HC Deb 10 May 1904 vol 134 c893
SIR CHARLES PALMER (Durham, arrow)

I beg to ask the Postmaster-General whether postal letters are regarded as contraband of war; and, if not, whether a British mail steamer can be stopped and detained for the purposes of searching for belligerents' letters in charge of the British Post Office.


Ordinary postal letters are not contraband of war, but it is possible that dispatches addressed to, or intended for, the Government of a belligerent State by its accredited agents (or vice versa) might be treated as such. No general rule of international law has been established giving any special immunity to mad steamers; but the right to visit and search in respect of such vessels should, having regard to their special circumstances, be so exercised as to minimise the inconvenience that may result.