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Christmas (Service Personnel)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 19th December 2011.

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Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd Conservative, Hastings and Rye 2:30 pm, 19th December 2011

What food and entertainment his Department plans to provide to service personnel on operations during the Christmas period.

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Where the security situation allows, troops and support staff in Afghanistan will be served an English breakfast, a traditional turkey lunch with trimmings and a buffet supper. The Scots band will tour UK bases and there will be a carol concert in Camp Bastion. A variety of arrangements are similarly in place for those deployed elsewhere. Christmas decorations have been delivered to Camp Bastion already, and boxes of welfare and morale-boosting goods have arrived from UK4U, in addition to what is provided by the MOD.

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd Conservative, Hastings and Rye

Last weekend I spoke to my constituent Valerie Hindson, whose son, Lance Corporal Joel Hindson, is serving with 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in Afghanistan. She is concerned about Christmas provision for him, because he is not at Camp Bastion, but out at a patrol base. Can my hon. Friend reassure me, and the friends and family of many brave men and women, that extra effort will be made to reach those out at patrol bases, as well as those at Camp Bastion?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. Special Christmas packages are going out to all forward operating bases and patrol bases. In most cases there is a chef on site and proper catering facilities to ensure a Christmas lunch. That will not be possible for a small number of people in very remote locations, but even in those cases, special Christmas provision is being made.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

For purposes of comparison, will the Minister tell the House how much will be spent on food and entertainment for Ministry of Defence Ministers and officials over the same period?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

To the best of my knowledge, no such funds are being spent at all.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

As the patron of the Forces Children’s Trust, which looks after service orphans and widows, may I gently remind the Minister that it would be nice if the Ministry of Defence were to encourage all units, when they are having their Christmas celebrations, to look after the people who have lost loved ones within the unit? I am sure that that is happening, but a gentle reminder would not go amiss.

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I share his confidence that commanding officers and those responsible for the welfare of troops will have this in mind, but when there are opportunities to offer such reminders, we will certainly do so.