We announced an extra £280 million on 6 September to extend the Firstbuy scheme. This means we will help some 27,000 first-time buyers into home ownership by March 2014. Former members of the armed forces have priority to access this scheme up to 12 months after discharge.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. As I suspect he knows, we have changed the law so that ex-service personnel who have urgent housing needs are always given additional preference for social housing by local councils. I think that will make an important difference.
In Northern Ireland, the military covenant would need to be in place to ensure that ex-service personnel would have the opportunity to get housing. What discussions has the Minister had with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that that happens?
I shall certainly make sure, as the record of the House will show, that my ministerial colleagues in the Ministry of Defence are made aware of that. As the Minister responsible for housing in England, I suspect it would be wiser for me not to cross the Irish sea.