To make good a legacy of underinvestment, the Department has significantly increased spending on living accommodation in recent years. That has resulted in the delivery of 38,000 new or improved single living bed spaces, and it is planned that a further 19,000 will be provided by 2013. Moreover, 14,000 service family homes have been upgraded. All occupied houses in the United Kingdom will be of the highest standard by 2020. Homes in condition 1 and 2 meet or exceed the Government decent homes standard. No families are expected to live in service family accommodation of the lowest standard except as a result of personal choice.
Has not progress been far too slow, and should the Government not redouble their efforts to improve accommodation for our brave soldiers, sailors and marines, particularly in units such as Royal Marines Poole?
I will take no lessons from the Conservatives, who sold off armed forces housing and created some of the problems, such as lack of investment, that we are trying to rectify now. Eighty properties at Royal Marines Poole are in the current central heating replacement programme, and 56 more will be included this year. That demonstrates that we are investing in Royal Marines Poole. Of the 178 properties there, 82 are in the highest-standard condition, although the charge is in the lowest-standard category to take account of, for instance, their proximity to noise from helicopters. The daily charge is £2.38.
While the upgrades are more than welcome, people such as my constituent Andy Hibberd, a recent ex-serviceman, have direct experience of seriously substandard accommodation. What can my hon. Friend do and say to reassure my constituent that much more is being done to ensure that every single serviceman—and, more to the point, the family of every single serviceman—has a decent home in which to live?
Our record speaks for itself, in marked contrast to that of the Conservative Government. We are investing real money in improving both family and single living accommodation. Between 90 and 95 per cent. of family accommodation is in the top two grades, 1 and 2, both of which meet or exceed the Government’s criteria for decent homes. We are committed to investment. This year I secured an additional £50 million from the Treasury, which is making a real difference in improving both single and family accommodation.