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Passport And Frontier Formalities (Recommendations)

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the resolution passed by the Thirty-Sixth Annual Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at Cairo this month, of which a copy has been sent to him, recommending the free movement of all persons including tourists, between countries; what steps have already been taken by Great Britain in this connection and what plans he has for further improvement during 1947 so far as travel to and from Great Britain is concerned.

As the hon. Member will be aware, a meeting of experts on passport and frontier formalities was held at the European office of the United Nations at Geneva from 14th to 25th April, at which the United Kingdom was represented by a delegation of Government officials, including representatives from the Home Office, His Majesty's Treasury and His Majesty's Customs and Excise office. Mr. Carew Robinson, the leader of the delegation, was elected to the chair, and the United Kingdom representatives took a leading part in the discussions, which covered all problems relating to non-immigrant travel. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the summary records of the meeting, and, in particular, to the final report which the meeting prepared for submission to the next session of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations to be held in New York next July. All these documents will shortly be available in the Library of the House of Commons. The conclusions of the meeting were attached as an appendix to the final report in the form of recommendations to Governments. These recommendations cover the whole sphere of the memorandum submitted by the British Delegation in support of the Resolution passed by tire Thirty-Sixth Annual Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, to which the hon. Member has referred. With the exception only of one item relating to currency control, the adoption of which would be inconsistent with the financial policy of His Majesty's Government, it is the intention of the United Kingdom Government to adopt in principle all the recommendations made. In framing these recommendations, the meeting of experts took into full account the memoranda submitted by the International Chamber of Commerce, the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation, the International Conference of National Tourist Organisations and other non-governmental bodies. Representatives of these organisations were, moreover, invited to express their views, which were then discussed in open plenary session.In regard to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's inquiry, I should like to draw his attention to the fact that the United Kingdom has, during the past months, concluded bilateral agreements for the reciprocal abolition of visas with the following countries: France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, and that His Majesty's Government are prepared to enter into negotiations for similar agreements with other States as and when circumstances seem favourable.The issue of British passports has also recently been greatly facilitated by decentralisation of the offices authorised to accept applications. In addition to the three main Passport Offices in the United Kingdom, applications can now be received at 1,200 local Resettlement Advice Offices of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, and the signature and photographs of applicants witnessed by the official examining officer in charge.A parallel improvement from the point of view of intending visitors to the United Kingdom has also been effected by giving British passport control officers overseas increasingly wide discretion to grant visas to suitable applicants without prior reference home.Finally, it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to urge the United Nations to follow up the recent meeting of experts by an appeal to all member nations to implement the recommendations of the meeting in regard to nonimmigrant travel and to call from time to time for a statement from Governments on the steps they have taken towards this end.