§ Simon Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what compensation was paid by the Post Office to the UK Passport Service for passports lost in the post in each of the last five years; 
(2) what guidance is issued to post offices to ensure the secure handling of passports en route from UK Passport Service offices to applicants; 
(3) what action he is taking to minimise the risk of passports being stolen in the post; 
(4) how many passports were reported lost in transit by private postal and courier companies in each of the last five years. 
§ Beverley Hughes
[holding answer 4 July 2003]: In early 2003 the UK Passport Service (UKPS) completed a "Review of Alternative Delivery Mechanisms" in the wake of continuing problems with passports being reported as lost in the post and the concern that these lost passports might subsequently be used for the purposes of identity fraud. As a result of this review UKPS have determined that in future all valid UK passports will be delivered by secure delivery to the customers home address. A tender exercise is currently under way to select a suitable supplier and UKPS expect to announce a chosen supplier in August. Implementation is currently planned for early 2004.724W
The UK Passport Service rarely use private postal and courier companies as the bulk of passports are delivered to customers by Royal Mail Group. Private couriers are occasionally used in 'emergency situations', however there have been no reported instances of any passports lost by such couriers.
For each passport reported lost in the post UKPS receive compensation of £26.00 from Royal Mail Group. Between 1999 and 2002 there were 11,733 passports reported lost in the post and compensation has therefore totalled £305,058.
There is no specific guidance provided to Post Office Ltd. with regard to the secure delivery of passports to customers. UKPS do however regularly meet with Royal Mail Group to discuss security arrangements within the postal system and measures have been put in place to anonomise envelopes and maximise the secure transmission of passports from UKPS sites to customers.