Britain's Strategic Interests

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 7th June 2000.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 9:45 pm, 7th June 2000

We obviously do not do so because, as far as I am aware, there is neither of those things in Kosovo.

As we all know, our people in Kosovo are doing an excellent job, to which the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) rightly drew attention, as he did to our need to back up them and their families. He conceded that we have made considerable progress, particularly through the service families taskforce. Unfortunately, I do not have sufficient time to reiterate those points.

I am pleased to announce some more improvements and enhancements. We have recently approved a procurement of the necessary infrastructure to give our forces in Kosovo access to the internet so that they may stay in touch with their families. Personnel in our overseas garrisons and many Royal Navy ships' companies already have such access, but we are breaking new ground in providing the facilities in an operational theatre. The equipment will be installed in the next few weeks and will be seen by our troops as a real improvement to their quality of life in theatre.

That announcement is in spite of the schoolboy sniggering on the Opposition Benches on Monday when I referred to e-mail. I do not know whether it was the concept of e-mail that was alien to them, or whether it was a complete misunderstanding of the needs of service families to stay in touch. Either way, it was a bizarre performance and it will certainly have been noted by our service personnel and their families.