The Home Office shares reports of the loss or theft of UK passports via Interpol to prevent the illegal crossing of borders. We also work closely with partners here and overseas to share information and intelligence on that threat and the websites that purport to sell false and genuine documents for criminal purposes.
There have been some very worrying reports in the past month that British passports have been stolen and sold for large sums of money in countries around Europe. How many passports have been stolen and subsequently suspended in the past year? Does the Minister agree that it is crucial to co-operate through Europol as well as Interpol to ensure that those stolen identity documents are not used?
In 2017, less than 1% of passports were reported stolen, but to tackle the threat and the abuse of stolen passports overseas, we have based immigration enforcement officials at international locations—embassies, high commissions and key transit points—to work not only with law enforcement to try to catch the people committing the fraud, but with airlines and border points so that they can spot what a false passport looks like.
The Home Office has confirmed that it takes on average 73 days for people to report lost and stolen passports and that many countries do not regularly use Interpol’s stolen and lost travel documents database to check lost and stolen passports. What are the Government doing to encourage the true utilisation of both methods to stop the illegal trade of those documents?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is why in 2014 the Passport Office introduced an online tool for reporting. Since then, the number of passports lost has increased annually by 33%, so it is much easier to ensure they are reported and then picked up when being used.