HC Deb 16 November 1949 vol 469 cc2030-4
The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

I will, with permission, make a statement with regard to the provision of married quarters for the Services at home.

In the view of His Majesty's Government, adequate housing can make a most significant contribution towards maintaining the morale and, therefore, the efficiency of His Majesty's Forces, and improving the attractiveness of service in them as a career. Accordingly the Government have had under consideration possible means of securing an improvement in the rate of provision of married quarters for the Services in Great Britain.

Hitherto, the capital required for all Service housing has been provided out of current Service Votes. The construction of houses by local authorities, however, is normally financed by loan. His Majesty's Government have decided that it is desirable that the construction of married quarters for the Services at home, which is also a contribution to the housing requirements of this country, should in suitable cases likewise be financed by loan. It is the intention that money should only be advanced by way of loan for Service housing which would be of value for general housing purposes in the event of any houses so built no longer being required for Service purposes. Subject to this condition it is proposed that power should be taken to allow the Treasury to lend money from the Consolidated Fund to the Service Departments for the construction of married quarters at home. Accordingly a Resolution to authorise the Treasury to make issues from the Consolidated Fund appears on today's Order Paper in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A White Paper explaining the terms of the Resolution has been presented by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and copies will be available in the Vote Office later today.

I should like to emphasise that the proposed gross expenditure on housing accommodation to be provided from loan will be shown on the face of the Defence Estimates under separate Votes, and that no sum can be applied from issues from the Consolidated Fund towards meeting this expenditure without the full knowledge and approval of Parliament.

The total housing requirements of the Services, whether financed from loan or from Votes, will continue to be provided for, as at present, within the total allocation for housing under the capital investment programme.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

While the House will, no doubt, view with pleasure the prospect of an increase in the rate of housing accommodation for any section of His Majesty's subjects—and we can only trust that it will be forthcoming—may I ask what rate of increase is anticipated? Secondly, since this is in order to secure an improvement in the rate of provision of Service quarters, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this increase has been allowed for in the new capital investment programme or whether it will come out of the reduced allocation of houses recently announced? Third, may we assume that they are to be tied houses?

Mr. Alexander

No, Sir. I would answer the last point first. They are to be put up as Service married quarters, but to be of such a type, if financed by loan, that they will be available for the civil population if they are no longer required for the Services. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tied houses."] With regard to the second question the right hon. Gentleman asked, provision has been made for the programme within the revised capital investment programme, and the accommodation will be provided in accordance with the Government's housing programme, being agreed with the Service Ministers and the housing Ministers. With regard to the first point, I could not give a specific figure today as to the rate of increased provision, but I have no doubt that my Service colleagues could from time to time answer detailed questions on that matter.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

It is, however, very important that the right hon. Gentleman should give us some estimate, because he has just said it is to come out of the total allocation, and, therefore, represents a further inroad into the already scanty provision of houses made for the general population.

Mr. Alexander

This is for houses for the Services at home, and we submit that the men in the Services at home and married have as much and as urgent a right to the provision of houses as any other section of the community.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Can the right hon. Gentleman point out what difference a change in the mechanics of providing the money—which is all the right hon. Gentleman's statement amounts to—can make to the rate of houses provided? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that no one will be satisfied until he has enabled every building facility to be given?

Mr. Alexander

As anyone with experience of this business knows, one of the great reasons for this is to make good the kind of arrears we have had to face in the last year or two, and which arose from long years of constant—

Hon. Members


Mr. Stanley


Mr. Alexander

—perhaps hon. Members will please wait for me to finish the sentence—constant economy year after year, when estimates were submitted for this kind of project in the works programmes of the Services, but were cut so that the arrears piled up. If we can get this programme without having to make economies, we feel we shall have a good prospect of producing within the time envisaged the required amount of accommodation.

Mrs. Middleton

While cordially welcoming the statement made by my right hon. Friend, may I ask him if he will see that in the blitzed dockyard towns, such as the city of Plymouth, the fact that these houses are to be taken from the general allocation of houses will not detract from the number of civilian houses to be built in those areas?

Mr. Alexander

I am quite sure that the negotiations which have already taken place between the Services Ministries, the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Health Department have already made that quite clear.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

I am still not clear how the alteration in the machinery for paying for these houses is going to increase the actual rate of housing, unless there is to be an extra allocation of materials and labour.

Mr. Alexander

It is obvious that at this stage I cannot answer questions merely on a statement in the House. We must have an early Debate on the Financial Resolution and on the short Bill

itself. Perhaps hon. Members would allow matters to develop in that way.

Wing-Commander Millington

Is it not a simple fact that this allocation will not come out of the civilian allocation, because when a married Service man gets married quarters he moves his family from their existing civilian accommodation, thereby releasing that accommodation for civilians?

Mr. Alexander

That has been shown right through the housing provisions we have already made. With regard to the question of materials, we have had to arrange our building accommodation within the allocation of materials, and we are continuing in the same way.

Mr. Speaker

This is becoming a Debate on housing in general, and, as we have other business to do, I think that we had better get on with it.