HL Deb 10 April 2003 vol 647 c53WA
Baroness Billingham

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 8 April (WA24) can they confirm what plans they have to allow families to send free letters and packets to service personnel in the Gulf. [HL2536]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)

The Ministry of Defence, with the generous support of the Royal Mail Group, plans to introduce a free postal service to Armed Forces personnel currently serving in the Gulf.

From Thursday 17 April, families will be able to post letters and packets of up to 2 kilograms in weight free of charge to BFPO addresses in the Gulf. Priority will be given to the delivery of letters, "blueys" and "blueys", which are the primary means of communication for families. Packets will be delivered to the troops as soon as is practicable depending on the operational situation.

This service is designed for close family and friends. Packets can only be accepted addressed to named individual service personnel. We would urge families to limit the number of packets they send so that the system works for everybody and does not become overloaded. Those who wish to show more general support to the Armed Forces serving in the Gulf should not use the system and we would encourage them instead to contribute to the UK Armed Forces Gulf Fund (details available at www.ukforcesgulffund.org and 0800 107 0200).

We are working very hard to implement the new system and need to put mechanisms in place to handle the expected increase in mail. We hope that families will be patient in the interim period, since we still need to get essential stores and equipment to the Gulf to support the front line.