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Future Accommodation Model

Volume 639: debated on Monday 23 April 2018

As the House will be aware, we are developing new accommodation options for service personnel. The programme is called the future accommodation model and we hope to run a pilot towards the end of the year.

There are serious problems in the private rented sector surrounding affordability, quality and security of tenure. Does the Minister share my concern that splitting our forces communities by pushing service families into the private rented sector risks reducing their quality of accommodation and life, as well as impacting on retention and recruitment rates?

I must correct the hon. Lady: nobody will be forced to do anything, but the option will be available to them. We are providing more choice for our armed forces personnel, who can choose to stay on the base, rent or indeed get on the housing ladder and purchase a property. Of course, house prices vary up and down the country, so we need to make sure that there is a process to ensure a subsidised capability so that nobody is left out of pocket. However, there is a choice; nobody will be forced into any of this accommodation.

Service families in Woolwich are understandably anxious about what the future accommodation model might mean for them, but the immediate concern for many is the poor service they regularly receive from CarillionAmey. What are Ministers doing here and now to improve the quality of the subcontracted maintenance and repairs service?

The hon. Gentleman’s question gives me licence to clarify the longevity of what is happening at Woolwich. He will be aware that there is a proposal to close the base itself by 2028 and that the Royal Anglians will move, as will the Royal Horse Artillery. There is time between now and then, however, and we need to make sure we look after our armed forces personnel. He will also be aware that we have had problems with the CarillionAmey deal—the previous Defence Secretary called the company in to say that things were not up to par—but we are working to ensure that the contracts are met.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that most young people in the armed forces want not to rent but to buy, and can he say what more can be done to support the Forces Help to Buy scheme, which appears to be quite successful?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Help to Buy scheme is a critical part of the programme we are rolling out. The pilot scheme will begin at the end of the year. The feedback from the armed forces federations is that it will give armed forces personnel and their families the choice they are calling for.