Today, I posted a parcel to my goddaughter. I’m happy to state to those who read this blog that it contained a few sweets and toy items for Halloween.
Now, the last time I posted a domestic parcel, I was handed a laminate by the member of Post Office Counters staff, and asked to confirm that my parcel did not contain any prohibited item listed on it. At the time I grumbled internally, replied “No, it does not” and the member of staff was happily and politely content with this answer, and posting continued.
Today, at a different Post Office, a staff member directly asked me what was in the parcel. I declined to answer, and was told that she “had to ask under the Dangerous Goods Act”. I replied that I had, in the past, answered questions as to whether forbidden items were present, and was willing to do that, but that I questioned her right to ask as to the specific contents of the parcel. She then, after a period of colleague-directed eye-rolling, handed me a leaflet specifying the items forbidden under the Act. I read this, then stated to her that I was aware of all classes of forbidden item, and stated that none were present in the parcel. She was content at this, and I my parcel was processed for posting.
On getting home, I called the Royal Mail Helpline, identified myself as Chair of the NI LibDems, and asked if Staff were entitled to ask as to the specific contents of parcels, and was told in a rude, peremptory fashion that they are. “For various purposes, including whether they are using the right service or not.”
I’m not going to say anything about the ever-increasing regulation of our lives. I’m not anti-Government. This is the Liberal Democrats, not the Tea Party. You’ve heard all that so many times from so many people I’ll not repeat it. But it’s SO disheartening to think that YET another frontline service provider now has the ability to demand information of a private nature from me, in a public place, and that I face denial of service if I do not comply. If this has to happen, perhaps a tick-box sticker, “By ticking this box the Sender declares that no item in this parcel is classified as Dangerous under the Dangerous Goods Act” might be a more dignified way of making this check?