HC Deb 03 March 1896 vol 38 cc23-5

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether his attention has been called to the alarming increase in the number of cases of dishonesty and other offences among certain classes of postal employees; whether, in the three years 1892, 1893, and 1894, the increase in the number of convictions was 28 per cent., in the number of the detectives employed in the Missing Letter and Confidential Inquiry Branches 37 per cent., in the payments to detectives 37 per cent., and in the number of employés only 10 per cent.; whether, in the same period, the increase in the number of convictions for offences relating to letters was 30 per cent., while the increase in the total number of letters posted was less than one-half per cent.; whether he has been officially informed that the prime cause of this great increase of thefts is the issue of a form of postal order which, unless certain precautions are adopted by the purchasers, can be readily negotiated by a thief; whether his attention has been called to a case tried in the Central Criminal Court on the 4th inst., in which it was proved that the prisoner-had fraudulently disposed of 250 postal orders; and whether, with a view to check dishonesty, and make the transmission of money by post safe and easy, he will issue a new form of postal order, either with a counterfoil bearing all necessary particulars, or on the model of the "Mandat-carte," recommended by the Postal Union, and adopted in France, Germany, Switzerland, and elsewhere?


The figures upon which the hon. Member has founded his question are contained in a return of the number of convictions of Post Office employés made last year to an Order of this House on the motion of the hon. Member himself. The return covered the period of five years, from 1890 to 1894; but the hon. Member has selected for the purpose of his question only the last three of those years. If the hon. Member will take the return as a whole and will compare the figures for the first year—1890—with the figures for the last year—1894—he will find that, while the staff in this period increased by 17 per cent., the number of convictions only increased by 15 per cent., and that while the increase in the total number of postal packets of all kinds (not letters only) was no less than 10 per cent., the number of convictions for the larceny of postal packets rose by only 7 per cent. Looking at the matter in another way, the hon. Member will find that, whereas in 1890 tire proportion of convictions for larceny to the total number of staff employed was one for every 1,450 persons, in 1894 the proportion had fallen to one for every 1,600 persons. With regard to the officers described by the hon. Member as "detectives," I may say that in the three years referred to there was no addition to the small staff engaged in such work, though there was a slight increase in their remuneration. The percentages given by the hon. Member appear to refer to the Confidential Inquiry Branch as a whole, but by far the greater number of the officers of that branch are engaged in work other than that of detecting and punishing dishonesty among Post Office servants. With reference to the hon. Member's observation respecting postal orders and the "Mandat-carte," I may say that the question of the best means of transmitting money through the Post is at present engaging the attention of the Postmaster-General, but there are no grounds for supposing that the increase of convictions during the last three years has been due to the issue of postal orders. As the hon. Member is aware, postal orders were introduced ten years before. I must apologise to the House for having dealt with this question at somewhat unusual length. My excuse must be the gravity of the charge made by the hon. Member, and the importance of removing any false impression which may have been created in the minds of the public. I am happy to say that the Postmaster General finds nothing in the return to lead him to think that dishonesty is increasing in the Post Office.

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