Post Office (Opened Letter)

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th January 1948.

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. MARLOWE:

59 To ask the Chancellor of the Excheque under what authority an inland letter posted in Brighton to an address in Yorkshire, to which his attention has been drawn, was opened by the Customs authorities at Southampton and delayed six days in transit; whether, in the case of inland letters mis-sorted into overseas mad, his officials have instructions to examine the address before opening; and what action has been taken against the official concerned in view of the fact that this letter from a wife to her husband in the R.A.F. was clearly addressed to his station in this country.

Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Wembley North

I have been asked to reply—

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I put this Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am now to receive an answer from the Assistant Postmaster-General. I have already dealt with this matter with the Post Office, from whom I have had a satisfactory reply, and they told me that the matter was one for the Customs Office, which I understand to be the responsibility of the Chancellor. Am I not entitled to have an answer from the Minister who is responsible?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I would advise the hon. and learned Gentleman to hear the answer given, and then, if it is not satisfactory, to put down a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Wembley North

I have been asked to reply, because the Post Office, and not the Customs, is at fault. As already explained in my right hon. Friend's letter to the hon and learned Member, there was no authority for opening this inland letter. By an error in sorting, the Post Office included the letter referred to in a batch of overseas letters which were proper to be submitted to the Customs authorities, and a Post Office official working with a Customs officer opened the letter without observing, as was part of his duty, that it had been incorrectly placed with letters addressed to overseas destinations I much regret this unfortunate occurrence, and suitable action has been taken which I hope will prevent any similar mistreatment.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me, first, whether the Post Office official who opened this letter could read, because the address was quite clear on the letter; secondly, why his right hon. Friend, in a letter to me, said that it was the responsibility of the Customs authorities; and thirdly, whether this is not the inevitable result of too much Government interference in private affairs?