Service Accommodation

Defence – in the House of Commons at on 20 May 2024.

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Photo of Helen Morgan Helen Morgan Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Levelling up, Housing and Communities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Local Government)

What the budget is for the maintenance of service accommodation for financial year 2024-25.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s accommodation budget has not yet been finalised for the financial year 2024-25. The Government continue to invest significant sums to improve the quality of UK service family accommodation. The spend for 2023-24 on SFA maintenance and improvement was £384 million. An additional £400 million of funding over financial years 2023-24 and 2024-25 was announced as part of the defence Command Paper refresh last July.

Photo of Helen Morgan Helen Morgan Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Levelling up, Housing and Communities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Local Government)

The new head of infrastructure at the DIO, Commodore Leah Griffin, has written in her monthly newsletter to military families that the financial situation is “more challenging than ever”, and only urgent repairs will be considered. We can see that on the ground in my constituency. A service person’s partner who has had abdominal surgery has been unable to climb in and out of their bath to have a shower, and has been refused any kind of modification to assist them. That kind of financial challenge has a real impact on servicemen and women’s lives. Could the Minister look at the problem, and commit to ensuring a decent standard of accommodation for those people who put their life on the line for us?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Lady is consistent in raising accommodation issues. As ever, if she has a specific case, she is more than welcome to write to me about it, if she has not already done so. On funding, I gently remind her that we committed an additional £400 million, and because of our commitment to 2.5%, we can confirm that we are able to put another £4 billion into SFA over the next 10 years—a significant investment.

Photo of Caroline Ansell Caroline Ansell Conservative, Eastbourne

My hon. Friend will agree that it is important that our service accommodation be of high quality, but we should also support members of our armed forces in buying a home for themselves and their families. What support is there in the modernised accommodation offer to help soldiers, sailors and pilots get on the housing ladder?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, which speaks to my previous career, running a small business that helped first-time buyers. Forces Help to Buy has been a great success, but we also recently confirmed support with conveyancing costs, because the cost of getting on the property ladder includes not just the purchase but all the ancillary costs. We are committed to supporting our armed forces personnel, whether that means investing in the accommodation of those in SFA or single living accommodation, or helping those who want to get on to the property ladder.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Defence)

Everyone who serves our country should live in a decent home, but last month, the independent Kerslake commission’s report on armed forces housing found that the majority of service personnel are dissatisfied with housing conditions, and very dissatisfied with the maintenance and repair service. One in three service personnel still lives in the lowest-grade service accommodation. The Government’s words simply do not match their action. Can the Minister honestly look service families in the eye and say that military housing under this Government is good enough?

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The debate we have been having is about investment. We put in an additional £400 million, which means that we have been able to overhaul thousands of properties, performing upgrades to deal with damp and mould and putting in new heating systems. That costs money. Our commitment to 2.5% means that we will get an extra £4 billion over the next decade. Armed forces personnel know that Labour cannot possibly deliver that, because it will not match our commitment to 2.5%.