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Members: Correspondence

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Warley of 12 March on Mrs. Nagina Bi of Smethwick. (137972)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Taunton of 19 February on the location of passport interview centres. (138432)

[holding answer 21 May 2007]: Bernard Herdan, executive director of service delivery for the Identity and Passport Service, replied on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid) to the hon. Member for Taunton's letter on 7 March 2007. A copy of Mr. Herdan’s letter is as follows:

Letter from Bernard Herdan, dated 7 March 2007:

Thank you for your letter of 19 February to the Rt Hon John Reid MP. It has been passed to me to reply as Executive Director, Service Planning and Delivery at the Identity and Passport Service (IPS).

The network of 69 interview offices has been designed to strike a balance between keeping costs (and therefore fees) as low as possible while making journeys to interviews as short as possible. The proposed locations have been verified by a consultancy and take into account consultations with authorities and agencies responsible for sparsely populated areas. I have enclosed a document “Passport Office Authentication by Interview Network”, which will give you more information on how we decided the locations of the interview offices, The interview office network is intended to provide an office within an hour’s travelling time for over 95% of the UK population. In remote, sparsely populated areas where it is not cost-effective to set up an interview office, we are putting in place videoconferencing facilities to conduct the interview to avoid people having to make long journeys. This will affect a small number of applicants who live more than an hour's journey from an interview office, estimated to be less than 4,000 per year in 25 areas.

When assessing interview office locations and travelling times to those offices we considered both private and public transport and used all available local and national transport and census data on population movements and modes of travel.

Each location has been selected as part of a mutually supporting network; no individual location can be changed without affecting the whole network.

I hope this has clarified the situation.