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Armed Forces: Postal Services

Volume 458: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent changes have been made to the procedure by which members of the armed forces stationed overseas receive parcels free of charge; and if he will make a statement. (127357)

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 theatre. 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 free posting dates for Christmas 2006 were 10 November to 8 December inclusive, for which Royal Mail Group charged the Ministry of Defence £577,000; this sum does not include the costs for additional air transport and onward distribution that were also paid for by the Department.

The Ministry of Defence makes no charge to carry postal packets through the British Forces Post Office system to personnel on operations. The cost that is payable is that charged by Royal Mail Group to carry the items from local post offices to the British Forces Post Office Depot at Mill Hill, London.