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Married Quarters

Volume 264: debated on Tuesday 24 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress made in dealing with surplus married quarters. [36569]

We are making good progress in dealing with surplus married quarters and aim to dispose of 4,000 quarters by the summer of 1996.

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree—I suspect that he does—that it has been a scandal that so many houses were empty—[Interruption.] Does he not agree that it has been a scandal that so many houses were left empty in the village of—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman still agree that it was a scandal that so many houses were left empty in the village of Longhoughton for so long when they could have been taken over by the district council or by a housing association? It is not only a scandal at a time of housing shortages but an embarrassment to the Royal Air Force locally, because it has no control over the situation at all.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that it has taken much longer than we would have wished to resolve the matter. I know that he has been following it keenly and pushing it along. Our aim is always to dispose of surplus property at the earliest opportunity so that it can be brought back into use as soon as possible. The sale of 20 houses to a housing association will be completed in December. I know that this will be welcome news to local people in housing need.

I thank my hon. Friend and congratulate the Government on their excellent progress in disposing of surplus properties in Portland and around Bovington. May I, however, add to the pleas I have made in the past as a result of talking to local authorities and housing associations? Many people would also like quite a large number of these properties to be sold to private people because we do not want to have a block of just council properties again; private owners tend to bring up the whole quality of an estate for the people living in it.

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's point; what he says is self-evidently true. Whenever possible, quarters that are temporarily surplus are leased to local authorities and housing associations. We are currently looking to identify more properties that can be leased in the short term which would well fulfil some of my hon. Friend's ambitions.