HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc881-2
17. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will introduce legislation reforming the law governing the granting of British passports.

Mr. Whitlock

In the United Kingdom the grant of passports is a Prerogative function. If the reform which the hon. Gentleman has in mind is the introduction of safeguards against the arbitrary refusal of passports, a step has already been taken in this direction by the setting up of the Cairns Committee to review passport refusals connected with the illegal declaration of independence in Southern Rhodesia.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is it not intolerable that a law that was originally designed in the thirteenth century to keep the clergy from visiting Rome should today be used to imprison citizens in this island? Surely the very least that the Foreign Secretary and his helpers can do is to set up an independent tribunal to which appeal can be made or to allow a form of hearing so that the rules of natural justice can be observed in the matter?

Mr. Whitlock

The hon. Gentleman may find the system intolerable, but it has been the position of successive Governments that this must remain a Prerogative function, and on the whole there has been little complaint about it.

Mr. Archer

Is my hon. Friend aware that citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies whose passports happen to have been issued elsewhere than in London are sometimes treated differently for visa purposes in many countries from those whose passports were issued in London? Would he not agree that this is an irrelevancy and try to seek some agreement?

Mr. Whitlock

We are looking into the matter.

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