We have gone into the bulk parcel scheme very carefully, but we have found that it has certain disadvantages.
It is clearly impossible under such a scheme to give the individual soldier in Korea any freedom of choice. His relative would only be able to send him a standard parcel irrespective of his personal tastes. Again, N.A.A.F.I. cannot itself guarantee delivery of the parcel to the soldier and there might be difficulty in investigating complaints by senders.
In these circumstances we have tried to find an alternative way of achieving the purpose which I am sure the House had in mind, namely, that friends and relatives might be able quickly and cheaply to send gifts to men in Korea. Hitherto, under exchange control regulations they have not been able to remit money, but we have now decided to allow anyone to send postal orders to any member of His Majesty's Forces in Korea or Japan up to the value of £2 at any one time. The postal orders can be readily cashed and the money used to buy what the individual man prefers. I have arranged with N.A.A.F.I. greatly to increase their stock in order to meet the increased demand.
I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the items already held by N.A.A.F.I. and of the additional items which are to be stocked.
In view of the considerations I have mentioned, I therefore think it is better and more practical to send the money. As an additional concession we have been able to arrange that this postal order scheme will apply not only to Korea and Japan but to all other British Forces overseas to whom it has been impossible, hitherto to send remittances by postal order. The scheme will come into operation on Monday next.
While regretting, obviously, that it has not been possible to arrange for parcels to be sent, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware how very much pleasure at the trouble that he and the other Service Ministers have taken will be felt by all relatives of serving men? I should like to thank him very much indeed.
This scheme is made just because we do think that the cost was prohibitive of making this substantial concession on air mail rates. I think I ought to make clear that it is still perfectly possible to send parcels to Korea by sea.
In view of the statement made by my right hon. Friend, which will be received favourably by the relatives of the men in the Forces, naturally, will he consider the question of the prices in some parts of the world where our troops are serving? Is he aware that it costs 9s. to send half a pound of sweets to Korea? Surely he can find some means of providing cheaper supplies?
N.A.A.F.I. prices are another question, but I have gone into them very carefully. Their prices are based on prices in Hong Kong, Japan and the rest of the Far East. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because all N.A.A.F.I. stores all over the world charge the current price levels in the respective parts of the world. It is very difficult to ask them to change that practice.
Would my right hon. Friend consider allowing these sums of money which may be sent, since they are to be limited to the relatively small sum of £2, to be convertible into dollar scrip or, at least, Japanese yen, to provide a much wider choice of purchases?