HC Deb 04 May 1903 vol 121 cc1183-4

To ask the Postmaster-General whether, seeing that while the public are permitted to use the Post Office for transmission of valuable property in a cover duly registered the Post Office authorities refuse compensation when the contents are stolen in transit and the cover only is delivered at its destination, he will state why the public are not warned of this non-liability of the Post Office by a statement in the rules or on the registered receipts; whether he will state the number and amount of claims made against the Post Office during the past five years, with all particulars in respect of valuable property abstracted from registered covers while in Post Office custody; and whether he will supply a list of particulars of decisions in courts of law respecting the liability or non-liability of the Post Office under such circumstances.

(Answered by Mr. Austen Chamberlain.) If the hon. Member is alluding to the Inland service of the United Kingdom, it is not the fact that compensation is refused when the contents of a registered letter are stolen in transit and the cover only is delivered at the place of destination. In such cases payment is made not as a matter of legal liability but as an act of grace, within certain limits and subject to certain conditions which are set forth on the official certificates of posting, and at pages 13 to 17 of the Post Office Guide. In the International post, which is regulated by the Postal Union Convention, there is no liability to compensate in the case of a registered but uninsured packet unless it is entirely lost, in which case an indemnity of fifty francs is payable. Nevertheless, in this country compensation up to that amount would be granted for the loss of contents if it were clear that such loss had occurred while the packet was in the custody of the British Post Office. I regret that I cannot undertake to supply the hon. Member with particulars of all claims and losses of the kind which have arisen during the last five years. It is provided by Section 3 of the Post Office Act, 1875, that the registration of a postal packet shall not render the Postmaster-General or the postal revenue liable for the loss of any such packet or the contents thereof.