Armed forces personnel living in ‘rat-infested’ accommodation, Commons hears

Armed forces personnel are living in ‘rat-infested' accommodation and facing problems including damp and mould, The Commons hears.

Defense Secretary James Cartledge said thousands of homes for service personnel would benefit from extra funding as he faced questions and criticism from across the House on the issue.

He said the situation last winter in relation to issues such as damp and mold in service accommodation “wasn't good enough”, but insisted the Government had drawn up a plan to tackle the issue this year.

A constituent of mine who lives at Clive Barracks at Tern Hill in Shropshire reported living in rat-infested accommodation and sometimes with two to six soldiers living in the same room

Helen Morgan, Lib Dem MP

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons: “The military men and women of our armed forces are our greatest asset and it was mentioned this morning that when we ask them to go and do extremely difficult things around the world, they deserve solace at home their. , which is why I put serviced housing at the forefront of my mission.”

Lib Dem MP Helen Morgan (North Shropshire) said: “A constituent of mine who lives at Clive Barracks at Tern Hill in Shropshire reported living in rat-infested accommodation and sometimes with two to six soldiers living in the same room.

“As a result, the shipping containers have been placed there, around 40 at the end of August equipped like budget hotel accommodation for these soldiers to live.

“Can the minister provide any assurance that somewhere suitable will be provided for these servicemen to live in the near future?”

Mr Cartlidge said: “Well obviously I'm sorry to hear about this case, I'd really like her to write me the details, I'll look into it with the DIO (Defence Infrastructure Organisation).

“But I think the bottom line is wherever we're talking, for any particular barracks or base, if we're going to go ahead with the projects, we need the money there, we've got it, we've put the extra £400m into it.

“And as I did in the winter scheme, thousands of force personnel homes will now benefit from this project.”

Our armed forces personnel and their families deserve better than what they know

Chris Elmore, Labor MP

Labor MP Chris Elmore (Ogmore) said: “This time last year the minister will be aware that nearly 5,000 homes of armed forces personnel were affected by black mold and damp, including obviously many properties that had children.

“A year later, too many of our service staff and their families are still having this problem. Whether it is one house or 5,000 houses, can the Minister set out how he will deal with this problem quickly?

“The personnel of our armed forces and their families deserve better than what they have received so far.”

Mr Cartlidge said: “We know what happened last winter was not good enough. Too many houses were affected, especially wet mold.

“That is why first of all we have prioritized making the investment and it has more than doubled in the current financial year.

“And I am pleased to confirm to him that last week I presented our winter plan which showed that 4,000 homes on the defense estate would benefit from significant damp and mold work. This is about 60% of the total number who require this work.'

Conservative former defense minister Marc Francois said: “The DIO is not fit for purpose and the FDIS (Future Defense Infrastructure Services) housing contract has been a disaster, including completely unacceptable delays in issuing gas and electricity safety certificate audits.

“No private owner would get away with it without a lawsuit.”

In response, Mr Cartlidge said: “One of the aspects of the winter plan, which is important, is a significant increase in the number of staff manning this telephone service so that we can see better staff service.

“And we expect the average wait time for one of those calls to be anywhere from seven minutes to 29 seconds, it's really, really important to the service staff that when they do make those calls that they're answered in a timely manner.”

It's just not good enough, they deserve better

Dame Caroline Dinenage, Conservative MP

Conservative MP Dame Caroline Dinenage said: “Earlier this year one of the accommodation blocks on HMS Collingwood in my constituency of Gosport was closed completely because it was simply not fit for human habitation, there are also some issues with the accommodation blocks on HMS Sultan.”

She invited the minister to come to her constituency to see some of the accommodation available for service staff, saying: “It's just not good enough, they deserve better.”