MP demands action to ensure disposal of Gosport's Fort Blockhouse isn't a waste of taxpayer cash

ASSURANCES are being sought from ministers that plans to scrap an historic military fort won’t be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

By Tom Cotterill
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 5:25 pm
Early morning golden hour lighting up Fort Blockhouse. Picture: Brian Bracher Compass Aerial
Early morning golden hour lighting up Fort Blockhouse. Picture: Brian Bracher Compass Aerial

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage issued the plea during defence questions at the House of Commons this week.

It came amid concerns over the disposal of the Fort Blockhouse estate.

The disposal of the fort had been announced in 2016 and was due to have been completed by 2020.

Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP - pictured left at Fort Blockhouse with soldiers from 33 Field Hospital who used to be based at the historic fort.

However, the Ministry of Defence last year announced the plan to get rid of the site had been delayed by at least three years to 2023 at the earliest.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Ms Dinenage demanded the Ministry of Defence’s procurement and disposal processes ‘left in place by the last Labour government’ were improved to ensure taxpayers weren’t hit with added costs.

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Speaking in the House of Commons, the Tory MP said: ‘I have no doubt that some of the procurement processes that were inherited from the last Labour government led to some of the flaws in the Ajax programme. I say that because it is emblematic of a catalogue of wasteful decisions such as the selling off of the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar in 2009 for £3m when it had reportedly been valued at £52m.

‘Could the minister please assure me that the MoD’s procurement and disposal decisions, such as that involving Fort Blockhouse at Gosport, will maximise the benefit for the taxpayer and for local communities?’

Defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin insisted there was ‘time to get’ the disposal process ‘right’.

Speaking to Ms Dinenage in parliament, Mr Quin said: ‘I congratulate my honourable friend on her elevation and it’s good to see. She refers, Mr Speaker, to the approval process. That was indeed under the last Labour administration.

‘I think [it] passed main gate approval in March 2010. At around the same time the (National Audit Office) was pointing out there are multi-billion pounds of black hole that the Labour party was leaving in defence at that point in time.

‘Getting on to Fort Blockhouse, I don’t believe that will be disposed of until I think 2023, so there is time to get this right. I’m more than happy to meet the honourable lady if that is helpful?’

Speaking to The News after the debate, Ms Dinenage insisted she had been working with to ensure ‘the best possible outcomes are received for’ sites that are set to be scrapped under the MoD’s 2016 defence estate review.

Reacting to Mr Quin’s comments in parliament, Ms Dinenage said: ‘I am pleased that the minister is willing to discuss the future disposal of Fort Blockhouse and will urge him to prioritise the best interest of Gosport’s constituents.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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