HC Deb 18 July 1978 vol 954 cc148-50W
Mr. Park

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what improvement has occurred in the speed of processing of passports, following the steps that he has taken to improve processing of passport applications at the Peterborough office; and if he will make a statement.

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 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 received of delays in passports being handled by the passport office at Peterborough.

Mr. Luard

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Dodsworth) on 13th July. Records of the numbers of complaints are not maintained.