HC Deb 29 July 1946 vol 426 cc488-92
3. Mr. Thomas Macpherson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if arrangements will now be made to dispense with birth certificates when making application for a passport.

The Minister of State (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

Under the regulations governing the issue of passports to British-born subjects, the production of a birth certificate is a requirement with which it is not possible, in general, to dispense. The requirement may be waived in individual cases, if satisfactory alternative evidence of British nationality is produced. Time and trouble would, however, be saved if persons who are applying for passports for the first time would remember to submit their birth certificates, or, in the case of married women, their husband's birth certificate and their certificate of marriage.

Mr. Macpherson

Having regard to the Foreign Secretary's well known views regarding the future of passports generally, will my right hon. Friend say whether or not arrangements can be made for passport offices to be content with the production of the applicant's identity card instead of birth certificate as at present?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will consider that suggestion, but I am afraid that this is a matter in which gradualness is inevitable.

7. Mr. Derek Walker-Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the conditions at the British visa office in Paris leave much to be desired and impose unnecessary discomfort and delay on French applicants for visas; and whether he will take steps to improve the position.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am aware that conditions in the British Visa Office in Paris have not been satisfactory, but more staff and more accommodation have now been provided, and I have asked His Majesty's Ambassador to let me know whether any further measures are needed.

Mr. Maclay

Is the Minister aware that similar bad conditions and delays prevail in almost every visa office belonging to Britain and other nations, and will he urge his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to call an international conference as soon as possible, to try to minimise the appalling difficulties which passport and visa requirements put in the way of legitimate travellers of every nationality?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations have decided to propose to the Assembly that such a Conference should be called at the earliest date, and His Majesty's Government hope that it may meet in the autumn of this year

12. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now able to make a further statement regarding the congestion and other unsatisfactory conditions at the Passport Office, to which his attention has been called.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Considerable improvements have recently been made in the accommodation and staffing of the Passport Office in London. The Alien Visa Section has been moved to Prince's Gate; the Postal Department has, in consequence, more room for its work, and its output has greatly increased. The further imrovements which are planned require structural alterations in the buildings, and some time may, therefore, elapse before their full benefit is felt.

Mr. Stewart

In the meantime, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that really effective steps will be taken, in view of the fact that, for example, mothers with their children go there day after day and no provision is made for them, and some of them have to stand for six or seven hours? Would not that matter be capable of improvement at once?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I think there have been very great difficulties, but I hope they will be much less in future.

Sir Ronald Ross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it still takes three weeks to get an identity document to go to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider adopting a system of postal communication so that people do not come up from the country and wait for hours, and then go back unsatisfied?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I think that postal communications are most desirable. That is why it is gratifying that the facilities for the postal department are much greater than they were.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of my constituents has tried three times to get a reply from the Passport Office and cannot get one?

Mr. Noel-Baker

There are great difficulties about staffing. We are getting more staff and I hope that soon we shall get all that we need.

23. Major Haughton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps have been taken to enlarge the offices and increase the staff to relieve the congestion at the London, Liverpool and Glasgow Passport Offices.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Additional accommodation has been obtained for all the Passport Offices in London, Liverpool and Glasgow. Some experienced officers . have been recalled, and other staff have been recruited. With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate more detailed information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Major Haughton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the steps so far taken seem to have brought no relief at all, and that the congestion in these three offices is really appalling, and could not some temporary measures be introduced, either postal or otherwise, to relieve the position?

Mr. Noel-Baker

As the steps have been taken, so has the holiday pressure increased; but I hope we shall be able to do more in the near future.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people are being frustrated and are losing the chance of having the holidays for which they are waiting, and will he consider distributing offices among some of the smaller towns?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will look into that matter.

Sir R. Ross

Can the Minister say what is the average time it takes? I believe it is three weeks or a month.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I think it varies greatly from case to case.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Organisation and Methods Department of the Treasury to look into this problem in order that some recommendations may be made on office machinery and planning?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Of course, we are in touch with the Treasury about staff.

Following is the information:

Accommodation in London has been improved by the acquisition of temporary premises at 28, Princes Gate, to which the section of the Passport Office dealing with foreign nationals has been moved. Efforts are being made to secure the rooms in the present Passport Office occupied by the Military Permit Office and a section of the Paymaster General's staff, and the Minister of Works is being pressed to effect some structural alterations which will considerably improve the facilities for callers. As regards the staff, some experienced officers are being recalled and more temporary staff have been recruited. The premises at Liverpool are unsuitable and overcrowded, but after persistent efforts additional accommodation has been obtained near the present offices, and will be occupied within the next few days. In addition, negotiations are well advanced for securing a permanent office in some premises well situated and with ample room for expansion. Sufficient staff has been recruited and when the additional accommodation has been occupied the output will be considerably increased. Additional temporary accommodation has been secured and occupied, and efforts are being made to obtain suitable premises for a permanent office.