Conditions rougher at some UK bases than in Afghanistan, say MPs 'Disgraceful' standards found at army barracks Forces minister accepts problem areas need work Richard Norton-Taylor Friday September 14, 2007 The Guardian The state of some UK barracks means that British troops endure worse living conditions at home than on operations in Afghanistan, according to a report today by MPs. The Commons defence committee says repairs take too long, standards of service are "unacceptably poor", and the situation is exacerbated by "an alarming lack of recognition at senior levels that these problems are more than minor difficulties". Unless significant improvements are made soon, service men and women will be forced to live in sub-standard accommodation "for many years to come", the cross-party committee says. Its report, published a day after the British Legion launched an unprecedented campaign highlighting what it calls the poor treatment of armed forces personnel, will make further uncomfortable reading for the Ministry of Defence. Accommodation for two regiments now in Afghanistan - the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, based at Hounslow, west London, and the Royal Anglian Regiment, based at Pirbright in Surrey - is described as "disgraceful". The MPs say that at Hounslow they found "barrack blocks with overflowing drains and repairs which had been left unattended", with non-commissioned officers sleeping "eight to a room, with minimal privacy and negligible storage". They add: "We were told that soldiers from [the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment] on deployment in Afghanistan had more comfortable accommodation than their comrades left behind in Pirbright [barracks in Surrey]." Soldiers told the MPs that poor accommodation was having a "serious effect on morale and retention, especially among NCOs". They welcomed steps being taken to modernise single living accommodation and improve married quarters. The report adds: "However...some accommodation remains appalling. This is unacceptable." James Arbuthnot, the committee chairman, welcomed more resources being devoted to the MoD estate. However, he added: "Service personnel and their families should not have to put up with run-down buildings...especially at a time when we are asking the armed forces to put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. They deserve to be decently housed at home." Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: "It's a national scandal. The government has thrown public money around, spending over £2.3bn on MoD consultants, but hasn't been able to provide decent accommodation for those who are asked to defend this country." Bob Ainsworth, the armed forces minister, said last night: "This is an issue we take very seriously and I recognise that good quality housing is a fundamental part of the welfare package we give to our armed forces personnel and their families. However, I acknowledge that there are problem areas of the estate which require significant work."