§ Mr. Bidwell
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the expenditure of £100,000 on a new flat for the Chief of Air Staff in Whitehall.
§ Mr. John
It has been the practice for many years to provide official flats for holders of the Chief of Staff appointments within reasonable distance of Whitehall, for reasons of operational necessity.
The opportunity is being taken to acquire a flat in the same building as those occupied by two other Chiefs of Staff. The net cost of acquisition of the flat is expected to be of the order of £75,000 after taking account of the probable proceeds from the disposal of the flat formerly provided for the Chief of the Air Staff. The lease of the new flat will run for some 60 years by comparison with the outstanding period of 15 years for the existing flat. I am satisfied that the standard of accommodation which the next flat will provide is no greater than is appropriate to the need, taking account of the representational responsibilities of the Chief of the Air Staff as professional head of the Royal Air Force.
Our general policy in the provision of properties for the accommodation of senior RAF officers has been one of reduction. In the past few years more than 20 such houses have been declared surplus with an estimated benefit to the Exchequer of over £1,000,000, of which property to the value of over £500,000 has been released for disposal in the past six months.