HC Deb 01 May 1950 vol 474 cc1409-10
53 and 54. Mr. Kenneth Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) if he will issue instructions for the return of the passport of Mr. Albert Rogers of 40 Carisbrooke Road, Liverpool 4, taken from him as security for a loan of £6 Os. 6d. repatriation expenses, which sum has now been repaid;

(2) why a British passport, particulars of which have been sent to him, was taken by a consul as security for an advance of repatriation expenses to the holder, a British citizen without funds, in a foreign country.

Mr. Ernest Davies

When public funds are used for the relief and repatriation of United Kingdom citizens, it is the regular practice to withhold the passport until the person concerned has made satisfactory arrangements to refund the expenditure thus incurred. In the case of Mr. Rogers, the Consul-General at Marseilles paid on his behalf £6 Os. 6d. for his repatriation, and the Consul-General at Lyons advanced £17 9s. 9d. for hospital expenses. Mr. Rogers undertook to repay these advances and the sum of £6 Os. 6d. has been refunded; Mr. Rogers has not yet replied to the request for the refund of £17 9s. 9d. still due.

Mr. Thompson

Is the Minister not aware that the passport was taken on the occasion of the loan of £6 for repatriation expenses, and that the £17 arose on an entirely different matter and at a different time? Does he consider it proper to transfer this form of security from one loan to another without communicating to the holder of the passport, or without any attempt being made in the civil courts to recover the debt?

Mr. Davies

It is customary to withhold passports when debts of this nature are owed. The fact that the £6 was not repaid when the further loan was made required the withholding of the passport, and even if the first loan had been repaid, as security on the second loan.

Mr. Teeing

By what authority does the Foreign Office withhold passports on these lines?

Mr. Davies

By instructions given in 1922 by the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

How did the man get back without a passport?

Mr. Davies

When passports are taken away and a person is being repatriated at Government expense, a certificate is given to allow him to get through the passport control at the port.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Will the Under-Secretary make it clear that in all circumstances a British subject has a right to return to this country with or without a passport?

Mr. Davies

Yes, Sir. But to facilitate the Customs and passport officials in checking up on a person coming into the country, it is necessary for him to have some document.

Mr. Lloyd

Will the Under-Secretary make it clear that it is the right of all British subjects to enter this country and that a passport merely facilitates entry?

Mr. Teeling

Will the hon. Gentleman also make it clear that a British subject also has the right to leave this country, and does not require a passport?