HC Deb 17 February 1881 vol 258 c1078

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to Lord Campbell's declaration in his place in the House of Lords on June 17th, 1844. That he was Attorney General when the Post Office Act, 1 Vic. c. 34, was passed, and that it was his belief that the Legislature only intended under the 25th section of that Act to Give a power to the Government in case it received information that a letter was passing through the Post Office containing matter dangerous to the State, to order such letter to be opened, and that the Legislature never intended to give a power to any Member of the Government to open all the letters of any individual if some suspicion was entertained by the Secretary of State with respect to that individual; whether that clause refers to an "express" warrant for the opening of "a post letter;" and, whether the power of opening letters is exercised in accordance with these specific and precise limitations; and, if not, under what authority any further powers with reference to opening letters in the Post Office are exercised?


Sir, if necessity should arise for exercising the right reserved to the Secretary of State in this matter, it would be exercised strictly in accordance with the provision of the Act 1 Vict. c. 36, and no post letters could be lawfully opened except upon the authority of an express warrant in writing under the hand of the Secretary of State, or, in Ireland, under the hand and seal of the Lord Lieutenant.