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Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 11 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of whether to use credit reference checking agencies to reduce fraud as set out in the UKPS business plan 2002–07. [117123]

The UK Passport Service (UKPS) has conducted a limited pilot on using private sector databases to assist in the confirmation of the identity of people applying for passports. UKPS will be conducting a more extensive pilot in the autumn of this year with a view, if successful, of integrating these checks into the passport issuing process.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many and what percentage of successful dummy fraud applications were detected as set out in the UKPS business plan 2002–07. [117124]

The UK Passport Service (UKPS) has initiated a programme of testing its systems and procedures through the introduction of dummy fraudulent applications. This is a diagnostic tool used by the UKPS to check the effectiveness of its fraud prevention and detection arrangements. It would be prejudicial to the UKPS's business interests to publish detailed information on the results of this testing.The UKPS is actively using the results to develop its procedures and systems. This includes a large scale pilot of arrangements to access commercial databases to support the identity validation process which will commence this autumn. As indicated in its 2003–08 Corporate and Business Plan the UKPS will be introducing a range of initiatives designed to support examiners in identifying fraudulent applications.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what investigations are in progress within the UK Passport Service relating to criminal trading of passports taken from within passport offices. [117106]

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many staff in the UK Passport Service have received training in fraud identification; and how many Special File sections there have been in the UKPS in each of the last five years. [117107]

Fraud identification and awareness is part of the training provided by the UK Passport Service (UKPS) for staff involved in the examination of applications for United Kingdom passports. In addition to this, UKPS has just delivered fraud awareness sessions for all examination staff in all of its seven regional offices.Staff employed in Special Files sections receive on the job training in fraud identification as part of their induction to these specialist sections. A number of staff within these sections have undertaken training in fraud investigation as part of a programme accredited by the University of Portsmouth. Several of these staff are now recognised as accredited counter-fraud specialists. To strengthen its fraud prevention and detection arrangements, as indicated in its 2003–08 Corporate and Business Plan, the UKPS plans to put all staff dedicated to fraud investigation through such an accredited training programme.Special Files sections are an integral part of all UKPS regional offices. All offices have had such a section throughout the last five years.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate his Department has made of (a) the number of fraudulent applications for passports and (b) the number detected in each of the last five years. [117113]

It is very difficult to establish the precise level of identity fraud and this is reflected in the findings of a Cabinet Office study on identity fraud which was published last year.As part of its Fraud Action Plan the UK Passport Service (UKPS) has undertaken an exercise involving some 10,000 passport applications to establish an indication of the levels of fraudulent application being received. This exercise was run during a peak period in the summer of last year and further exercises need to be run to take account of seasonal variations but if the results of this first exercise are extrapolated they indicate that the level of fraud may run at around 0.18 per cent. of applications received. With around 5 million passports being issued each year this would equate to 9,000 fraudulent applications per year.This exercise represents a snapshot of the possible level of fraud at a particular time of year. It is to be repeated on a routine basis at different times of the year.UKPS is currently reviewing its systems for collecting, collating and analysing management information relating to passport fraud. The figures available form existing systems for fraudulent passport applications which have been detected in each of the last five years are given in the table.

Fraudulent passport applications
1 Calendar year
The figures for 2002–03 do not include a significant number of cases which are subject to major and ongoing investigations.Strengthening its fraud prevention and detection arrangements while monitoring its customer service standards is a business imperative for the UKPS, and its 2003–08 Corporate and Business Plan details a range of initiatives to improve identity authentication, and to counter fraud. These include improving staff training in fraud detection, the creation of specialist fraud and intelligence units, the launch of a global passport database, building a global lost, stolen, and recovered database, and greater date sharing with public and private sections.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information the UKPS lost and stolen passport database collects as set out in the UKPS business plan 2002–07; and if he will place a copy of this information in the Library. [117122]

The information that will be collected on the UK Passport Service's lost, stolen and recovered database will comprise the personal details of the passport holder, including address; details of the passport concerned; details of the person reporting the loss; and, the circumstances of the loss including any police references. The details which will be collected in relation to recovered passports will be broadly the same as for loss but with details of the person who has recovered the passport and the circumstances of the recovery in place of details of the loss reporter and circumstances of the loss.The forms associated with loss and recovery notification are still being developed but I will be happy to place copies in the Library once they have been finalised.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many passports have been lost from the passport offices in (a) Belfast, (b) Durham, (c) Glasgow, (d) Liverpool, (e) London, (f) Liverpool, (g) Newport and (h) Peterborough in each of the last five years. [117126]

A total of 15 passports have been reported lost in three separate incidents from passport offices between 1998 and 2002. The breakdown for each of the last five years is as follows:

Passports reported lost from passport offices
1 The Durham office did not open until April 2000
In each case a full and thorough investigation was undertaken by UK Passport Service security personnel. A police investigation was also undertaken into a single incident in Glasgow when 13 passports could not be accounted for. Details of these passports have been passed to the Immigration Service.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate the UK Passport Agency has made of how many people in the UK have duplicate passports. [117127]

The UK Passport Service (UKPS) does not issue duplicate passports. All passports are uniquely numbered and identified. In certain limited circumstances UKPS will consider issuing a second passport to someone who can demonstrate a legitimate and imperative need for two passports. In such cases the second passport is a unique document with its own unique number.