HC Deb 08 February 1915 vol 69 c270W

asked the Prime Minister whether any authority has been given to any persons to open letters passing through the Post Office; has any authority been given to such persons to make comments upon these letters addressed to the addressees of the letters; has any authority been given to such persons to detain, and either retain or destroy, such letters; if so, to how many persons has such authority been given and by whom was the authority given; will he state what the qualifications are of the persons thus employed, and what security is taken that they shall not use the power thus given them for the purposes of blackmail; will he state since when this practice of opening letters in the Post Office has existed; how many letters, inland and foreign, respectively, have been thus opened; and how many have been retained without being forwarded to their destination?


The Prime Minister has asked me to answer this question. The powers in this matter, which have long been vested in the Secretary of State by constitutional usage, have been recognised and preserved by successive Statutes, the last being the Post Office Act, 1908, Section 56. I have since the War began exercised these powers in such cases and for such purposes as appeared to be necessary for the safety of the country and of His Majesty's Forces, but it is undesirable in the public interest to give details as to the action taken.