HC Deb 14 December 1976 vol 922 cc1179-80
13. Mr. Newens

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to ensure that Service men and their families, living in quarters owned by his Department, are neither threatened with eviction nor actually evicted, following demobilisation, until adequate alternative accommodation can be provided.

Dr. Gilbert

Married quarters are provided to enable Service families to stay together when they move from one station to another, and it would plainly be wrong that the families of serving men should be deprived of quarters by others who are no longer entitled to them. However, where a quarter is not required immediately for another occupant, it is normally possible to allow a reasonable period of time in which the existing occupant can find alternative accommodation. In cases where it proves necessary, none the less, for the Department to apply to the courts for possession, we keep in close touch with the local authorities to see what help they can provide.

Mr. Newens

Is it not a public scandal that men who have satisfactorily completed a term of service, which prevents them from satisfying the residential qualification laid down by various local authorities, should then be subjected to the humiliation of being thrown on the streets and offered bed-and-breakfast or temporary accommodation as a result of having carried out a good job in their years in the Services? Should we not formulate a policy aimed at helping people such as my constituent, Mr. Wood, about whom I have written to the Department, to obtain a better deal?

Dr. Gilbert

Part of the problem lies in the fact that not all local authorities have a sufficiently large housing stock at their disposal, and some of their residential requirements are much greater than one would hope. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that it would be unconscionable for serving men and their families to be kept out of married quarters because they are being used by people who are no longer entitled to them.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the whole subject of Service housing is in a thoroughly unsatisfactory state, not only for the reasons given by the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), but because many Service men find it difficult to get houses? Once they have left their quarters many are unable to claim relief on mortgages, because of the new measures announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Dr. Gilbert

I do not accept that proposition. There are difficulties involved, but we are seeking ways of improving them. However, as a general rule the Services are well housed.