HC Deb 02 July 1888 vol 328 cc72-3

asked the Postmaster General, If it is now, or has ever been, the custom in any part of Ireland for the Post Office officials to open letters; and, if so, whether these letters were opened by the direction of the Government, or upon the individual responsibility of Post Office officials; and, whether the law permits the opening of letters; and, if not, what is the penalty for doing so?

THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)

The hon. Baronet can scarcely be unaware that it is, and always has been, the practice, not in Ireland alone, but in England and Scotland, for a Department of the Post Office, known as the Returned or Dead Letter Office, to open letters directed to persons who are not to be found as addressed. This is done under the law, in order that letters which cannot be delivered may be returned to the writers. But except in such cases, or except under an express warrant from the Secretary of State or the Lord Lieutenant, the law does not permit the opening of a letter; and any Post Office official committing such an offence is guilty of misdeameanour, and punishable accordingly. I think I have a right to call upon the hon. Baronet to substantiate by evidence the insinuation conveyed by his Question.


I shall be very pleased to do so.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)

So shall I.

MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

And I.