HC Deb 21 May 1958 vol 588 cc1270-1
1. Mr. Osborne

asked the Postmaster-General how many robberies of post offices have occurred during each of the last three years, respectively; and what steps he is taking to ensure greater protection for Post Office workers from violent attacks.

4. Mr. Lipton

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will provide better protection for post offices and staff against robberies.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Ernest Marples)

In the last three financial years there were respectively 14, 17 and 26 actual or attempted robberies at post offices in which violence was used or threatened. I am considering whether more can be done to protect Post Office staff.

Mr. Osborne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the public think we are sentimental and soft towards these criminals, and will he use his influence with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that flogging is reimposed to deal with these people and to give protection to those who, especially in country districts, need protection?

Mr. Marples

The question of flogging is not one for the Postmaster-General. Sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses are incredibly brave people. I frequently give awards for great bravery and I am astonished at the way elderly and fragile women tackle intruders. I pay a great tribute to them. I hope to meet the general secretary of the Federation of Sub-Postmasters to see what the Federation has in mind to prevent this kind of thing happening.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Postmaster-General aware that the figures he has given are appalling and that there is a certain amount of perturbation on the part of sub-postmasters in that there have been over 30 raids already in the London area, 13 of which were attended with violence? Would the right hon. Gentleman at least consider one practical suggestion, namely, the installation of a bandit alarm bell in sub-post offices, which could alert the public in the neighbourhood and also the nearest police station?

Mr. Marples

There are alarm bells in some sub-post offices, but that is one question the general secretary of the Federation will be discussing with the Post Office if he accepts the invitation, as I hope he will. Whilst I think this trend is alarming—let the House make no mistake about that—it only reflects the general trend in crime and is not specially confined to the Post Office.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Is the right hon. Gentleman considering strengthening his own Post Office Investigation Branch and giving some of its officers specific advice with regard to the protection of post office premises?

Mr. Marples

I will look into that suggestion with the general secretary of the Federation of Sub-Postmasters. Normally, the officers of the Investigation Department get there after a crime has been committed, not before. The difficulty is to prevent these crimes, not to investigate them.

Mr. Osborne

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of this reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.