Simon Hughes, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, has attacked an idea suggested by David Cameron that could mean the end of what the Prime Minister called "council houses for life".

Mr Cameron suggested the possibility that tenants of council houses could be given fixed terms of up to ten years and could then move out should their circumstances change.

Ministers have said that should such a proposal come into effect it would only apply to new tenants at council houses not to existing ones. The proposal could also end the right of children to "inherit" their parent's council house.

The idea has been backed by some in local government circles as a way of tackling housing shortages in their local areas and of increasing choice for tenants.

However Mr Hughes said that while he was not against radical reform, he was sceptical that Liberal Democrats would support it. Speaking to the BBC he said, "It's a prime ministerial idea, it has no more validity yet, and I think our party would need a lot of persuading that it has merit or could work and that's something clearly if he wants us to talk about we're happy to talk about."

"We have to be clear, it is not a Liberal Democrat policy, it is not a coalition policy, it was not in the election manifesto of either party, it was not in the coalition agreement.... if he wants to pursue it then there are the proper channels to do so."

He added, "The fundamental reason why council property is so desirable is because you have security. You know that you can have affordable housing for the rest of your life.

"For people in many walks of life, out of work, retired, on low incomes, that's fundamentally important."

A consultation document on the idea has been prepared by the government however it has not yet been published.