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Foreign Postal Packets (Opening)

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 1 June 1949

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asked the Postmaster General what instructions he has issued to Post Office officials regarding the opening and perusal of private correspondence between this country and the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth.

In implementation of the provisions of the Foreign Postal Packets (Customs) Warrant, 1948, Statutory Instrument 1948, No. 562, Post Office staff are instructed to open postal packets sent to or from the United Kingdom only if required to do so by the proper officer of Customs and Excise for Customs purposes or for the purpose of the provisions of Part IV of the Exchange Control Act, 1947, and to reseal promptly and put in course of transmission all packets when released by the Customs. It is no part of the duty of Post Office staff to examine correspondence contained in such packets.

But this is a matter of great importance. How can the hon. Gentleman justify interference with the private correspondence of a constituent of mine with a relative—a sister who has been in Canada for the last 30 years? Is this a corollary to the invasion of the home and the examination of private shopping baskets? Is that what the Government are after?

But did the hon. Gentleman understand what the answer was, for I did not?