[holding answer 18 December 2006]: A free packet scheme was first introduced on 17 April 2003, as a temporary measure unique to Iraq, at a time when Service personnel did not have access to the welfare facilities that are now available in both Iraq and Afghanistan. When the provision of goods and services in Iraq reached the required standard, the decision was taken to end the scheme on 8 April 2004. It was later re-introduced for a period of one month before Christmas 2004, and subsequently confirmed by the then Secretary of State for Defence, prior to Christmas 2005, that the pre-Christmas free packet scheme was to become a standard element of the Operational Welfare Package.
The option of extending the free packet scheme was again examined in September when enhancements to the operational welfare package were being considered, but personnel on the ground stated a preference for improvements to welfare telephone and internet provision above free mail. Improvements to the telephone and internet services to the value of some £2.2 million were announced on 10 October. Nonetheless, the package remains under continuous review.