HC Deb 13 March 1981 vol 1000 cc435-6W
Mr. John Hunt

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government intend to adopt the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation for a passport with machine-readable capability; and whether the new passport will be in a common European Community format.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The Government have taken a decision in principle to adopt as soon as practicable the International Civil Aviation Organisation recommendations for the introduction of a passport in a simplified standardised format which will have machine-readable capability. However, a considerable amount of work is needed to assess the costs and to overcome the technical problems involved, and until this has been done it is not possible for the Government to set a date for the change in the format of United Kingdom passports. Discussions are continuing in Brussels on the implementation of the decision taken in principle by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and other Heads of Government at the Eiuropean Council in December 1974, that there should be a common forma) for the national passports of European Community member States. The subject will be discussed at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 and 17 March. The Government's position is that a common European Community format should take full account of the International Civil Aviation Organisation recommendations and that we could only introduce a passport in such a format at the same time as we adopted the International Civil Aviation Organisation recommendations. We believe this will bring real benefits for travellers and immigration authorities.