HC Deb 02 May 1851 vol 116 cc425-7

rose to ask a ques- tion of which he had given notice in words as definite as he could devise, of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department, as to whether he intended to make any alteration of the system of passports as respected passengers from the Continent to this country. It appeared that there was a fine of 40s. on foreigners who did not produce their passports on being asked for them when they arrived in this country. When several foreigners were landing at Dovor the other day, they were not only examined, but their passports were demanded, and they were subjected to no small amount of inconvenience in consequence. While lately making a tour through different parts of the Continent, it was true that on entering France he had to submit to the ordeal of his passport; but when afterwards passing out of France into Belgium, and on afterwards returning to France, no passport was demanded. It appeared, then, that a foreigner, in coming to this country, was absolutely subjected to greater inconvenience than an Englishman had to endure in going abroad. What he wished to know, therefore, was whether the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department had caused any measures to be taken for obviating this inconvenience?


Sir, it is perfectly true, as I stated on a former occasion, that no passport is required of any foreigner landing in this country for any of the purposes for which passports are required in foreign countries, as permission to travel into the interior, or the like; nor is any passport absolutely required for landing. An Act, passed when the Alien Act expired, required that every foreigner landing in this country should give his name, and that that name should be recorded; and the only purpose for which his passport is required—and it is only in that case he is required to produce it—is as a regular method for ascertaining his name. By the Custom-house regulations, framed under the Act of 1836, a foreigner landing is to produce his passport if he has one; or, at all events, if he has none, is to give his name—the object of producing the passport being merely to ascertain his name, and the penalty of 40s. is incurred only on the refusal of the foreigner to give his name either verbally or by the production of his passport.


said, that it ought to be clearly known that no passports whatever were required for foreigners entering this country. He thought we were sometimes fond of vaunting of our superiority, and lending our example to practices of which we complained in other countries. There was no security in this system adopted with respect to foreigners. It was evident that the system was totally useless as a security, and therefore ought to be abandoned. If a passenger landed at New-haven or at Shoreham, no passport was demanded, because there was nobody there to take it; but if he landed at Dover or Folkstone, unless he produced a passport, he was subject to a fine of 40s. It would only be commensurate with good sense if the system were to be altogether abandoned. He hoped that foreigners would now distinctly understand that no passport was necessary in this country, and that there was no power to remove them, even though they had no passport.

Subject dropped.