HC Deb 27 January 1966 vol 723 cc137-8W
115. Dame Joan Vickers

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to facilitate the obtaining of passports by women for their children when they have been deserted by their husbands and have no knowledge where they may be.

Mr. George Thomson

I have given careful consideration not merely to the particular type of case mentioned by the hon. Lady, but to the whole problem of the grant of passport facilities to minors. I am well aware of the difficulties often caused by the Passport Office's regulations and especially by the requirement that Applications should be supported by the explicit consent of the legal guardian. I have now decided to change the Passport Office's practice in the following manner. The prior and explicit consent of the child's legal guardian will no longer be required. It will, however, still be open to the legal guardian or to any person awarded the custody or the care and control of a minor to register, by means of a caveat, objection to the grant of passport facilities. The decision whether or not to give effect to a caveat will be taken in the light of the information supplied by the person lodging it and of any other available information. Furthermore, in order to guard against the danger that minors might be enabled to travel anywhere in the world without the knowledge of their parents, applications in respect of children under sixteen will be made on their behalf by one of the parents (not necessarily the legal guardian) or by another adult acting in loco parentis. Similarly, applications submitted by young people between sixteen and twenty-one will have to be countersigned by one of the parents or by another adult acting in loco parentis. I am confident that this new system will go a long way towards eliminating existing difficulties and expediting the service given by the Passport Office not only to minors but to the travelling public as a whole.

United Kingdom passport officers abroad will also be enabled to issue passports to minors without the prior and explicit consent of the legal guardian. They will not, however, follow exactly the same procedure as the Passport Office. To do so would entail referring all applications made by or on behalf of minors to London, with consequent delays and inconvenience to the applicants.

I should make it clear that the foregoing refers to standard passports and not to British Visitor's Passports.