§ MR. COZENS-HARDY (Norfolk, N.)
I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is a fact that Custom House officers have instruction to pierce with a sharp instrument reels of paper imported from abroad on the chance of their containing contraband goods; whether he is aware that such piercing seriously damages the paper itself, and renders it useless for the purpose for which it is imported; and, whether, in any case in which no contraband goods are found concealed in the paper, the Treasury will undertake to make good the loss sustained by the importer?
§ * THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I have to inform the hon. and learned Member that reels of paper, in common with all other goods, are subject, for Revenue purposes, to Customs examination on importation. By the Customs Consolidation Act of 1876, the duty of unpacking goods for the purposes of such examination devolves upon the importer; but where, as in goods of the kind in question (the unrolling of reels of paper at this stage being virtually impracticable) he does, not choose to unpack the goods, the examination is made by passing a very fine spit between the rolls of paper after the outer bands of the package have been loosened. Not more, however, than one package probably in each consignment is subject to such examination, and every precaution is taken by officers of Customs to cause the least possible damage. Attempts have been made to introduce contraband goods into this country in packages of goods of a like nature to reels of paper, and it is therefore absolutely necessary that a sufficient examination should be made to satisfy 709 the officers of Customs. In two instances in which application was made, the paper was sent in charge to the newspaper office for which it was intended, and there unrolled in the presence of the Customs officers. From the absence of complaint the Board of Customs have no reason to suppose that serious damage has been caused by the examination of reels of paper on importation. The Crown is not liable to make compensation for any damage necessarily caused to goods on importation by Customs examination.