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Volume 416: debated on Thursday 22 January 1981

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What decision they have reached on whether there should be a statutory right to a passport.

After careful consideration the Government have concluded that they should maintain the present system, whereby United Kingdom passports are issued at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs exercising the Royal Prerogative.In practice, refusal of passport facilities to United Kingdom nationals is confined to certain well defined categories of which Parliament has been informed from time to time. These are:

  • (a) A minor whose journey is known to be contrary to a court order, to the wishes of a parent or other person or authority to whom a court has awarded custody, care and control, or to the provisions of Section 25(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, as amended, or Section 52 of the Adoption Act 1958, as amended.
  • (b) A person for whose arrest a warrant has been issued in the United Kingdom, or who is wanted by the United Kingdom police on suspicion of a serious crime.
  • (c) In very rare cases, a person whose past or proposed activities are so demonstrably undesirable that the grant or continued enjoyment of passport facilities would be contrary to the public interest.
  • (d) A person repatriated at public expense, until the debt has been repaid.
  • Under successive Administrations it has been extremely rare to refuse a person under category (c). Decisions in these cases are always taken personally by the Secretary of State.

    The present system has worked well and it is generally accepted that under successive Administrations this exercise of the Royal Prerogative has not been abused. The Government sympathise with the feeling behind the proposal for a statutory right, but they are not satisfied that a change from the present system would be generally advantageous.

    House adjourned at eleven minutes before eight o'clock.