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Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 14 May 2003, Official Report, column 251W, on lost passports, what assessment he has made of the reasons for the loss of passports by Immigration and Nationality Directive staff; and what proportion of the lost passports were subsequently found. [120762]

The Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) at any one time hold many thousands of passports (spread across several different locations). They are currently being asked to return between 600 to 900 of these every week to their owners. Sometimes, despite every effort, it is not possible to do this within the timescale stipulated by the applicant. This does not necessarily mean that the passport is lost. Previously, officials have offered to issue a lost passport letter (LPL), that would enable the person to obtain a replacement for their Embassy.Under the new arrangements, no LPL is issued now without a thorough search having being made for the document, initially by the unit receiving the request and, if necessary, by the Return of Passport Unit. If the search is unsuccessful, a serial-numbered LPL is issued. As a result, the Integrated Casework Directorate (ICD) now keeps a much tighter control on the issuing of letters and robust statistics are now maintained.However, there are currently no available statistics of how many passports are subsequently found.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 11 June 2003, Official Report, column 945W, to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow), on passports, how many investigations relating to the criminal trading of passports have been authorised in the last five years. [120763]

There have been three investigations into losses of a total of 15 passports from passport offices in the last five years. A police investigation was undertaken into a single incident in Glasgow when 13 passports could not be accounted for. The other two investigations each involved the loss of a single passport. All three investigations occurred during 2000 and each involved a full and thorough investigation by UK Passport Service's (UKPS) security personnel. None of these investigations was able to prove conclusively that the passports concerned had been stolen. None of the 15 passports have yet been recovered but in all cases the details have been passed to the Immigration Service.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 11 June 2003, Official Report, column 946W, to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) on passports, if he will place a copy of the UKPS Fraud Action Plan in the Library. [120910]

The UK Passport Service's (UKPS) Fraud Action Plan is a working document used by the UKPS Fraud Prevention Board to monitor progress on various fraud related programmes and activities. I am therefore arranging for a summary of the Fraud Action Plan to be placed in the Library. This summary will contain an outline of all of the projects and activities currently within the plan, together with timescales for delivery.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many successful prosecutions were brought against individuals who made fraudulent passport applications in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [120911]

The figures recorded by the UK Passport Service (UKPS) for the number of prosecutions made against individuals who have fraudulently applied for passports are given in the table.

It should be noted that UKPS does not routinely receive feedback from the police or prosecution authorities on cases of passport fraud which are referred to them. The figures given in the table are therefore likely to be a significant under representation of the number of prosecutions brought. UKPS is working with the police to develop a more effective feedback mechanism. The figures collated by UKPS do not distinguish between successful and unsuccessful prosecutions.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 11 June 2003, Official Report, column 946W, to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) on passports, how many cases are subject to major and ongoing investigations. [120912]

The UK Passport Service (UKPS) considers an investigation to be a major investigation when it involves multiple instances of fraud or attempted fraud, which are related to each other in some way. Currently UKPS has six such investigations in progress. As investigations may involve instances of suspected as well as actual fraud it would not be appropriate to publish a figure on the number of cases under investigation.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are taken to ascertain whether an individual who applies for a new passport to replace a lost passport has indeed lost the original. [120913]

An individual applying to replace a lost passport is required in completing the passport application to provide details of the lost passport, and explain how, when, and where the passport was lost. The individual in signing the application declares that "all information given in this application is correct to the best of my knowledge and belief". There is a caution on the application form reminding passport applicants that it is a criminal offence to make at, untrue statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport.In seeking to strike an appropriate balance between maintaining high standards of customer service and fraud prevention the UK Passport Service's (UKPS) current practice is generally to accept what the applicant has declared to be true at face value. In every case the passport history is checked. Further inquiries would only be made if there was for example an inconsistency between the information on the application form and that contained in UKPS records.In cases where newly issued passports are declared lost in the post UKPS does not routinely require the submission of a fresh passport application unless a period of time has elapsed. In all cases UKPS requires a signed letter from the passport holder declaring the loss. An untrue statement in the letter would be a criminal offence. The UKPS then carries out validation checks with records held on UKPS systems. Details of losses are passed on to Royal Mail for investigation.To ascertain with absolute certainty that an applicant was no longer in possession of the passport is probably unachievable. It would require a search which would obviously be impractical and an unwarranted intrusion in almost all cases.All passports reported lost are cancelled in the UKPS's records to which the Immigration Service has access.As indicated in the UKPS's 2003–08 Corporate and Business Plan the UKPS is planning to introduce a more comprehensive system for recording and disseminating information on lost, stolen and recovered passports. This will enable the timely and accurate collection and dissemination of information on lost, stolen and recovered passports in the United Kingdom and by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) posts abroad; and will require the applicant to provide more detailed information in notifying the UKPS of the loss of the passport. The new forms associated with the loss and recovery notification will be placed in the Library once they have been finalised.