HC Deb 18 May 1915 vol 71 cc2127-8
34. Mr. R. McNEILL

asked the Postmaster-General whether he has completed his inquiry concerning letters and parcels addressed to soldiers on active service and undelivered owing to the death of the addressee; if he will say how many letters and parcels have been undelivered from this cause; how many, when opened, have been found to contain no name of the sender, and how these latter have been dealt with; and whether he will make arrangements by which for the future all parcels undelivered, owing to the death of the addressee on active service, shall he delivered at the home address of the addressee to be at the disposal of his representatives.


About 2,000 letters and 500 parcels are returned from the front each week as undeliverable from this cause. Of these about 300 letters and 80 parcels a week are found to contain no indication of the names and addresses of senders. Such letters and parcels are retained for a time, as prescribed by the Post Office regulations, in order to afford the senders an opportunity to claim them, and are then disposed of. The normal procedure is to sell for the benefit of the Exchequer any that are of saleable value and to destroy the rest. I have, however, arranged that for the present the contents of any packets or parcels that are suitable for the purpose shall be handed over to the Prisoners of War Help Committee for distribution to British prisoners of war interned abroad. Neither the Post Office nor the War Office could undertake to discover the legal representatives of the addressees in such cases; and delivery to the next-of-kin, apart from the objection to the additional work which it would impose on the Military Record Offices, seems to me to be open to serious objections of a more general nature, since it may often happen that the senders of letters and parcels who omit to state their names and addresses would prefer that the correspondence should not be forwarded to the addressees' next-of-kin. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion, after consultation with the War Office, that the hon. Member's suggestion cannot be adopted.


Whatever objections may apply to letters, can the right hon. Gentleman not secure that parcels, at all events, shall be sent to the representatives of the addresses, seeing that they have the first claim on the property contained in the parcels in question?


I do not think that is possible, and if the hon. Gentleman will look into the matter I think he will see that the attitude taken by the Post Office is the proper one.