There are a small number of states still issuing passports that are not machine readable. The e-Borders programme has ensured that its solution is capable of processing such documents at both check-in and the immigration control.
In addition, from 2008, all visa applicants will be required to provide a 10-finger fingerprint scan and a digital photograph, as part of the application process when applying for a UK visa. Fingerprints and facial images are now in use in 125 countries and the global roll-out will be completed by, or before, March 2008. Nationals from approximately three-quarters of the countries identified as listed require a visa to travel to the UK. We are currently applying a Visa Waiver Test to all non-EEA countries by the end of 2007, with changes to the UK's visa regimes taking place over 2008-09. The Visa Waiver Test uses a range of criteria including the assessment of the level of security and integrity of each individual countries passport.
Furthermore, from 2008 onwards the UK will also start to introduce immigration documents for foreign nationals resident in the UK which will include fingerprints. Together, these measures will ensure that we can fix the identity of foreign nationals and thus check their entitlement to be in the UK.
Countries that do not currently have machine readable passports
Democratic Republic of Congo
Federated States of Micronesia
The future prediction of passport demand is updated periodically by the Identity and Passport Service to reflect actual numbers of applicants. The November 2007 Cost Report included the most recent prediction of future passport volumes. This prediction had recently been updated to reflect lower than anticipated passport renewals. There could be a number of reasons for passport renewals being increasingly delayed by customers:
Other identity documents have been improved. In particular the introduction of the photo driving licence has been introduced in the last 10 years. This would be an alternative option for those who hold a passport for proof of identity reasons;
Last minute behaviour. To a certain extent, the travel industry encourages ‘last minute’ behaviour and it is reasonable to believe that customers also apply this behaviour to how they apply for passports. This behaviour has also been enabled by IPS Fast Track services which have improved to meet this demand since these were first introduced in 1996;
Changes in travel trends. Official statistics confirm that passenger journeys continue to increase, but whether this is the same number of people travelling more frequently is unclear. Hence the overall total demand for passports is difficult to predict with accuracy.
The latest Cost Report may be found at:
I would refer the hon. Member to that report.