FOREIGN oligarchs and speculators would face “fierce tax penalties” under Liberal Democrat plans to recalibrate Britain’s housing market and help young people get on the property ladder, Vince Cable has insisted.

The Liberal Democrat leader declared: “Homes are to live in; they’re not pieces on a Monopoly board,” as he made a clear pitch to place his party as the champion of young people and, in particular, so-called Generation Rent.

In his keynote speech to the party conference in Bournemouth, Sir Vince made clear he wanted to see the tax system shift to imposing levies on wealth accumulated through property and savings, rather than work.

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He said inequality in the UK was nowhere more stark than in the housing market with property wealth for the fortunate co-existing alongside growing insecurity and homelessness for many others.

“Home ownership, which spread wealth for generations, is no longer a realistic prospect for younger people with moderate means…To put this right, we must end the stranglehold of oligarchs and speculators in our housing market.

“I want to see fierce tax penalties on the acquisition of property for investment purposes by overseas residents.”

The 74-year-old party leader made clear he also wanted to see rural communities protected from the “blight of absentee second home ownership,” which devastated local economies and pushed young people away from the places they grew up in.

Sir Vince also called for a doubling of annual house-building to buy and to rent, which would include a new generation of garden cities and villages across the UK, where demand outstripped supply.

Government,” he declared, “must take the lead and get building.”

The MP for Twickenham explained how the UK’s housing crisis lay at the heart of the “growing and deeply corrosive inequality between generations”.

He spoke about how young people faced employment that was insecure and housing that was unaffordable.

“A future of narrowing horizons and closing frontiers, which the vast majority of under-25s never voted for. As Britain’s government of the future, Liberal Democrats will always be their voice and their champion,” insisted Sir Vince.

As well as a Lib Dem team looking at the housing crisis, another will examine the thorny issue of student debt.

Noting how the party suffered “grievous political harm” from promising to scrap tuition fees, only to renege on the pledge, the party leader said the student debt problem had not gone away. So, he announced a review, which would consider options, including a graduate tax.

“We value the support of students, so we must get this issue right,” he declared.

On Brexit, the party leader said disaster loomed and called on “political adults” from other parties to join the cause for an “exit to Brexit” vote in another referendum.

He called on Theresa May to scrap the state visit planned for Donald Trump, branding the US President an “apologist for religious and racial hatred”.

The Lib Dem leader said that under his stewardship the party would offer a prospectus of “hope and realism,” where the test would be “what works best”. This, he explained, would sometimes mean the state, sometimes private enterprise but, usually, a practical combination of the two.

In a brief reference to Scotland, he praised the campaign of Willie Rennie, the Scottish party leader, whose campaign at the June General Election saw the number of Scottish MPs rise from one to four.

On a personal note, he referred to how success was often laced with setback.

“I reflect on one of the most difficult periods of my life when many of you will know I lost my first wife. In time, I recovered and found a new partnership with Rachel. She has sustained and supported me ever since. Her energy and dedication to me is the source of my energy and dedication to this party.”

Sir Vince ended his speech by insisting the “time for waiting is over” for the Lib Dems, who had the ideas and experience to transform Britain with an exit from Brexit, a grown-up approach to the economy and bold ideas to strengthen UK society through the 21st century.