MoD: Royal Navy, RAF and Army personnel to take legal action for discrimination over housing costs

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More than 2,000 military personnel are set to take legal action against the Ministry of Defence for discrimination over housing costs, lawyers have said.

The action relates to alleged discrimination against younger and unmarried personnel over housing costs in claims that could be worth a total of £30 million, it is estimated. The Leigh Day legal firm also believes that as many as 80,000 serving members of the military could be eligible to join the compensation claim after allegedly being unfairly overcharged by the MoD for housing in the last six months because of their age and potentially their marital status.

The claim relates to the MoD’s housing policy, which requires all British Army personnel who are under 37, and those who are over 37 and unmarried, to pay for what is known as single living accommodation, according to the legal firm. The lawyers say that in contrast, Army personnel over the age of 37 and married are eligible for a valuable accommodation allowance.

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Defence secretary Grant Shapps was quizzed about the MoD plans. Picture: HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images.Defence secretary Grant Shapps was quizzed about the MoD plans. Picture: HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images.
Defence secretary Grant Shapps was quizzed about the MoD plans. Picture: HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images. | AFP via Getty Images

In the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, age is not taken into account but only those who are married or in a civil partnership qualify for the accommodation allowance. Leigh Day solicitor Ryan Bradshaw said: “More than 2,000 younger or unmarried members of the armed forces have now joined our claim after paying more for their accommodation than those who are older or married.

“Whilst the Ministry of Defence has made some changes to reduce the unfairness in its housing policies, the current system still discriminates against people who are unmarried or under a certain age. Younger and unmarried military personnel may wish to join this claim to seek compensation for paying too much rent and to encourage the MoD to change this unfair policy.” The lawyers add that the amount of compensation would depend on how long individuals have spent in single living accommodation and how much they paid for it. If the legal case is successful, most claims are expected to achieve compensation of at least £15,000, they add.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Whilst we are unable to comment on individual letters of complaint, the defence secretary has made the provision of higher quality accommodation for service personnel a personal priority, reflecting the selfless commitment our armed forces make to the nation. That’s why our modern accommodation offer gives more flexibility to personnel, backed by an extra £200 million investment. This is on top of over £4bn to upgrade accommodation and build new living quarters for our service personnel over the next decade. Our service personnel also receive subsidised accommodation as part of their package and we remain committed to improving the support we provide.”

Defence secretary Grant Shapps defended his decision to pause new plans to allocate military housing based on family size rather than rank, saying “I think we can do this better for everyone”. The controversial proposals were halted amid fears that that officers would resign. The standard of military housing is currently determined by rank. However, the Modernised Accommodation Offer (MAO) proposes allocating properties by family size.

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It could mean that a married major with no children would be downgraded from a three or four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom, while a married private with three children would be entitled to a larger house than the major. Mr Shapps said: “I was sufficiently concerned about that to put that part of the change on hold.” He added: "I’m not going to rush doing that. And I want to make sure that we get accommodation which is fit for everybody. But I don’t think the way to get there is to suddenly force change – particularly on the Army.”

The plan, which was set to be launched in March, attracted criticism from officers and their partners, who argued the policy would lead to a breakdown in military cohesion by undermining hierarchical structures and penalising those who are infertile or choose not to have children.

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