HC Deb 07 July 1953 vol 517 cc1041-3
32. Mr. Gough

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider amending the existing currency regulation under which a traveller who, at the outset of his journey, innocently declares himself to be in possession of currency notes to the value of more than £5 suffers the confiscation of such moneys, and if he will reconsider the limits allowable in respect of currency notes where a traveller is going direct to another country within the sterling area.

Mr. R. A. Butler

In answer to the first part of the Question, the law provides for the seizure of excess notes, but the traveller can apply subsequently for their restoration and this will depend upon the circumstances of the individual case. In answer to the second part, I do not think that any change is called for, particularly since there are very few direct routes which do not call at outside ports on the way.

Mr. Gough

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the first part of the answer will give general satisfaction because it is generally accepted that there is no redress against such seizures? Would he consider innocent cases—and there are many innocent cases—and extend to them the more simple procedure of the person concerned sending the excess notes to some person by registered post?

Mr. Butler

I am informed that there are agencies, banks and other offices on the way to the port of exit which can be used by the passenger to deposit extra notes which should not be taken abroad. I recommend that course in the first case. I have examined the circumstances very carefully, and certainly in the case of extra money being taken to the Sterling Area every effort is being made to restore the notes seized.

Sir R. Boothby

Does my right hon. Friend not think—and there have been cases in this connection—that if a £ is voluntarily handed to the Customs by a traveller, presumably for safe keeping, and it is subsequently confiscated by the Customs authorities, it really amounts to a form of thieving by the Customs?

Mr. Butler

I have examined the practice, and it is really wiser for travellers to read the directions given to them before they travel, or at least to deposit their notes with one of the agencies or banks available. Even if they do not do that, the Customs' officers try to interpret their duties in as human a manner as possible.

Mr. R. Bell

Does my right hon. Friend realise that in every case where currency is voluntarily declared the operation must be innocent, and that nearly every country in Europe does operate a deposit and return system?

Mr. Butler

I have studied some of the foreign practices. I do not think there are many Customs and Excise systems better than ours, but I am always ready to listen to any point of view put by an hon. Member.