HC Deb 05 December 1991 vol 200 cc381-2
3. Mr. Robert B. Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures will be taken by the United Kingdom Passport Agency to raise its standards of service.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

The Passport Agency has been very successful this year in speeding up the processing of passport applications. It has recently completed a major computerisation programme which will enable it to improve its service to the customer still further.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. The Passport Agency deserves our congratula-tions on the improvements that it has already achieved. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is time for the public to play their part? As the vast majority of applications occur in the same peak period, should not people try to spread them so that there is not the same concentration? To that end, would it be a good idea to impose a surcharge on passport applications in the peak period and give a discount in off-peak periods, so providing an incentive?

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is right to say that there has been an enormous improvement. The average turnround for a passport application in the last year has been six working days. I agree that many applications come in the holiday period and that that makes it difficult to maintain that average. The Passport Agency is using advertisements to suggest that people renew their passports at other times of the year. It is for the agency to consider whether it would be sensible to alter the price for a passport depending on the time of year and then to make any recommendations to the Home Office.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell

Will the Minister consider establishing a passport office in the north-east, because at present people must travel to Liverpool or Glasgow to find the nearest office?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman might suggest that his constituents make their applications by post, as most other people do. It is an efficient service and it causes the customer much less trouble.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does the Minister agree that his decision to retain the passport office in Belfast was a good one? He made that decision having listened to representations from hon. Members from Northern Ireland. Will he commend the Belfast office for being at the top of the league of all passport offices for getting passports out quickly for the people of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Lloyd

We listened to the representations of hon. Members from Northern Ireland, but, more particularly, we observed the great efficiency of the passport office. We not merely retained it but expanded it, and it has fully justified our confidence. I pay tribute to it.

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