HL Deb 25 July 2002 vol 638 cc106-7WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether British citizens are entitled to receive and retain British passports except in the following cases:

  1. (a) where British citizenship has been acquired by fraudulent conduct, false information or concealment of any relevant fact attributable to the applicant; or
  2. (b) voluntary service in a foreign military force; or
  3. (c) conduct seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom or a British Overseas Territory; or
  4. (d) where they have no claim to British nationality; or
  5. (e) in relation to minors whose journey is known to be contrary to a court order; or
  6. (f) where a warrant for the arrest has been issued in the United Kingdom for the individual concerned; or
  7. (g) the issuing of a passport would be contrary to the public interest;
and, if not, what are the circumstances in which it would be appropriate for the Government to exercise their powers to refuse to provide or withdraw a passport. [HL5272]

Lord Filkin

British passports are issued to British nationals in the United Kingdom at the discretion of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and, at overseas posts, at the discretion of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, both exercising the Royal Prerogative. The essential requirements are that the intended holder has British nationality and is the person described by the personal details to be entered in the passport. Passports are therefore not issued to persons who are not British nationals and/or whose identity cannot be authenticated.

Passport facilities are refused or can be withdrawn in certain other well defined categories, which have been reported to Parliament from time to time. These are:

  1. (i) a minor whose journey is know to be contrary to a court order, to the wishes of a parent or other person or authority in whose favour a residence order has been made or awarded custody or care and control, or to the provisions of Section 25(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, as amended by Section 42 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963, or Section 56 of the Adoption Act 1976, as amended by the Children Act 1989.
  2. (ii) a person for whose arrest a warrant has been issued in the United Kingdom or who is wanted by the police on suspicion of a serious crime;
  3. (iii) in very rare cases, a person whose past or proposed activities are so demonstrably undesirable that the grant or continued enjoyment of passport facilities would be contrary to public interest;
  4. (iv) a person repatriated at public expense, until the debt has been repaid.

The refusal or withdrawal of passport facilities in these circumstances is rare and cases are considered on their individual merits. On the basis of the limited case law it is clear that such action is open to scrutiny by the courts.

The possibility of introducing a statutory right to passports has been debated in Parliament in the past but successive governments have taken the view that the current system has worked well and change is not required.