The Liberal Democrats want Brighton and Hove Council to be given powers to order landlords to rent empty homes to desperate families.

According to recent estimates, as many as 2,500 homes are empty in the city, many in the private sector.

Delegates at the Lib Dem conference voted overwhelmingly to enable councils such as Brighton and Hove to force owners to rent them at affordable rates.

Party spokesman Edward Davey said: "The first step should always be voluntary, persuading the property owner with grants and advice.

"But all this needs backstop powers if the owner insists on leaving the empty property empty for no good reason."

Agenda for today: Terrorism Threats, 10.15am: Foreign Affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell speaks on international security following the Iraq war.

Health Costs, 2.15pm: Health spokesman Evan Harris introduces proposals to end remaining NHS charges for long-term care and dental treatment to make all services free at point of delivery.

Banning Smacking: Controversial debate on proposal to ban smacking of children on human rights grounds, led by Baroness Walmsley.

Wednesday September 24, 2003