§ Mr. Wigley
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the cause of the increased passport handling charges which generated a supplementary estimate increase of £.5 milion in section A.2(4) of Class III, estimates, analysing the elements of increase within the increased traffic and of the higher handling charges, respectively; and what assumptions of volume and cost increments were built into the original estimates.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I have been asked to reply.
The increase of £½ million is in respect of charges levied by the Post Office for issuing British visitors' passports on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There has been an unexpected 14 per cent. increase in the numbers handled. The original estimate was based on the charges current at that time. The basic charges for each British Visitor's Passport handled by the Post Office, calculated in accordance with the general agreement with the Post Office for agency services, was raised on 1st April 1975 to reflect the general rise in costs. This charge, which is subject to a cost variation index, has increased considerably during the financial year necessitating supplementary provisions. When the original estimate was compiled the demand for these passports had declined due to economic conditions and no degree of recovery could be forecast.