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Accommodation Model

Volume 642: debated on Monday 11 June 2018

It is very good to see the Minister. I was in his constituency on Friday speaking to school students, and they spoke of him with great warmth and affection.

I am sure that I told the right hon. Gentleman, but if I did not do so, I will be the first to apologise. I am pretty sure I did. Anyway, it was a great joy.

On reflection, Mr Speaker, I think I did receive some message that you were heading there.

We can be extremely proud of our armed forces, but if we are to continue to recruit the brightest and best, we must continue to invest in our equipment and training, but also in the welfare of our people. I am pleased that we are moving forward with the future accommodation model, which will give our armed forces personnel three choices: to remain on the garrison in the unit, inside the wire; to step outside and rent accommodation; or to get on the housing ladder by purchasing property.

The Royal United Services Institute criticised the future accommodation model, saying that it was woefully inadequate and behind schedule. Will the super-garrison at Catterick be finished on time, to ensure that armed forces personnel can live on garrison? Does the Minister think that the sale to Annington Homes in 1996 was a mistake?

With due respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman is mixing up a number of issues. The future accommodation model has yet to start, but the pilot scheme is on track to start in December. We have been working closely with the families federations, which have themselves recommended the locations for the pilot schemes. I very much look forward to this work taking place in December.

Recently, concerns have been expressed to me about the quality of grounds and buildings maintenance at armed forces accommodation at Woodhouse in my constituency. The Minister’s commitment to our armed forces personnel is well known and clear. Can he reassure me that the future accommodation model will include high-quality maintenance, and will he meet me to discuss that specific issue?

Accommodation is very important. As I have mentioned, equipment and training are one thing, but we must ensure that we look after our people. The level of accommodation is one of the reasons why armed forces personnel choose to leave, which is why we are investing in more modern accommodation. I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the issue. The Secretary of State and I take very seriously the matter of upgrading the accommodation that we offer our armed forces personnel.

I call Christian Matheson—[Interruption.] Oh, the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) has been very courteous in sitting there quietly, but I believe that he actually wanted to come in on this question; I do beg his pardon. Have a go, man.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The affordability of the future accommodation model relies heavily on the present rent adjustment on the Annington Homes estate. As we know, that is due to be renegotiated for 2021, with expectations that rents will rise significantly. The Tories were warned in 1996 that the sell-off of married quarters was a mistake, and that is exactly how it has transpired. What urgent steps has the Department taken to ensure that the rent renegotiation does not further cripple the MOD budget?

The hon. Gentleman raises a number of matters. I agree with that there is a question mark over what happened in the past, but it did happen, and we now need to move forward to provide the necessary offering for our armed forces personnel. As I mentioned, we are working with the families federations to ensure that we get the deal necessary to make accommodation affordable for our troops.