To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her Answer of 15 May 2003, Official Report, column 436W, on the Passport Agency, for what reason the figure for the number of lost passports in 1998 is not available; what steps her Department is taking in conjunction with Royal Mail to ensure that passports are delivered safely to customers; and what assessment she has made of the reasons why passports are lost. 
I have been asked to reply.Figures for passports reported as being lost in the post only started to be collated routinely and centrally in 1998 with the introduction of the current passport production system and new procedures for claiming compensation from the Royal Mail. Figures for passports reported lost in the post prior to 1999 are not therefore available.The UK Passport Service has had regular discussions with the Royal Mail about the loss of passports in the post and about options for delivery which might reduce the number of losses but at the same time minimise the inconvenience and additional cost to customers which such delivery arrangements might entail. The UK Passport Service and the Royal Mail also work together on investigations into the disappearance of passports in the postal system.As the hon. Member will see from my response to another of his questions on 3 June 2003,
Official Report, column 148W, the UK Passport Service is actively seeking to introduce a secure delivery for all passports returned to customers.
Passports are recorded as having been lost in the post when the passport applicant reports that he or she has not received the document. The three principal reasons why a passport may not be delivered are miss-routing because of incorrect addressing, loss within the postal system as the result of some processing error or theft. In addition it is possible that a report of a lost passport may be made if there is some delay between the passport leaving the UK Passport Service and arrival at its destination.
As recognised by the Cabinet Office "Identity Fraud: A Study" published in July 2002, identity fraud is a serious and growing problem for the UK and it is possible that this has contributed to the increase in passports being reported as having been lost in the post. However, there is no evidence currently available which could establish the degree to which the increase in identity fraud has resulted in the increase in reports of such losses