HC Deb 11 November 1947 vol 444 cc56-8W
96. Captain Field

asked the Secretary of State for War for what reasons have tenants living in houses owned by the War Department at Zouch Avenue, Tidworth, been given notice to quit, and will alternative accommodation in the vicinity be offered to them.

Mr. M. Stewart

I will, with permission, circulate a full statement on this matter in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Fallowing is the statement:

The families are not, in fact, tenants but are the wives and children of Regular soldiers who are serving overseas or elsewhere in the United Kingdom. They have been warned that they will be required to leave their quarters some time after 1st January, 1948, to make room for the families of soldiers who are serving in the station. The families who are being required to leave are being offered alternative accommodation in hostels.

The War Department accepts the responsibility for housing the families of serving Regular soldiers. It has for this purpose a limited number of married quarters. These were sufficient before the war to cater for most of the entitled soldiers' families who were in England. It was, therefore, sometimes possible to allow a family to remain in a quarter when the husband was posted away from the station until another entitled soldier arrived to claim the quarter. This practice was expanded and given wider application during the war when most Regular soldiers were serving overseas.

The quarters available are, however, now far from sufficient to house all the Service families in England for two main reasons: first, because the age at which a married soldier becomes entitled to a quarter has been lowered from 26 to 21 years of age; second, because large numbers of troops are being brought home as our commitments overseas in India and elsewhere are reduced. New quarters cannot be built rapidly because the War Department is as much subject to the restrictions on building as anyone else. The War Department is, therefore, faced with a grave deficiency of quarters which it is estimated will amount to approximately 30,000.

Of the married quarters available less than 50 per cent. are at present occupied by soldiers living with their families. Of the remainder a few are occupied by entitled civilians; some are occupied by irregular civilian occupants and the majority by families of soldiers serving elsewhere in the United Kingdom or overseas. In the meantime there are long waiting lists at all home stations of soldiers who can have their families living with them, if these quarters can be made available.

The entitled civilians are performing tasks which would otherwise have to be done by soldiers and which necessitate their being on the spot at all hours of the day and night. The irregular occupants are either the families of ex-soldiers or families who were allowed to occupy the quarters during the war when the War Department loaned these houses to local authorities to assist them in accommodating people who had been bombed out. These irregular occupants have already been given notice to quit, but as they have nowhere else to go and the local authorities are, in many cases, unable to re-house them they still remain. The War Department must, therefore, have recourse to legal proceedings to obtain possession of the quarters. Even if these irregular occupants went, however, there would still be a very great shortage of quarters, and in the meantime the waiting lists continue to swell.

It has, therefore, been decided that in order to enable as many soldiers as possible to be re-united with their families the families of soldiers serving elsewhere in the United Kingdom or overseas should be moved to alternative accommodation. By this means the number of united families will be almost doubled and the chances of the separated families obtaining quarters when the husband comes home will be similarly increased.

The alternative accommodation which is being offered to these families is in hostels. There are hostels located in every Command. As far as possible they are in centres of population where amenities are readily available locally, although in one or two cases it has been necessary to use rather isolated camps. Hostels vary in construction from very large hotels to hutted camps although some are in large private houses. Facilities at the hostels also vary according to the space available. While the accommodation is not the same for the families as a home of their own, it is the best that can be provided in present circumstances. Each family will have at least a bedroom of its own, or more if the size of the family warrants it, and there are communal dining-rooms, sitting-rooms, reading-and writing-rooms, and nurseries for the children. This is a temporary expedient only to cover the present exigencies since it is obviously wrong that families that can be united should remain in hostels whilst those that cannot be united continue to occupy the married quarters.