HC Deb 30 March 1961 vol 637 c1508
21. Mr. J. Howard

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many letters were opened within the last convenient twelve months under the authority of Section 22 of the Exchange Control Act, 1947; and what was the total amount of illegally remitted currency discovered by this examination.

Mr. Barber

In 1960 approximately 300,000 letters were opened and £50,000 of illegally remitted currency discovered.

Mr. Howard

Will my hon. Friend say whether any currency plots were unmasked by this examination, and also how much it cost the Treasury to perform this currency examination?

Mr. Barber

I cannot give my hon. Friend the cost of this operation, but I have made inquiries and I am told that the number of people involved is probably about four to six. The position is that, whilst we have certain currency restrictions and currency control continues to be necessary in order to prevent the unauthorised export of capital, we must do this. I assure my hon. Friend that the need for these measures is always kept under review.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the hon. Gentleman say in how many of the total number of letters opened no currency was found?

Mr. Barber

I cannot give that information. Only a very sketchy record is kept of the number of letters opened and examined. To do anything more than this would be a waste of time and would involve unnecessary public expenditure. I should like the House to consider this matter in perspective. I am told that about 350 million letters a year leave the country. Therefore, the number opened is less than one-tenth of 1 per cent. of outgoing mail.