HC Deb 03 March 1983 vol 38 cc364-5
13. Mr. Eastham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make nationality application forms available in post offices.

Mr. Waddington

No, Sir. Application forms are available from the Home Office nationality division in Croydon where advice can be given on the appropriate form for individual applicants.

Mr. Eastham

Is it not about time that we had a fresh look at the issuing of such forms? Surely the general public should be encouraged to go to post offices to obtain the forms and make their claims, thus avoiding long delays. Solicitors receive shabby treatment from the Department when they apply for forms. It is about time that we had a fresh look at the rights of people who make applications.

Mr. Waddington

It is very important that the applicants should be told which of the number of avenues to citizenship is open to them. Not everyone is qualified to give that advice. If one were to leave at post offices the whole range of forms—excellent as they are, as a result of the Rayner exercise—those behind the counter would find it difficult to give advice on what was the right form for the right person. I fear that in the main people would go away with all the forms and would then be no wiser as to which was the appropriate one. Those forms are made available to citizens advice bureaux and other bodies that can give advice to individuals.

Mr. James Lamond

Before the Minister gets too complacent about the matter, will he tell us whether there has been any improvement in the two-year waiting period that many of my constituents have had to put up with until an answer from his Department at Lunar House is received?

Mr. Waddington

There has been a considerable improvement, but there were great difficulties before the new year because many people persuaded themselves, erroneously, that they would be affected by the coming into force of the British Nationality Act.

I was at Lunar House recently and found no queues of people going for advice. That is a real improvement.

Mr. Jim Marshall

Does the Minister accept that the explanatory leaflet issued by the Home Office on the routes for nationality leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of explaining to applicants which route they should take? Does he accept that there is undue delay in processing the application forms? Since applicants pay the full economic cost for the application, does he accept that there is a case for taking on more staff so that the undue delay can be reduced?

Mr. Waddington

I looked at the leaflets when I first came into the Department. I thought that they were rather good, but it is a difficult subject, for the reason that I have mentioned, which is the number of routes to naturalisation or registration as a British citizen. Of course one is anxious to speed up the processing of the applications as much as possible.

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