HC Deb 13 December 1999 vol 341 cc8-9
7. Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

What progress has been made since 1 May 1997 in disposing of land and housing held surplus to requirements. [100959]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)

My Department has made good progress in disposing of surplus land since 1 May 1997. During the financial years 1997–98 and 1998–99, disposal receipts from such sales totalled some £302 million.

Mr. Pike

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Two of the three barracks in which I did my national service in the Royal Marines—Eastney and Deal—are now closed. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Government's record of selling such assets and using the proceeds to regenerate local communities is far better than that of the previous Government?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I am bound to agree with my hon. Friend, but whether the Opposition would accept that is a different matter. Following the comprehensive spending review and the strategic defence review, we have set in train a process whereby, over a four-year period, we will raise more than £700 million in capital receipts from surplus assets. Moreover, we have a large number of brownfield sites dotted about the country and we fully intend to bring as many of those as possible back into practical use, rather than leaving them to rot away and waste, as was the case under the previous Government. The brownfield land alone would be enough to build 26,000 new homes.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Given that those figures are below the trend line required to meet the £700 million requirement; given that the first part of the figures would have included receipts generated from the defence cost studies process; given the time it takes to get property receipts into the budget; given that the Department is struggling hugely to meet its £2 billion a year efficiency savings programme, and, as we have just heard, that we have given a commitment to strengthen our military capability which is bleeding away as experience bleeds out of the armed forces and as the retention figures deteriorate, will the Department go back to the Treasury to insist that the defence budget is not required to meet any undershoot if it fails to meet the property savings targets?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I hate to disillusion the hon. Gentleman, but the reality is that we shall meet our targets. We are ahead of the targets and doing extremely well with property sales. Some large sales are looming, which I think will take us beyond the figures that we have anticipated. I am confident that we shall meet all the ambitions that we have set out in the strategic defence review.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

Through the success of my hon. Friend in the sale of housing and land that are no longer needed, will he ensure that overseas housing is brought up to a habitable standard and then ensure that our armed forces are treated as well overseas as in the United Kingdom, which will help with retention?

Mr. Kilfoyle

We are well aware of the problems for retention if we do not have a reasonable standard of accommodation both for single personnel and for those occupying married quarters. We are in discussions to ensure that we have a consistent standard of habitable accommodation for those serving at home and those serving abroad.

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