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British Passports

3. Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): If he will make a statement on the rules for applications for a British passport. [205637]

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Desmond Browne): British passports are issued in the United Kingdom under royal prerogative by the UK Passport Service. Citizenship is a matter of law, primarily under the British Nationality Act 1981, and is usually determined by the facts of a person's date and place of birth and those of his or her parents. An applicant for a passport will need to submit the relevant supporting documentation to establish both their nationality and their identity. Guidance on this documentary evidence can be found in the notes for guidance that are published in the passport application form pack.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: May I thank the Minister for the constructive discussions that we have had about the case of my constituent, Captain Warwick Strong, who served Her Majesty's armed forces loyally in the most severe troublespots of the world and was prepared to lay down his life, but who, because of the regulations, was not in the United Kingdom on the qualifying day five years before his application in 2002? It seems now that he is eligible for indefinite leave to remain, and hence for a British passport afterwards. Will the Minister give me an assurance that these applications, in a full, open and deserving way, will be fast tracked?

Mr. Browne: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I, too, found my discussions with him in relation to this case constructive. As I undertook to do, I have reviewed Captain Strong's application over the weekend. His application from 2002 has been reviewed several times, and I am content that the decision taken to refuse his application was correct. Those who did not resist the temptation—I should say that the hon. Gentleman has not behaved in this way—to behave in a disgraceful way in relation to Captain Strong should reflect on the fact that his application was refused on the basis of a mandatory rule that was introduced in the 1981 Act by a Conservative Government.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, since his original application, Captain Strong appears to have had a further two years' residence in the United Kingdom,
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bringing his total residence to six years, which is more than the five years required for naturalisation as a British citizen. If he still wishes to become a British citizen, the first thing that he needs to do is acquire settled status. As an ex-member of the armed forces who has served four or more years, he should be eligible for indefinite leave to remain in the UK under Her Majesty's forces' new rules introduced on 25 October this year. Once settled, Captain Strong would be free to live and work in the UK indefinitely and to apply for British citizenship. I invite the hon. Gentleman to encourage Captain Strong to apply. If he wants to ensure that that application is dealt with properly, I will give him separately from this answer the name of an official in the immigration and nationality directorate who will deal with it.

Antisocial Behaviour

4. Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): What plans he has for the policing of antisocial behaviour associated with late-night drinking. [205638]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): A Christmas alcohol misuse enforcement campaign is under way in all 43 police force areas in England and Wales. Town centres across the country are being targeted in an effort to crack down on alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder. We will continue to work closely with the police to tackle that.

Ms Keeble: Will my hon. Friend examine rule changes to make it possible for police authorities routinely to charge the leisure industry much more of the costs of policing late-night drinking? Not only are the costs high, but policing late-night drinking is a drain on police officers' time. It seems unfair that the general taxpayer should pay the costs of an industry-related problem.

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend is right. I am delighted that her local force is playing a full part in the Christmas alcohol misuse enforcement campaign. The industry should contribute towards the extra costs that arise from not only policing, but the impact of late-night drinking on our town and city centres. We are committed to a voluntary approach and are working on business improvement models. If the voluntary approach does not have a significant impact on the problems, we will re-examine the matter early in the next Parliament, in which case our review might well include further legislation.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Four years ago, when he was a junior Home Office Minister, the new Home Secretary launched his action plan for dealing with alcohol-related crime. Unfortunately, the number of violent crimes linked to alcohol has risen by no less than 10 per cent. Does the Minister think that the new Home Secretary's strategy has been a roaring success?

Ms Blears: Our new Home Secretary has an excellent record in that area, and I have no doubt that he will go from strength to strength driving down crime, making our communities safer and contributing positively to the
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life of this country. The alcohol misuse enforcement campaign that we ran over the summer was extremely successful. The police visited 30,000 premises, issued 4,000 fixed penalty notices and arrested 5,000 people. In the areas in which the campaign was conducted, serious violence decreased by 9 per cent., which is real evidence that good police action makes a difference.

Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby) (Lab): My hon. Friend knows that Scarborough is one place in which that summer-time initiative was conducted. Will she commend the organisers of a recent conference on the night-time economy, which many participants from the industry attended? Will she take the opportunity to come to Scarborough and see how much progress has been made through the type of partnership that she extols from the Front Bench and that we in Scarborough try to deliver in the community?

Ms Blears: I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in commending the work of the partnership in Scarborough, which has been so effective in tackling binge drinking. Like many other seaside towns, Scarborough sometimes experiences a particular problem with its night-time economy. My hon. Friend makes the point that the problem is a matter for not only the police but local authorities and transport operators, and we all have a responsibility to try to make our communities safer. I shall be delighted to consider my hon. Friend's kind invitation to have a day out—or perhaps a night out—in Scarborough in the new year.

Mr. Bob Laxton (Derby, North) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware that the cost of the new licensing arrangements that will be undertaken by local authorities will hammer them considerably? My own local authority, Derby city council, has estimated that it will find some of those costs punitive. Much as it supports the new arrangements, as do I, the Home Office needs to consider the heavy costs and financial burden that they will impose on local authorities.

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend makes an important point. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has given an undertaking that the licensing fees will be sufficient to cover local authorities' inspection and enforcement responsibilities. That has been confirmed by the Deputy Prime Minister. Clearly, at the Home Office we have an interest in ensuring that local authorities have the full resources to be able to carry out the enforcement as well as the licensing process itself. A consultation is being undertaken about the level of fees to be set. My hon. Friend can be assured that we will continue to make these representations.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): The hon. Lady responded earlier to a question about licensees selling to intoxicated people. I suggest to her that another problem urgently needs addressing: high-alcohol alcopops that are produced by the drinks industry, aimed at young people and often drunk in excess. We see that in town centres day in, day out. Does
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the hon. Lady honestly think that the drinks industry will regulate itself, or do not the Government have the bottle to take it on?

Ms Blears: The hon. Gentleman will recognise that the alcohol industry, in common with most sectors, has some extremely good operators who want to get rid of the rogue element in their industry, but some irresponsible people are still running promotions such as, "All you can drink for £10." We are determined to ensure that we drive out such irresponsible marketing, which is why we are working on a code of practice to ensure that we have decent standards in the alcohol industry. This Government have given unprecedented attention to that problem. I entirely reject the notion that we are not tackling those interests head on, because we are absolutely determined to try to change the culture. That is very difficult in this country, but we have to do it because these are very serious problems indeed.

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