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Unsolicited Mail (Christmas)

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 16 September 2010

I wish to inform the House about the unsolicited mail campaign Ministry of Defence (MOD) will be running in the lead-up to Christmas (which is 100 days from today).

This Government are dedicated to the care and welfare of the men and women of our armed forces, particularly those on operations in Afghanistan. This is reflected in the first class deployed welfare package which is constantly being improved to maximise the support we give to our armed forces on operations. A vital part of that package is ensuring the safe and timely delivery of personal mail from family and friends. To that end, we have a policy in place which encourages the generous British public to support our troops in ways other than by sending unsolicited goodwill parcels through the mail system.

By way of background, during the build-up to Christmas 2007, the volume of unsolicited goodwill parcels overwhelmed the in-theatre postal and logistic capacity, resulting in a considerable delay to personal mail. British Forces Post Office (BFPO) estimates it will handle around 19,200 unsolicited parcels over Christmas this year (the eight-week period between mid-October and mid-December) as opposed to 6,400 over a “normal” eight-week period. In addition to the impact on personal mail, delivering unsolicited packages over the “final mile” to forward operating bases and patrol bases puts increased pressure on essential in-theatre resources. Additional helicopters and road convoys are required, both of which take essential transport assets away from their primary task and place our personnel at increased personal danger.

It is for these reasons that the MOD will be encouraging the British public to show their support through one of the recognised MOD service charities rather than sending unsolicited goodwill parcels. All service personnel on operations over Christmas will receive a seasonal gift box from the MOD endorsed charity, “uk4u Thanks!”. The charity works closely with the MOD, using free space in the existing supply chain to deliver the boxes over a period of time, so without impacting on the normal mail system. Other charities which help to support our troops include Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), Afghan Heroes, Support our Soldiers and Operation Shoebox.

This is not an easy issue and will seem counter-intuitive to many, but I ask for your full support in directing the public towards MOD recognised charities rather than sending unsolicited mail as a means of expressing their much valued support to our deployed personnel.