Helen Morgan challenges Prime Minister over commitment to armed forces

19 May 2024
Helen at RAF Shawbury

MP Helen Morgan challenged Rishi Sunak over his commitment to the armed forces after it was revealed that all but the most urgent repairs to military accommodation have been cancelled.

Serving personnel and their families are having important requests for home repairs and upgrades denied as a lack of funding means only emergency work is being approved.

This is despite long-running problems that have seen many families forced to live in damp, cold and mouldy accommodation and troops put up in shipping style containers at Tern Hill Barracks.

North Shropshire MP and military accommodation campaigner Helen Morgan confronted Rishi Sunak over the policy at Prime Minister’s Questions today.

The lack of money for repairs was revealed by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s new Head of Accommodation in her first update to military families this month.

Air Commodore Leah Griffin said she was having to “make the case for investing in Service family housing” due to finances in the DIO that are “more challenging than ever”.

The news undermines the Prime Minister’s claims to be prioritising defence and the Government’s recent commitment to bringing all military accommodation up to the Decent Homes Standard – a pledge that came in response to a proposed law change from Helen Morgan.

Air Commodore Griffin assured families that she was working to challenge the budget settlement but said non-urgent repairs and home improvements were “not currently affordable”.

Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire, said, “Rishi Sunak claims to care about defence but he isn’t even prepared to give service families decent quality homes to live in.

“Military morale is lower than ever and that’s because those who serve our country have been subject to years of neglect by this Conservative government.

“Service people put their lives on the line to keep us and our allies safe. The least they should get in return is a clean, warm and safe home.

“Our armed forces need a Government that takes their needs seriously and backs up its words with actions. That means upgrading military housing and removing repair contracts from companies that don’t do their job.

“We used to talk about building homes fit for heroes - and that’s the very least we can deliver.”

Helen has two military bases in her constituency including RAF Shawbury, the home of No.1 Flying Training School and the Defence College of Air and Space Operations.

While the training offered at Shawbury may be world class, much of the accommodation is not and Helen has heard horror stories ranging from exploding boilers to collapsing roofs and repeat missed appointments from contractors.

At nearby Tern Hill, several servicemen and women complained of ‘rat-infested’ barracks, in one of several occasions where military accommodation was raised by Helen in the Commons last year. New data revealed this week shows that one in ten military homes have faced pest infestations since 2022.

One constituent recently required alterations to their shower to access it after major surgery but was told this was not possible due to the lack of budget for housing repairs. The problem was only fixed when the MP became involved.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Helen Morgan MP asked, “I have seen for myself the mouldy and damp accommodation that our military families are sometimes forced to live in.

“I was disappointed this week to find that the officer in charge of accommodation wrote to families this month to say that requests for non-urgent repairs are not currently affordable.

“The Prime Minister has spent this week claiming that defence is a priority, so when is he going to prioritise a safe, warm and decent home for the servicemen and women that put their lives on the line for us?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak MP responded, “We are committed to ensuring that our armed forces personnel and their families have safe and well maintained accommodation.

“At this point 96% of service family accommodation meets or exceeds the Government’s Decent Homes Standard, and last year we put aside an extra £400 million investment to improve things.

“When issues are reported the MoD has set up a dedicated hotline to ensure that those complaints are investigated by a professional surveyor.

“I know that there have been several improvements made specifically to the accommodation in her area [North Shropshire].

“We are able to continue backing our armed forced personnel and the job they do for us as we are the only party in this place committed to increasing our defence spending.”

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