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Defence Estate

Volume 688: debated on Monday 1 February 2021

I would like to take the opportunity, on behalf of everyone in Defence, to send Captain Sir Tom Moore our best wishes for his recovery from covid. He continues to be an inspiration to us all, embodying the “Trust, Courage, Team Spirit” motto of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, for which he is the honorary colonel. From the newest recruit upwards, we all wish him a very speedy recovery.

We are taking several steps to ensure that we are using the estate in a most effective way. They include updating our infrastructure strategy plans; implementing an asset management system across the estate; and increasing investment in the estate to implement the defence estate optimisation portfolio, reducing our footprint and modernising our infrastructure.

My constituents are very proud of the role RAF Linton-on-Ouse has had in the defence of our realm, all the way from the second world war to the current day—or near to it. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on any other potential purposeful military uses he has for the base?

At the urging of my hon. Friend—the RAF have been in the process of drawing the base down, as he said—we did look at exploring other military uses for that base, but at the moment no long-term military requirement has been identified. Defence is, I am afraid, therefore completing the final assessment, with disposal details to be announced in due course.

May I join the Secretary of State in sending our best wishes to Sir Tom for a speedy recovery? It is a well-known fact that in the 21st century we need to modernise our defence estates to compete, given changing world needs. The Government have announced the closure of 90 sites across the country, so will the Secretary of State update this House as to how his Department aims to ensure that the British taxpayer is not left paying huge rents on a great number of empty properties, as has already happened, when these sites are closed? How many of these defence estate sites will be affected by the Crichel Down rule?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The defence estate optimisation programme was and is planned to unlock £1.4 billion, to be reinvested in an overall plan of a £5.1 billion investment in the defence estate across the board, helping soldiers, sailors and air force personnel with better quality accommodation and a better training estate. He is right to point out the challenges relating to historical problems with both private finance initiatives and the Annington home deal at the end of 1997. Some of the PFI schemes introduced under his Government lay a heavy burden on the defence budget. We are both examining and negotiating on a number of those areas to try to reduce the overall burden on the taxpayer.