§ Simon Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the number of forged passports in circulation in the UK. 
§ Beverley Hughes
It is difficult to quantify the number of false passports circulating within the United Kingdom, given the nature of the problem.
Forgery detection which is carried out by the Immigration and Nationality Directorates National Forgery Section (NFS). As part of a comprehensive brief addressing passport forgery, NFS conducts forgery detection training for all Immigration Service staff, ranging from basic training for new entrants, through intermediate to expert level. As a direct result of this training, a provisional total of 9,665 fraudulent documents were detected at UK ports of entry in 2002 (an increase of 46 per cent. over the 2001 figure). NFS also delivers training to the police, Customs and Excise, the DVLA and the Department for Work and Pensions. This in turn leads to substantial numbers of falsified documents being discovered within the United Kingdom and inhibits the adoption of false identities.
Since October 2001, NFS has had a permanent presence at the main offices of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) in Croydon, following a pilot exercise which revealed large numbers of fraudulent 67W documents being submitted in support of applications for leave to remain. As well as examining suspect documents on behalf of their colleagues in Croydon, NFS has also established a comprehensive training programme for caseworkers, resulting in the discovery of many more forged documents. Provisional figures for 2002 indicate that a total of 461 fraudulent documents was detected there, an increase of 28 per cent. over the figure for 2001.
Work is now under way to ensure that the best use is made of biometric technology in travel documents, to combat identity fraud and facilitate the operation of border controls. Managers from NFS represent the United Kingdom at relevant international working groups, with the aim of securing art agreement on global interoperability of the appropriate technology.