Page last updated at 12:54 GMT, Monday, 21 April 2008 13:54 UK

Passport scheme 'waste of money'

British passport
Some 12.50 of the 72 passport fee pays for interviews

Millions of pounds are being wasted on a scheme aimed at combating passport fraud, the Conservatives have said.

The party voiced its concern as the BBC learned that out of 90,000 applicants given compulsory face-to-face interviews, none had been turned down.

Interviews for all new passport applicants were introduced in April 2007 as part of a crackdown on fraud.

The Identity and Passport Service said the interview system deterred people from making bogus applications.

Fraudsters apply

The Home Office estimated 10,000 passports had been issued on the basis of fraudulent information last year, half of them being given to first-time applicants.

Since then the Identity and Passport Service has carried out nearly 90,000 interviews with first-time adult applicants at its new, multi-million pound network of centres.

The centres cost 50m to set up and 30m a year to run.

Head of Identity and Passport Service Bernard Herdan

But so far nobody has been refused a passport because of their interview, which focuses on information such as previous addresses and bank details, BBC Breakfast has learned.

About 12.50 of the 72 passport fee goes towards paying for these interviews.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said the interview process and its charges were a waste of money.

"Every hardened criminal, organised gang and international terrorist are not going this route to get their fake British passports, they'll be doing [it] other ways.

"A significant chunk of the cost of a passport is now going on these interviews, which so far are proving to be completely useless."

'Deterrent effect'

But Bernard Herdan, of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), said the lack of refusals was not a sign of failure.

"I'm satisfied this is a very successful programme," he said.

Mr Herdan continued: "Interviews and tough fraud prevention systems are designed to deter identity fraud and pick out fraudulent passport applications before interview. To claim interviews are not working misses the point."

He said the fact of being asked to attend an interview deterred many potentially fraudulent applicants.

The IPS estimated there had been about 10,000 successful fraudulent passport applications last year and was "committed to reducing this number", he added.

From 2010/11, citizens will be able to decide whether they want an identity card or a passport.

Both will contain fingerprint identification data.


SEE ALSO
10,000 passports go to fraudsters
20 Mar 07 |  UK Politics

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