British government lawyers are sending "bullying" ultimatums to army families to drop their suit against the Ministry of Defense over the squalor of their living quarters or face having their pay docked to cover the legal costs, The Guardian reported on Sunday.
In correspondence seen by the newspaper, a senior U.K. government lawyer wrote: "The purpose of this letter is to make an open offer to you that if you will agree to the order granting judgment in default being set aside and that you will discontinue the claim by a process of consent order (a copy of a draft of which is enclosed), the MOD will not seek its legal costs of this process.
"If, however, you do not agree to this by the end of Wednesday, 14 September 2022, we shall issue the application and seek the full legal costs of the MOD."
In a letter to a second claimant, the same government lawyer, acting for the Treasury solicitor, wrote: "If you will not agree, and you will put us to the trouble and expense of a contested application, we shall seek the MOD's legal costs (which, I have little doubt can be recovered by deduction from your pay). Please respond no later than 4 p.m. on Monday, 3 October 2022."
A Ministry of Defense spokesperson said in response that "these cases relate to rented property outside the U.K. We will not comment further on it due to ongoing legal proceedings."
The government threats were widely condemned in the U.K.
"This is utterly unacceptable. Ministers must call off the MOD's legal dogs and drop these threats to forces families," the shadow defense secretary, John Healey, said. "When service families have to resort to court to get basic repairs done, it confirms deep failings with service accommodation. Yet ministers have no proper plan to fix the problems."
Mark Francois, a former Tory armed forces minister, said "Ministers must clearly intervene urgently, to sort this dreadful mess out."
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the Commons defense select committee, said, "All service personnel and their families deserve a proper standard of accommodation."
Alfie Usher, a former paratrooper who currently runs the claims management company Claims Bible, said he had recently received interest from 400 service personnel in making a case against the MOD, of which he expected 100 to meet a threshold for a claim.
He said these complaints "include cases of black mold and ... asbestos. One guy who found asbestos in his kitchen, he was told just to avoid the area. Heating is a big one as well, especially with those who have kids."
The state of the homes rented out to armed forces personnel and their families has long been controversial.
Under a 1996 deal, some 57,000 such properties were sold to Annington Homes, with the government taking out a 200-year lease on the homes in order to continue to provide accommodation to service personnel. The MOD retained responsibility for repairs and maintenance.
However, without being able to capitalize on the rise in the value of the properties, the MOD has faced difficulties maintaining the aging housing stock.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.