Motion to Approve
I am speaking on the regulations. There is a story going around, which I am absolutely sure must be fake news, that the proposed iconic blue passport is going to be produced in France. Will the Minister confirm whether that is true or not, because, if it is true, it must be a great embarrassment for Her Majesty’s Government?
My Lords, any questions about this issue should have been raised in Committee. The question that the noble Lord asks has nothing to do with the regulations.
My Lords, I hope my question is not a random question. This statutory instrument is about fees for passports, so could I ask my noble friend: what would be the increase in fees if our new passports were printed in the United Kingdom, on the grounds of security, and not in France? French passports are printed in France on the grounds of national security.
I have every respect for the Chief Whip, but we are being asked to approve these regulations and, as a Member here, I am entitled to ask a question about them. I am asking what the increase in fees would be if, on national security grounds, which we would be entitled to invoke under the relevant EU directive, these passports were printed in Britain. If my noble friend does not know the answer, perhaps she could write to me.
My Lords, I do not think it is a question of knowing the answer or not. I make the point that the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Stoneham, were present in Committee last Thursday when we discussed this. We will have plenty of opportunity to discuss where the passports are printed. This is simply about fees. I repeat the points that I made to my noble friend and the noble Lord.
My Lords, this matter was not known last Thursday; it has only become public recently. For once, I actually agree with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. The Government of France insist that French passports are produced only in France for reasons of security. If we are, sadly, going to have to leave the European Union, and I hope that we are not, and if we are going to have these iconic blue passports—well, the last one I had was more black than blue, to be honest—then they ought to be produced in Britain, in Gateshead or somewhere else. Why is that not the case? The Minister must answer this.
I know that the noble Lord thinks that I must answer this, but it is a courtesy in this House that if someone has an issue to raise in Committee then they should raise it in Committee, and I fully expect that in due course, both noble Lords will try to secure a debate on this very matter.
My Lords, we seem to have got ourselves into a pretty pass about something that the Minister is not required to answer today. Noble Lords know that order in this House is constructed in such a way that they can get proper answers to questions that are troubling them. I suggest to noble Lords, who are obviously much better informed than I am about a particular issue, that if they wish to challenge a decision that the Government have made or might make or whatever, there are methods for doing so. They could put down Questions or they could put down Motions for debate, and I am sure that the House will try to facilitate those where it can. Really, we have a lot of business to do; a number of us want to be in Westminster Hall to pay proper tribute to the victims of the attack a year ago. I ask noble Lords, please, not to press this further.