HC Deb 30 January 1957 vol 563 cc984-7
26. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Postmaster-General if in view of the circumstances surrounding the recent sale of 240 unperforated 2d. stamps in the Post Office at Dartford, he will now arrange to issue a limited but undisclosed number of further unperforated sheets of the same denomination.

28. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Postmaster-General if he will have printed a sufficient number of sheets of unperforated 2d. stamps to reduce to a reasonable level the value to collectors of the sheet issued recently by a London Post Office.

Mr. Marples

The answer is, "No, Sir."

Sir F. Medlicott

Is the Postmaster-General aware that in 1934, in somewhat similar circumstances, the American Postmaster General adopted this expedient and made a very handsome revenue for the Post Office as a result?

Mr. Marples

I went carefully into the precedent set by Mr. Farley, the United States Postmaster General. I will not comment upon it, but I should like to read what I found in "The United States Postage Stamps of the Twentieth Century," Volume IV, which states: Postmaster General Farley, who handed about one million dollars' worth of rare postage stamps to his friends and thereby made enemies of all other stamps collectors, today tried to square himself with all concerned. Mr. Farley paid the Government 3 cents. each for his gift stamps, but they became worth 2,500 dollars a piece to collectors because of their scarcity, and almost caused a Congressional investigation. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish me to follow the same method as Mr. Farley.

Mr. Thomson

Whilst this was a particularly shabby and objectionable case, is the Postmaster-General aware that it is by no means an isolated instance? There are twelve unperforated stamps of the last reign in existence and stamp collectors all over the world are beginning to doubt the genuineness of British stamps. Would he not look into the matter further to see whether he can restore the reputation of British stamps in the philatelic world?

Mr. Marples

I disagree. I think that this is an isolated instance. I have been into the flatter very carefully, and I think that the reputation of British stamps in the world is pretty high.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. In view of the precedent set by the Minister, will we also be permitted to read from books at Question Time?

Mr. Speaker

It has always been permitted, within limits, to read quotations.

Mr. Jeger

Has the Postmaster-General not heard of the Prime Minister's call for greater production, and will he not answer the call?

Mr. Marples

I think the Prime Minister was referring to other matters where there will be, of course, greater production.

29. Mr. Sydney Irving

asked the Postmaster-General at the time at which the sheet of imperforate 2d. stamps recently sold at Dartford escaped perforation, how many other similar sheets also escaped perforation.

Mr. Marples

None so far as is known.

30. Mr. Sydney Irving

asked the Postmaster-General what steps he has taken to see that the events leading recently to the sale of imperforate stamps from the Dartford Post Office do not recur.

Mr. Marples

Mistakes which are due to human failures cannot be entirely avoided, but the checking arrangements at the printing works have been further strengthened and the staff at local post offices reminded of the importance of withdrawing any imperfect stamps.

Mr. Irving

Would the Postmaster-General agree that it is not in the public interest that individuals should make huge gains in this way? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?" I Would he examine the law to see whether the title of the gentleman concerned is a good one? Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the action of his Department contributed in some way to the intolerable burden of Press pressure on this 16-year-old girl by placing her under a pledge of secrecy, under which she behaved very well indeed?

Mr. Marples

The question of the ownership of the stamps would have to be decided in a court of law, and it is thought inadvisable to pursue that course. Contractual responsibility rests with the stamp printers to see that only perfect stamps and material are supplied to the Post Office. The best that the Post Office can do is to overhaul the inspection arrangements to ensure that this does not happen again.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend not take this too heavily? Does he not agree that this would be a drab and dreary world if these romantic things did not happen occasionally?

Mr. Ness Edwards

Will the right hon. Gentleman decline the request to encourage these romantic things happening inside the Post Office? In view of the fact that this is the only occasion on which it has happened in 25 years, does he not agree that it reflects great credit on the Post Office?

Mr. Marples

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that remark. There has been a question about the girl. She has been reprimanded—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"1—but the profit that she has made she has handed to charity. She was reprimanded because she disobeyed Post Office instructions.

Hon. Members

A scapegoat.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Does not the Postmaster-General think that we are making very heavy weather of this matter?

Mr. Marples

I agree, Sir. In my view this is an isolated incident, and the sooner it is forgotten the better.