HC Deb 30 July 1981 vol 9 cc462-3W
Mr. Mates

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will publish the report of the departmental scrutiny under the guidance of Sir Derek Rayner into the handling of applications for citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have arranged for copies of the report to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, together with a note of the action taken as a result of the report.

The report made a number of detailed recommendations. A large proportion have been implemented or agreed. Others are still being pursued. In addition, every effort is being made, in the spirit of the report, to improve and simplify further the procedures followed in the processing of applications for citizenship.

The report concluded that in general the existing procedures were necessary and operating with due regard for economy in manpower; that the nationality division was likely to continue to face the receipt of applications at a higher level than current staff levels could absorb; and that the alternatives appeared to be the provision of additional staff or the acceptance of longer delays.

The number of applications for citizenship increased from about 32,500 in 1977 to about 50,500 in 1980. The number of applications in the first five months of 1981 was about 37,000 compared with about 22,500 in the corresponding period in 1980.

The Government must have regard to the overriding need to contain public expenditure, which among other things means limiting the size and the cost of the Civil Service. It will not be possible at present to provide additional staff to the extent necessary to reduce the present lengthy delays. Whilst the report's recommendations and subsequent review have helped to speed up the processing of individual applications, I regret that for as long as the number of applications continues at its present high level and arrears increase it is unlikely that there will be any improvement in overall waiting times in the near future. Rather, the position is likely to deteriorate. The average time taken to complete consideration of an application for the naturalisation or discretionary registration of an adult is now 25 months. It is likely to be 28 months by the end of this year, and may be three years by the end of 1982. Other applications for registration now take 13 months and may take two years by the end of 1982.