§ Mr. Luard
The main steps to ease the problems at Peterborough have been the recruitment within the last week of 25 extra temporary staff and the transfer of blocks of work to the less-pressed Newport office. These measures have prevented the situation deteriorating, but the accumulated backlog of applications is so heavy that there can be only a gradual return to normality over a period of some weeks.
§ Mr. Moate
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 149W if he will publish the figures for the number of passport applications received in recent months compared with similar periods in previous years; and what improvements have taken place since reallocation of work between offices took place.
§ Mr. Luard
The table below shows the number of passport applications received in the months January to June in the years 1976–78 inclusive:
1976 1977 1978 January 78,161 73,261 106,359 February 104,569 115,183 144,262 March* 250,380 126,198 190,268 April 133,742 112,708 171,520 May 121,935 141,246 181,462 June 144,253 139,597 198,462 * During March 1976 two weeks public notice was given of a 33⅓ per cent. increase in fee: this caused an exceptional temporary increase in demand to secure the benefit of the old fee.
The reallocation of work from the office at Peterborough to that at Newport has succeeded generally in equating passport issuing times at all five passport offices and particularly in preventing any further deterioration in the service provided at Peterborough, where the pressure has been the most severe.
§ Mr. Stokes
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in view of the fact that 50 per cent. more applications for British passports were received in the current year than in 1977, if he will analyse the figures into the following categories (a) passports for those who have been British subjects, and (b) passports for immigrants who have become British subjects from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan and from the rest of the world.
§ Mr. Luard
The statistics sought by the hon. Member are not maintained, neither could my right hon. Friend justify the time and expense which would be involved in a manual inspection of over 2 million forms to provide that information. British passports are issued to all British subjects, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and to certain British subjects without citizenship as defined by the British Nationality Acts.
§ Mr. Grieve
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many complaints he has 150W received of delays in passports being handled by the passport office at Peterborough.