing Street, an official warned him: “The PM is unhappy with Eric Pickles [the then Communities secretary and boss of then housing minister Grant Shapps] over his proposals on private landlords which he doesn’t think are nearly tough enough.”
At the meeting, Pickles presented a paper which suggested targeting Houses in Multiple Occupation, as these were often used by illegal migrants.
But Cameron wanted landlords to check the immigration papers of every potential tenant and only give them housing if the landlord was confident they could live legally in the UK.
Cameron pushed his case hard, but Pickles having none of it.
Laws said Pickles told Cameron: “Prime Minister, can I be blunt with you?
“This is a seriously bad idea. Checking immigration papers is really hard. Many of them, you will be shocked to know Prime Minister, are frankly forged.
“What are we asking private landlords to do – act as an arm of the immigration service?
“I am very dubious. We could end up in a situation where anyone foreign-looking cannot get into private rented accommodation because landlords won’t risk getting it wrong.
“It could be very dangerous and divisive.”
Laws said he had exactly the same concerns. Few took Cameron’s side, even Tories.
Suddenly, Laws recalls, Cameron called an end to the meeting, with the agenda unfinished.
Had the PM really just walked out in a strop? “Yes.”
The coalition government went on to introduce Right to Rent checks in the 2014 Immigration Act.