William Hague orders rescue flight for stranded Britons

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The Foreign Office will send a charter flight to Egypt tomorrow to help stranded Britons, with further flights on standby if necessary, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.

At Commons question time, Mr Hague said the Government was doing everything possible to ensure the safety of British people in Egypt as mass protests are stepped up.

He told Labour's Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian): "We have been advising people in Cairo or Alexandria or Suez to leave if they can if they don't have any pressing reason to remain.

"The vast majority of those wishing to do so have been able to do so on commercial flights.

"But I've also decided to send a charter aircraft to enable further British nationals to leave the country if they wish to do so.

"That will set off for Egypt tomorrow and I will send further flights if necessary just to make sure that people are able to leave if they wish to do so."

Mr Hague said the Government welcomed Vice President Omar Suleiman's statement that he intended to contact opposition parties to discuss political reform.

"But the new cabinet appointed by President Mubarak this week is disappointing in that it does not constitute the broad-based representative government that the people of Egypt seem to be seeking and we continue to make this clear to the Egyptian authorities," he said.

Mr Hague is set to call the Vice President later this afternoon.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander urged Mr Hague to press the importance of "free and fair elections and broad-based government" to Vice-President Suleiman.

Mr Hague replied: "That is the direction in which we would like the Egyptian authorities to move.

"As I say, it has been disappointing that the new cabinet is not the broad-based administration that we, the whole of the rest of the European Union and so many others of Egypt's friends in the world, were looking for in this situation.

"So we continue to urge them to take the necessary steps, to form such a government and to make sure that there is real and visible reform, believable reform, presented to the people of Egypt, as well as effective guarantees of free and fair elections.

"And we think it is necessary for them to respond to the demands of the Egyptian people and to do so quickly if there is to be an orderly transition rather than a very violent and disorderly situation."

Conservative Anne Main (St Albans) spoke of constituents who had booked holidays to Sharm el Sheikh.

"What advice can you offer them because they are being obliged by their travel companies to go on this holiday even though they don't wish to?" she asked.

Mr Hague said: "We take great care over our travel advice and we review it not only day by day but hour by hour.

"We constantly review the advice on the Red Sea resorts but I have to advise your constituents to keep in close touch with the travel company and if we feel it necessary to change the travel advice, we will do so and work with the travel companies in doing so."