Skip to main content

Homeless Veterans

Volume 604: debated on Monday 18 January 2016

13. If he will make an assessment of the potential merits of using empty Ministry of Defence properties to house homeless veterans. (903062)

Ministry of Defence housing supports serving members of the armed forces and their families. A margin of unoccupied properties is retained, but housing that is no longer needed is released. We provide significant support to facilitate the transition to civilian life, and we have allocated £40 million from LIBOR fines to support projects providing veterans with accommodation, including £8.5 million for Mike Jackson House.

Colchester is a garrison town, and we currently have a number of MOD properties standing vacant. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how some of those properties could be used for temporary accommodation for military veterans?

Approximately 10% of our service family accommodation is unoccupied, but we keep it at that level to ensure that we can cater for trickle postings and for people returning from overseas. I am not convinced that the use of service accommodation is a sustainable way of supporting veterans. However, there are a number of excellent projects around the country and I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss how we might pursue them in Colchester.

20. Can the Minister advise the House on the Government’s support strategy for homeless veterans with comorbid substance use or mental health problems? What more can be done? (903069)

We continue to provide support for veterans, particularly with their mental health. We have invested an awful lot of money in recent years, but we accept that the job is certainly not done. There has been a rise in mental health problems, both in society and in the armed forces, and this is something that we keep under constant review and are determined to tackle.

Of course it will be difficult for the Minister to respond to a question on supporting veterans, given that 30% of the MOD’S estate has been sold off. We are also concerned by the Government’s intention to lay off 30% of the MOD’S civilian workforce, which could include significant job losses at Defence Equipment and Support. At the same time, spending on buying in outside expertise has rocketed to some 30% of the DE&S budget. Does the Minister accept that further lay-offs will not only drive up extortionate consultancy costs but exacerbate the skills shortage that the Public Accounts Committee has identified as a key reason for the increases in the cost of military equipment overall?

No, I do not accept that, and I make absolutely no apology for continuing, as a result of our strategic defence and security review, to optimise our defence output.