HC Deb 06 July 1970 vol 803 cc315-7
24. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will now stop the surcharge imposed on the new issue of Rhodesian stamps.

30. Mr. Ronald Bell

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will instruct the Post Office to recognise as valid current Rhodesian postage stamps, and inform the Universal Postal Union that these stamps are now accepted as valid prepayment of postage by Her Majesty's Government.

31. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he proposes to end the surcharge on Rhodesian mail; and whether he will make a statement.

36. Sir M. Stoddart-Scott

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will abolish the surcharge imposed upon the residents in this country who receive letters from Rhodesia, in view of the fact that the delivery of all mail from Rhodesia is already paid for by the Rhodesian Government.

Mr. Chataway

I am reconsidering the question whether the present practice of surcharging mail bearing these stamps should continue.

Mr. Wall

Bearing in mind that during the election this was officially termed a petty and ineffectual measure, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has ascertained whether the surcharge is legal, because under Article 20 of the International Convention the criterion is that the country of origin should justify the stamps? Is it not a fact that Her Majesty's Government have reimbursed the Rhodesians for the charge of handling this mail and have then double-charged the recipient?

Mr. Chataway

That is an interesting point which my hon. Friend makes.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Since Conservative candidates at the General Election were officially authorised to inform the electors that this mean, petty and spiteful measure would be reversed by a Conservative Administration—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"]—will my right hon. Friend end it as soon as he possibly can?

Mr. Chataway

I can only say that this is a matter which I have under active review.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Bearing in mind that this has been generally regarded as one of the most petty acts of the last Administration and that it was brushed aside by, for example, the United States, which has declined to have anything to do with it, will my right hon. Friend not take too long over his reconsideration of the matter?

Mr. Chataway

I will certainly make an announcement as soon as this consideration is completed.

Sir M. Stoddart-Scott

Was a surcharge made on illegal stamps coming from Biafra and Anguilla?

Mr. Chataway

I should need notice of that question.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he does climb down on this matter it will be regarded in the world outside as the first sign of surrender particularly as so many other countries have followed the last Administration's example and have imposed the surcharge on these stamps? Is he aware that if he does as is suggested from that side of the House it will be regarded as a very serious move and will be regretted very strongly, indeed?

Mr. Chataway

I believe that only a very limited number of countries have followed the advice of the previous Administration.

Mr. Faulds

Why cannot the Minister prove that he has the guts and courage which he showed some years ago and stand up against his feeble backbenchers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—because, presumably, these are illegal stamps issued by an illegal régime?

Mr. Chataway

The matter is not as simple as the hon. Gentleman would imagine.