Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. I understand why you say that but if it is your view that the balance is wrong, one would assume you would at least enter into discussions with Annington about trying to correct that. That may well mean you have to revalue whatever financial arrangements are in place but has that been in any of your considerations so far?
  (Mr Tebbit) Yes. We do explore and are exploring—forgive me I do not want to go into detail but I would like to give you the assurance we do keep talking to Annington—whether there are more cost-effective ways of working the relationship, particularly in this area of the cost of dilapidations and in the area of general administration. It is not just with Anningtons, we are looking at any other way of making the management of the estate more efficient. It is not a static thing.

Mr Williams

  61. You mentioned the 58 per cent discount on commercial rates, what is your actual gross payment of rent per annum to Annington?
  (Mr Tebbit) I seem to recall it is about 109 million a year.

Mr Rendel

  62. Can I ask first of all what proportion, or what number, within the 60,000 or so properties are on secure estates behind the wire?
  (Mr Wilson) About 15 per cent.

  63. So we are talking of around 10,000?
  (Mr Wilson) It is a moveable issue insofar as where we are undertaking large disposals at the moment, for example at RAF Wyton and RAF Chicksands, we are actually moving the wire to free up the estate so we can conduct future disposals more easily.

  64. How many of the wires could not be moved so that all the housing became outside the wire?
  (Mr Wilson) I do not think we have done that particular exercise but there are a number of large military bases—Blandford comes to mind—where there are a large number of married quarters in the centre of the garrison well behind the wire. What we have tried to do where we can, where those houses are of an acceptable size, is modernise and put investment into those houses which are behind the wire and then to dispose of further houses outside the wire. It is part of the estate management process.
  (Air Marshal Pledger) In terms of management risk, we would not necessarily want to do that. If those houses are part of the long-term core requirement that we define, we will probably want to maintain that.

  65. My question was really, I suppose, how many could be put outside the wire, not how many would you want to at this moment given your requirement. I was interested to know how many were on the edge of estates and therefore could be put outside the wire. How many of those 10,000 properties are currently empty?
  (Mr Wilson) I do not have an analysis of the rates behind the wire and outside the wire separately. At the moment, we are actually moving the wire over the next few months relating to at least 400 properties.
  (Mr Tebbit) I think that is important, if I may say so. Having DHE as an agency helps to challenge some of the military reluctance, which is quite natural. It is quite healthy to have a military judgment which is that we want to keep everything where it is and appropriately serviced so we are absolutely sure of meeting our operational tasks, and a Housing Executive which is incentivised to say, "We need to dispose of this, we need to alter this, we need to change the wire where we can", and that does happen.

  66. How many tenants do you currently have who are not eligible for that housing inside the wire, who have been given properties that were empty?
  (Mr Tebbit) I do not think that really happens because we would not rent out properties inside the wire unless we thought there was a fairly long-term possibility of staying, which is unlikely, because otherwise we would try and get rid of it. There is virtually none.

  67. The reason they were not rented out was because people would not want them.
  (Air Marshal Pledger) They may not welcome the process that they would have to go through in terms of security and checks.

  68. Your indication was that the reason you were not doing it was because people would not want it, not because you did not want it. I am just trying to check out the reason.
  (Mr Tebbit) I was talking about the Service families who were being housed for operational requirement. You are talking about people from the private sector who might otherwise rent these houses.

  69. I am asking how many of these properties that have become empty behind the wire are rented out and you said none.
  (Mr Tebbit) None behind the wire.

  70. We had an indication earlier that people would not want that.
  (Air Marshal Pledger) It is because of operational security. It is behind the wire. We would not be able to get them the clearance in relation to short-term tenancies.
  (Mr Tebbit) We are talking about mixed estates which are not behind wires.

  71. I am interested in mixed estates behind the wire.
  (Mr Tebbit) There are none by definition.

  72. Why not?
  (Mr Tebbit) Because of operational security.

  73. Why do you think you could not get operational security?
  (Mr Tebbit) The purpose of military housing is to enable the Ministry of Defence to deliver its function. If there is a security requirement, then it would not be appropriate to let it out to non-entitled people. However, there are some categories of people who might not be in the Armed Forces, who are eligible rather than entitled, defence civilians who may be working and have a requirement to work and be available outside ordinary working hours.

  74. Those people have all gone through certain checks. Why should you not put other people through those checks and rent out the empty properties?
  (Mr Tebbit) I would put it the other way around, why should we really want to do that?

  75. It would save you money.
  (Mr Tebbit) If we have a requirement for that property, then that property will probably be queuing up to have somebody sent into it on deployment. If we do not have a requirement for that property, we will be seeking to parcel it and make it available to Annington's, and redefine the wire so we can let the parcel go.

  76. You have already told us that the process of parcelling up properties and then selling them off takes a long time. Meanwhile you could have people in there for a year or so.
  (Mr Tebbit) They are more likely to be filled up by people who are being accommodated outside their ordinary entitlement. There is an opportunity for people to be housed outside their formal scale, or it may go to other purposes, such as eligible rather than entitled groups.

  77. I would be delighted if you did, but I find it rather worrying that you do not seem to know how many such properties there are that are empty. There is a case to be made for making much greater effort to make sure those are filled.
  (Mr Wilson) One mechanism we are seeking to operate at the moment is to offer flats behind the wire to single soldiers where there is a shortage of barrack accommodation. There have been several examples recently where that has been successful. We are continuing to pursue that.

  78. I am delighted to hear that. It would be helpful to know how many such properties there are. It is the absence of information that surprises me from those trying to manage this particular problem.
  (Mr Tebbit) I am happy to meet Mr Rendel's request.[7]

  79. I want to get on to the question of disposing of property. How many homes did you aim to dispose of during last year? How many did you dispose of during 1999?
  (Mr Tebbit) Anything we aimed to dispose of we will have disposed of once we have gone through the disposal process. The only failure or delay would be in the time it takes to complete dilapidations or to gain all of the necessary utilities requirements.

7   See Appendix 1, p 23. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 5 July 2001