House of Lords written question – answered on 7th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many of the total number of United Kingdom passports in issue are machine readable and how many are not; and at which points of entry into the United Kingdom immigration officers have equipment to record electronically details of machine readable passports.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Asylum and Immigration), Home Office, Minister (Home Office) (Asylum & Immigration)

The United Kingdom Passport Service has been issuing machine-readable passports since 1988. As a result, almost all United Kingdom-issued passports are machine-readable. The only exceptions will be where a passport has been exceptionally extended due to an emergency. A small number of non-machine readable passports are issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at posts overseas. It is not possible to provide details of the numbers of passports this involves.

All arriving passengers subject to immigration control are checked against the computerised warning index (WI) which automatically reads personal details from machine readable passports. The WI already contains the details of large numbers of lost or stolen passports and identity cards.

While the Immigration Service does not currently retain the passport details of all arriving passengers, it is currently urgently exploring with other control agencies the use of technology to require airlines to retain the passport or identity card details of passengers before they board a flight to the United Kingdom.

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