Letter: Passports to chaos

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The Independent Culture
Sir: A century ago, we could travel freely over most of the world without a passport, the purpose of which was not as an admission ticket, but to show Johnny Foreigner that if he got up to any nasty business, one of Her Majesty's gunboats would quickly appear. Civis Britannicus sum.

In the 17th century on the other hand, going abroad was strictly controlled; subjects who wished to go abroad were assumed to be plotting sedition. In the second half of this century we appear to have regressed towards the earlier model. We cannot leave to the country without a passport and certainly cannot get back in.

Delays in obtaining passports, however, are nothing new. It has long been a tedious business requiring much form-filling, and long waits or queuing up in Petty France. Compensation for missed holidays sounds good (report, 28 June) but what about compensation for all the stress and nail- biting while we wait?

The impression has always been that the Government would really rather we stayed at home. We should have a right to enter and leave the country and the Government should be duty-bound to enable us to do so. As for Europe, it is only our unbelievable xenophobia that makes passports necessary at all.

ALAN KENNEDY

London SW12

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