HC Deb 12 March 2001 vol 364 cc495-6W
Mr. Colman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the acceptability of the certificate of identity to countries within the Schengen agreement; [151714]

(2) if he will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting of 14 February between the hon. Member for Putney and the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche), about amendments to the certificate of identity that would make it acceptable as a valid travelling document to all signatories of the Schengen agreement. [152661]

Mrs. Roche

The Home Office certificate of identity (CID) is a travel document issued to foreign nationals, other than refugees, who are resident in the United Kingdom and cannot obtain a passport from their national authorities. This type of document is not issued under an international convention, but on a discretionary basis. Holders of CIDs who travel abroad are entitled to return to any United Kingdom port on a date within the CID's validity, and a visa is not required. Under the Immigration Rules, readmission after examination by an immigration officer is not an automatic entitlement but would normally be granted on the basis that residency here is to be resumed.

A number of European Union member states have declined to recognise the CID, so holders may find their ability to travel abroad restricted because visas are not always issued.

When I discussed this problem with my hon. Friend on 14 February, he expressed interest in altering the wording of the CID to state that holders of the document had an automatic right of return to the United Kingdom. This suggestion was not acceptable because it would place CID holders in a special position under the Immigration Rules compared to other categories of people who acquire residence status in the United Kingdom and wish to spend time abroad. The only residents of the United Kingdom who have an unconditional right to be readmitted at the ports after a stay abroad, no matter how long they have been away, are British citizens, and other Commonwealth citizens who have the right of abode here.

Since the meeting, United Kingdom officials have discussed the issues with colleagues from the countries that have concern Assurances have been requested about the return of CID holders to the United Kingdom, and other matters. I am hopeful that the information provided in response to this request will prove a significant step towards securing full acceptance of the CID by all our European partners.