HC Deb 12 April 1994 vol 241 cc3-4
3. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much money has been realised by the Defence Land Service from the sale of property in the last year for which figures are available.

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jeremy Hanley)

During the financial year 1992-93, which is the last full year for which figures are available, my Department realised some £68 million from the sale of land and buildings.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

My hon. Friend will be aware that the defence budget is to be held in actual terms over the next three years. Would it not be right to redeploy into the defence budget some of the capital receipts from sales of property so that we can have an increased defence budget to deal with inflationary increases? That would help to pay for front-line facilities for troops to deal with such threats as that displayed by the grizzly bear Zhirinovsky during his recent visit to Paris.

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend is right that sales of surplus land and buildings can be very valuable within the defence budget—indeed, that is our policy. We are looking at the sale of land and buildings, again under the defence cost studies, and in due course will announce the results to the House. We greatly value those receipts. We look to sell surplus property whenever possible, and co-operate with local authorities in that, too.

Mr. Tony Banks

So does the Minister have some sympathy with local authorities, which are sitting on some £5 billion-worth of accumulated capital receipts that the Government will not let them spend on services? While he is thinking of a miserable, pathetic, cringing answer to that question, may I also ask him how many vacant properties the Ministry of Defence currently holds that should be let to the homeless?

Mr. Hanley

The Ministry of Defence currently owns about 70,000 domestic residences, of which approximately 10,000 are vacant—[HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful".] The Opposition might prefer it if there were no homes to which our soldiers, sailors and airmen coming back from abroad could go. The Opposition might feel that the homes of service men do not deserve to be repaired or put into proper condition for letting and occupation. Perhaps they have been so long away from having to look after such property that they have lost all sense of reality.