To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what provisions are currently being made for the sustenance, comfort and welfare of British hostages in Baghdad and their families in the United Kingdom.
The embassy in Baghdad has so far sent more than 100 bags of comforts to the hostages in Iraq and Kuwait and delivered more than 30 bags to those brought to Baghdad to meet wives visiting from the United Kingdom. The contents include beer, cigarettes, toiletries, vitamins, books and writing materials. In London we have set up a post office box that families can use to write to the hostages and communities in Iraq and Kuwait. We are working with the British Red Cross to set up a system to send parcels from families in Britain.The Foreign Office Gulf families support centre keeps in regular touch with families and works closely with the Gulf Support Group, providing advice and help.
Is the Secretary of State aware of the great hardship faced by some families of hostages? In the new dawn of compassion that was at least suggested in the election campaign for the leadership of the Conservative party, will he prevail upon his colleagues in the Government to redouble efforts to secure the comfort of hostages' families, especially their ability to maintain telephone communications with their relatives in Baghdad?
The hon. Gentleman does not need to give that edge to his question. I am conscious of the valid point he makes. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is talking about the families here, rather than the hostages in the Gulf. The Gulf families support centre in the Foreign Office acts as a first point of contact for families facing problems. Representatives from the Department of Social Security are on hand to ensure that any requests for help are dealt with promptly. I accept that the families support provisions are not lavish, but if they are properly and quickly administered they ensure that families do not suffer serious deprivation as a result of loss of income.