§ 3. Mr. PERKINS
asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered that Section 56 of the Post Office Act, 1908, which forbids any officer of the Post Office to detain, or delay, or procure, or suffer to be detained or delayed any postal packet under a penalty of imprisonment with hard labour, but which nevertheless authorises such delay or detention of a postal packet in obedience to an express warrant in writing under the hand of a Secretary of State, does nevertheless give no power to authorise such delay or detention by others than officers of the Post Office; can he assure the House that no other than such officers have been employed in effecting such detention or delay; if such other persons have been so employed will he state what securities have been taken that they are proper persons for such a task, and by what authority they have been so employed; and will he state by what authority letters opened in the Post Office in obedience to his express warrant are not only detained or delayed but are confiscated without being finally transmitted to their destination?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
The Secretary of State, acting on behalf of the Crown, has always possessed the power to direct by warrant that letters sent by the King's Post may be opened, detained, delayed or otherwise dealt with. The Statute referred to in the question recognises this power and provides that it is not to be interfered with by the particular enactment which penalises officers of the Post Office who open or delay letters without authority; but this Statute does not in any way limit the Secretary of State's power. During the present critical time I have exercised this power in such ways as appeared to be necessary in the interest of the public safety; but it appears to me to be undesirable in the public interest to make any statement as to the particular measures which have been taken.