HC Deb 13 June 1973 vol 857 cc1468-9
10. Mr. Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he can now give the results of his inquiries into the ways that false British passports can be obtained; and whether he will make a statement.

Lord Balniel

It would not be in the public interest to reveal the methods used to obtain passports falsely, or the precautions we take against this. But my inquiries reveal no evidence that attemps to use false United Kingdom passports are at all frequent.

I should like to correct one aspect of a reply I gave to my hon. Friend's supplementary question on 9th May. It is, in fact, not easy to alter a United Kingdom passport in a way which will pass expert scrutiny.

Mr. Fowler

That correction will be widely welcomed, since our controls against illegal immigration are very much centred at the border and consist of checks on people coming into this country. Will my right hon. Friend say how many falsified passports have come to his notice, and whether he is satisfied that the precautions, even though he does not wish to state what they are, are adequate to discover attempts at deception?

Lord Balniel

I am glad that I have been able to set the record right by means of this Question. In 1972, 139 cases of offences regarding passports came to our notice. That represents about one ten-thousandth of our normal annual issue of about 1¼ million passports. We do not propose to tighten the procedure for the issue of passports, because that would involve lengthy delays for the large body of genuine applicants, and I am convinced that extra tightening for the very limited number of offences would he unacceptable to the general public.

Mr. Maclennan

What reply have the Government received from the Government of Israel to their extremely strong protest about the use of false British passports in the raid on the Lebanon?

Lord Balniel

We have still not received a satisfactory explanation from the Israeli Government of the use of falsified British passports in the raid on Beirut.

Sir D. Dodds-Parker

In view of the allegations of abuse, what progress is being made in insisting on individual passports for children?

Lord Balniel

That is a rather wider question. If my hon. Friend will be good enough to put it down I shall answer it specifically.