Mr. Alan Williams
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the NATO post being taken up by Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent was last held by a British officer; what is the cost of the accommodation in Belgium purchased for his use while holding this post; what is the scale of the accommodation and what is its intended use; what alternative accommodation was considered; and what is the normal period of occupancy of this post.
§ Mr. Hanley
Prior to Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent the last British officer to hold the post of CMC NATO was Admiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Hill-Norton from 1974 to 1977. The fully furnished house for Field Marshal Vincent was purchased for BFr 120,000,000—approximately £2,200,000 at the then rate of exchange. It was not available for leasing unless accompanied by an obligation to purchase at a later date. There is no fixed scale of accommodation for this post which is considered to be an ambassadorial equivalent. The house was selected against the requirement to meet the high profile representational and social duties associated with the post and the security necessary for the most senior NATO and British officer in Brussels. In the process of finding suitable accommodation, 200 houses, either for rent or purchase, were identified and considered, of which 80 were inspected. An investment appraisal conducted at the time demonstrated that purchase of this property represented best value for money. The normal period of occupancy of the post is three years after which the property will be sold.