To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the cost of telephone calls to and from service personnel in the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island.
The cost of telephone calls from the United Kingdom for a British Telecom call is £2·30 per minute to the Falkland Islands for an operator-connected call, and £1·42 per minute to Ascension Island for a direct dialled call. The cost of calls back to the United Kingdom from both places is £1·50 per minute for a Cable and Wireless Plc direct dialled call.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, although our forces on the Falkland Islands and on Ascension Island are well-led, well-paid and all the other good things, communications are bad? One may telephone the United States for 81p a minute and Australia for £1·02 a minute, but our forces have to pay £1·50 a minute during the day, night, weekends and so on. Will he seek some form of concession so that our various forces at least pay a reasonable charge for communicating with their families?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the rate is commercial and obviously has to be fixed by the company. I am glad to tell my hon. Friend that over Christmas and the new year there will be a discount of one third on calls back to the United Kingdom. I shall be glad to draw my hon. Friend's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Defence of the Falklands is clearly reliant on royal fleet auxiliaries. Is it the Government's intention to procure AOR2 before Christmas?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to comment on that matter.