Passports

Oral Answers to Questions — Hospitals – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th April 1959.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Enfield East 12:00 am, 13th April 1959

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why it has been decided to double the fee for renewal of passports from 10s. to £1; and why such short notice of the proposed increase was given.

Photo of Commander Robert Allan Commander Robert Allan , Paddington South

All Foreign Service and Consular fees have recently been reviewed. The passport renewal fee was one of these. This was fixed at 10s. in 1931 and was so out of line with present costs that it was decided to increase it. Short notice was given mainly for technical and administrative reasons.

Photo of Mr Ernest Davies Mr Ernest Davies , Enfield East

Does not the Joint Under-Secretary consider it rather inconsiderate to give such short notice, particularly to travel agents and others who are handling these matters for their clients and who are put to considerable inconvenience? Further, does he not agree that when other countries in Western Europe are making travel easier by abolishing passports for inter-European travel and substituting identification cards, it is unfortunate that we should put up the cost of passports?

Photo of Commander Robert Allan Commander Robert Allan , Paddington South

We regret any inconvenience that has been caused. As regards the hon. Member's second point, I do not think that an increase of 10s. in the renewal fee of passports will deter people from travelling.

Photo of Dame Florence Horsbrugh Dame Florence Horsbrugh , Manchester Moss Side

Will my hon. Friend reconsider this matter? He says that he does not think that an extra 10s. will have any effect. Will he consider the effect it may have upon a great many people, and does he not also consider that when we are being told that it is beneficial for Europe as a whole and also for the world that people should travel more and meet each other oftener, this increase of 100 per cent. seems extraordinary?

Photo of Commander Robert Allan Commander Robert Allan , Paddington South

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary entirely agrees with my right hon. Friend upon her first point, but I still think that an increase of 10s. is not a great deal.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Why did the Foreign Office decide to do this at the beginning of the visiting season? It seems an extraordinarily maladroit thing to do. The amount of money involved is not very great, but in view of the fact that travel agencies have sent out their brochures all over the country and have told people what the cost is, it seems a rather silly thing to do. What are the technical reasons for such short notice? Is it because some people would rush in and get their passports earlier? If so, is not that what we want?

Photo of Commander Robert Allan Commander Robert Allan , Paddington South

On the technical side, there was some delay in producing the Order in Council, and, on the administrative side, the difficulty was that if a great deal of notice were given the number of applications to the Passport Office would be so great that the machinery would break down. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This is a very serious point. The Passport Office issues 700,000 new passports a year and renews over 200,000. If it were forced to take on an overwhelming burden of work the whole machinery would break down.

Photo of Dame Florence Horsbrugh Dame Florence Horsbrugh , Manchester Moss Side

If my hon. Friend tells us that the whole machine would break down because of the number of people who would apply for passports at the lower price, does not that show the enormous urge to get passports and also that many people object to paying a higher price?

Photo of Commander Robert Allan Commander Robert Allan , Paddington South

I have no information on the point, but I doubt whether one person has been deterred from applying.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

In order to meet the situation, could not notice have been given much further ahead? Could it not have been arranged that this 100 per cent. increase would emerge at the beginning of October, thus dealing with the administrative difficulties and at the same time not causing people to rush forward in order to avoid an imposition which the hon. Member has just said is not very great? There is an absence of logic and common sense in the Government's approach to this matter.

Photo of Commander Robert Allan Commander Robert Allan , Paddington South

There is not an absence of logic at all. I believe that both the right hon. Member and my right hon. Friend are over-emphasising the inconvenience caused.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The Joint Under-Secretary himself said that inconvenience was caused.

Photo of Commander Robert Allan Commander Robert Allan , Paddington South

I said that I regretted it if there were any. Another factor is that this raises considerable revenue, which we need.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this subject on the Adjournment.