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Home Ownership

Volume 570: debated on Monday 4 November 2013

The Secretary of State for Defence recently announced that £200 million has been allocated for the creation of the forces Help to Buy scheme. Launching on 1 April 2014, it will significantly improve the support available to members of the armed forces who wish to buy their own home. Forces Help to Buy will offer the men and women of our armed forces a deposit loan of 50% of their annual salary, up to a maximum of £25,000. The loans will be interest-free and repaid over an affordable 10-year period. As well as that additional funding, there will be tailored advice on financial and housing matters. Of course, service personnel are also afforded high priority and additional flexibility under the Chancellor’s main Help to Buy equity share scheme.

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. What reassurance can she give my armed forces constituents, particularly those in the Army Air Corps at Middle Wallop, that they will be able to combine this new scheme with the schemes already put forward by the Department for Communities and Local Government, in an example of joined-up government?

There should not be any difficult in doing that at all. I should add that I am always more than willing to come to see some of the excellent accommodation that I know exists already at Middle Wallop, and I look forward to doing so.

Armed forces personnel inevitably experience more difficulty accessing home ownership because they often have to move to different parts of the country because of different postings. Has my hon. Friend considered reducing the frequency of such movements to enable greater take-up of home ownership among the armed forces?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. That is why the new employment model that we are developing will deliver an offer to regular service personnel that supports domestic stability by reducing the frequency of moves and supports partners’ employment. We know that issues such as those two points often concern members of our armed forces and lead to a lot of dissatisfaction.

Often the problem is the availability of housing. Will the Minister update the House on what discussions have been had with local authorities in general and Birmingham city council in particular about the provision of extra housing?

I am not aware of any discussions. I do know, however, the great benefits that the community covenant has brought in and I have no doubt that Birmingham is fully signed up to it. If I need to, I am more than happy to make further inquiries and write to the hon. Lady.

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new role and thank her for her answer to my written question about low morale in the armed forces, in which she admitted that it has doubled over the past three years from 15% to 30%. She will be aware that the quality of and access to housing, along with pay and allowances, are key factors in forces’ morale and that of their families. Will she guarantee that it will not plummet further on her watch?

I wish I could guarantee that it will not plummet any further, but I strongly suspect that this has been a long-standing problem. I am pleased to say that the Government take it seriously, which is why we are doing the many things that we are doing precisely to address those issues.

18. What estimate has the Minister made of the number of service personnel who could benefit from the new forces Help to Buy scheme? (900870)

I cannot give my hon. Friend a figure, but as the scheme is worth £200 million we can be confident that it will be many thousands.

That is a remarkable self-denying ordinance. If the Minister wants to say something, we must not deny her the opportunity in her maiden performance in this portfolio.