HC Deb 12 October 1915 vol 74 cc1165-6
2. Mr. KING

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the misunderstanding which has arisen in certain neutral countries in connection with the delay of postal matter passing over the territory of belligerent countries and destined in one neutral country for another neutral country; whether the General Postal Union Treaty contains any article or condition which has been so misunderstood or misrepresented as to place the action of the British or any Allied Government in an unfavourable light; and whether, with a view to removing possible errors or misjudgments, be can make a statement on this subject?


The matter to which the hon. Member refers formed the subject of careful consideration both during the War in South Africa and during the present War. His Majesty's Government are of opinion that as a state of war suspends the application as between belligerents themselves of Article IV., Section (1), of the Universal Postal Convention—to which the hon. Member no doubt refers—it is clear that the agreement is one of those which are only intended to operate in their entirety during a state of peace. His Majesty's Government find it impossible so to construe the terms of the Convention as to suppose that it binds a belligerent State to allow itself to be used as the channel for communications intended to defeat its own measures of war, and in these circumstances they feel bound in certain cases to exercise their right of examination of mails in transit over British territory between two neutral countries. I would add that every care is taken to avoid undue delay or prejudice to the legitimate interests of neutral subjects.


May I inquire whether that interpretation and application of the Universal Postal Convention has been communicated to the Governments of neutral countries, so that they may clearly understand the position which is taken up here?


Perhaps the hon. Member will give me notice of that question.