My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans and I have recently reviewed the way in which current housing legislation impacts on those leaving the Armed Forces. This follows representations from Service personnel and others that the local connection provisions in housing legislation put Service personnel and those leaving the Armed Forces at a disadvantage when trying to access social housing.
Local authorities in England are responsible for framing their own policies and procedures for allocating social housing. In deciding who gets priority for social housing, housing legislation allows local authorities to take into account whether someone has a local connection with their district. Not all local authorities take local connection into account. Where they do, the legislation can put Service personnel at a disadvantage since an individual cannot establish a local connection with an area through residence or employment there when serving in the Armed Forces.
The Government are committed to aiding the effective transition of Service personnel to civilian life, and access to suitable housing is a vital part of this. Many will have bought their own home during their time in Service—and the Ministry of Defence has several schemes in place to encourage this—or will do so on leaving. However, for some Service leavers home ownership may not be an option and they may wish to apply for social housing. We believe it is important that the service they have given to their country does not place them at any disadvantage in this respect. The Government have therefore decided to make the necessary changes to housing legislation, at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that Service personnel are treated fairly and put on an equal footing with other people applying for social housing.
The detail of how the change will be effected will need to await the outcome of the current review of housing policy which the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced, following publication of Professor Hills' wide ranging report on social housing on 20 February 2007. We will bring forward our proposals in due course.