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Welfare Support (Gulf)

Volume 403: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2003

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Further to the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 2 April, I can now set out the way in which we intend to implement a service to allow families to send packets free of charge to troops deployed in the Gulf. This service will be limited to letters and packets of up to 2kg in weight and will be implemented when the operational situation allows. The priority at this time must remain the operational requirements of our Service personnel.The system will allow families to send addressed letters and packets to individuals serving in the Gulf through Post Office Counters free of charge. The Royal Mail Group will transport these parcels to British Forces Post Office (BFPO) at Mill Hill. BFPO will arrange onward transportation to the Gulf and distribution in theatre. Mechanisms are being put in place to handle the anticipated increase in mail. Further details will be announced nearer the time when we are ready to implement the new procedures.For the free service to work for the benefit of all, I would ask families to restrict the number of packets they send in order that the system does not become overwhelmed, thus creating delays in delivery of mail.This scheme is aimed only at those closest to the Service personnel who are serving in this operation. We will not be providing a service for packages which do not have a named recipient. This will help to ensure that the new scheme for letters and packets is well targeted without overloading the logistics support network and delaying vital messages and packages from loved ones. For those who might wish to show more general support for our troops I would encourage contributions to the UK Forces Gulf Fund (details available at and 0800 107 0200) which has recently been set up to allow the public to support those injured as a result of their deployment in support of military operations in the Gulf, and the families and dependants of those who have been killed.