§ Lord Marlesford
asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many United Kingdom passports were reported (a) lost and (b) stolen in each of the past five years; how many were recovered; how many were replaced and what steps are in place to cancel the validity of lost or stolen passports. [HL2667]
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)
We cannot offer a definitive Answer to this Question. However, it is our view, subject to the results of ongoing work, that there are a number of factors which have contributed to the increase in the recorded figures for passports lost, stolen or unavailable since 1998. Key among these are likely to be an increase in identity fraud and an increase in the number of reports being made to and recorded by the UK Passport Service.48WA
As recognised by the Cabinet Office Identity Fraud: A Study published in July 2002, identity fraud is a serious and growing problem for the UK and it is possible that this has contributed to the increase in passports being reported as lost or stolen. However, there is no evidence currently available which could establish the degree to which the increase in identity fraud has resulted in the increase in reports of lost and stolen passports.
Both the UK Passport Service and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have undertaken campaigns in recent years to encourage members of the public to report the loss or theft of passports. These campaigns will also have contributed to increased reporting and will be reflected in the figures we have given.
Furthermore, the current passport issuing system, which was installed in UK passport offices between October 1998 and November 2001, provides for a more consistent and structured way of recording reports of losses than was available on the previous system. This provides figures which more accurately reflect the true extent of reported losses.
The UK Passport Service is far from complacent about the large number of passports which become separated from their rightful hearer. Instances of forgery and manipulation of UK passports are kept under constant review as are the security features in the passport book itself. The current digital passport has a number of very advanced security features which make it extremely difficult to alter or replace the genuine details.
The number of passports reported stolen, lost or unavailable in the first quarter of 2003 was 46,273.