HC Deb 15 July 1946 vol 425 cc874-6
94. Mr. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider making the necessary forms for application for a passport available, like many Inland Revenue forms, at the principal post offices throughout the country, and of opening the Passport Office from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer months to give workers a chance to apply in person for their passports.

Mr. McNeil

My right hon. Friend does not feel justified in asking the Postmaster-General to impose this additional burden upon the already overworked staffs of post offices. Passport application forms, however, can be obtained from the principal travel agencies and their branches, as well as at the three passport offices. As regards the second part of the Question, I regret that it is not possible, owing to lack of trained staff, to arrange for the Passport Office to be open to the general public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The hours at present are 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 9.30 to 1 p.m. Officials are in attendance both before and after these times. A small staff attend on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings to deal with urgent cases.

Mr. Teeling

With regard to the second part of the Question, the number of people actually employed are, I believe, something like only three or four in the office downstairs. Would it not be possible, without any very great training, to get a few extra people for those early hours to help the people who want to get abroad?

Mr. McNeil

My information is that it does require considerable training; that it would he no help, and might rather clog up the machine to introduce unskilled people.

Mr. W. J. Brown

Is it not the case that, anticipating the great demand for passports this year, the hon. Gentleman's Department did apply to the Treasury a month ago for permission to train more staff for this work, and that that was turned down by the Treasury, which is part of the reason for the existing delay? Will he tell us what steps he is now proposing to take to enable citizens to get passports?

Mr. McNeil

I cannot pretend that I am not uneasy about this. Of course, as my hon. Friend knows from previous statements which have been made in this House on this subject, considerable measures have been taken.

Mr. Nicholson

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree with the description of the Passport Office as "disgraceful and unworthy of the British Government "?

Mr. McNeil

I should prefer to be economical and say it was overcrowded.

Mr. Norman Smith

What is the objection to abolishing passports altogether?

Mr. McNeil

There are a great many, and there are just as many Governments concerned as there are objections.

Mr, James Glanville

Does the Minister anticipate a large demand for passports from the working class of this country?