HL Deb 26 May 1884 vol 288 cc1276-7

rose for the purpose of calling attention to the new Custom House Regulations at Folkestone and other English ports, under which every small box or parcel belonging to innocent travellers was opened and its contents examined with rigorous strictness. In his own ease, a small despatch box had been stopped because the key was not forthcoming at the moment, although his name was painted upon it. He was quite sure that it did not contain anything like such explosive matter as was introduced to the notice of the House every night by the noble Earl in those ominous-looking red boxes which were brought to him. In another case a box containing a wedding cake, sent to a friend of his, was not only broken up, but the wedding cake itself was chopped up to see whether it contained dynamite. He hoped that something would be done to mitigate the severity of these regulations; they were absurd, and more especially be when they were carried out in the case of persons who could not be expected to have any complicity with dynamite outrages. He did not object to a reasonable examination; but he thought that such instructions should be given as would enable it to be carried out with as little inconvenience as possible, and without that ridicule which at present attached to the proceeding.


I am not personally responsible for these instructions, which were simply issued through the Foreign Office; but I have no desire to escape from any responsibility that may attach to me officially for their promulgation. I can entirely sympathize with the annoyance which the noble Lord must have felt at his luggage being stopped; but the necessity for these examinations has arisen from a very odious reason, and as some justification for the issue of these regulations I can point to the fact that only yesterday at Dover a large quantity of dynamite was discovered in one of those innocent-looking carpet bags to which the noble Lord has referred. As it is necessary in the present state of circumstances to make these examinations, it would only make them much more unpopular and invidious if the luggage of any particular class of persons were exempted from them. Anyone who has the most superficial acquaintance with my noble Friend must be convinced that he would not bring over dynamite. But the very fact of his not having the key of his box, and of the box being therefore passed without examination, would have created what would have been little short of a mutiny on the part of his fellow-passengers.


I am very glad that the noble Lord has brought this matter before the House, because his speech will convince some of my correspondents that they are not the only persons who are subject to these regulations. A learned and excellent gentleman who has been a candidate for a seat in Parliament, and who may be so again, seems to be incapable of being persuaded that there is no special suspicion directed against himself. He will now probably alter his opinion when he sees that the luggage of the noble Lord has been subjected to the examination of which he complains.