Following problems faced by his constituents in getting through to the Foreign Office hotline, Sir George called for improvements – see exchange below.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): In his statement, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and what he said struck a chord in the House, but does he accept that that generosity of view may not be shared by those of our constituents who tried to get through to the call centre immediately after the disaster? I cannot be unique in having a constituent who lost a member of his family and who for two whole days was unable to get through. When he got through to Bangkok, his query was referred back to London, then to Hendon and then to Glasgow. Does the Prime Minister think that we did as well as we could have done, and if he does not, will he take steps to ensure that, the next time there is a disaster, it is easier for distressed people to talk to another human being, instead of getting the engaged tone or a recorded message?
The Prime Minister: I am very sorry about what happened to the right hon. Gentleman's constituent. Obviously, we will look at the lessons that can be learned about the rapidity of our response in such situations. On the whole, I think that those involved got it going about as fast as is humanly possible. As I said, the pressure in the first few days was enormous. I know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will look carefully at what lessons can be learned for the future.