HC Deb 08 March 1944 vol 397 cc2072-4W
Mr. Hewlett

asked the Postmaster-General (1) what reasons are assigned for the failure of such a volume of duty free cigarettes sent to our troops in India ever to arrive at all; to what extent such parcels used to arrive when they were insured which is not now permitted; what type of persons and of what nationality handle the parcels after they have been handed in to the British postal office under special licence and permit; and what steps are taken by the G.P.O. staff who have the responsibility for transport to investigate these losses;

(2)whether he can give an approximate estimate of the number of parcels of duty free cigarettes which have disappeared on their way to India; and whether, as his Department accepts no responsibility for any refund of money to cover the value of the lost parcels, he will intensify his investigations to discover the reason for their non-delivery.

Captain Crookshank

I regret that I am not in a position to give comparative figures of present and past losses of cigarettes sent to the troops in India, and in considering the number of complaints, it has to be remembered that delays amounting to several weeks have occurred before cigarettes which have been ordered have been despatched by the manufacturers, so that a number of complaints of loss may turn out only to be cases of delayed arrival. Nevertheless, I am concerned about the number of cigarettes which have failed to arrive owing to a variety of reasons, among which must unfortunately be included deliberate pilfering. While in the custody of my Department the parcels are dealt with by permanent or temporary civil servants of British nationality, and in the Army Postal Service they are handled by Army personnel. Mails for India are taken over on arrival by the Indian Army Postal Service. A joint investigation is being made by my Department and the military authorities, and I can assure my hon. Friend that efforts to discover and remove causes of non-delivery are being intensified.

Sir W. Davison

asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been drawn to the pilfering which has been occurring for some time, in particular, from parcels from America in the course of their Customs examination in this country; what action is being taken in the matter; and if full compensation will be paid to those who have suffered by these thefts.

Captain Crookshank

Opportunities for pilfering have unfortunately increased under war conditions, but there is no evidence that any considerable number of losses has taken place during customs examination. Every precaution is taken to safeguard the mails, and where tampering occurs full inquiry is made by trained investigators and appropriate action is taken. Compensation is paid if it is established that such parcels have been pilfered whilst in the custody of my Department.