Send for new passports ‘as soon as possible’ for summer holidays, minister warns

People hoping to travel abroad this summer should apply to renew outdated passports “as soon as possible”, a minister has warned as the Passport Office faces huge backlogs.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster also told MPs the Government has no intention of letting the current 10-week processing time slide further.

But the Commons heard of one woman who has waited more than five months to receive her daughter’s new passport, with services branded “either really very good or an absolute shambles”.

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SNP home affairs spokesman Stuart C McDonald asked: “All our constituents are having to cancel holidays, miss funerals, rearrange visits, with even a new 10-week target routinely being failed.

“What will be done to avoid this predictable mess getting worse? And can we be assured that the 10-week target will not be lengthened further as we approach the summer?”

Mr Foster replied: “First, in terms of… I go back to the fact that we issued, we dealt with, a million passport applications last month alone. To put that into context, we usually deal with seven million in a whole year.

“I would point out that where people have compelling and compassionate circumstances such as a funeral, applications can be expedited and it has now been for some time we have been advising to allow for up to 10 weeks for an application to be processed, and last year sent 4.7 million texts reminding people whose passports have expired to renew them.

“But no, we don’t have any intention to further extend that standard.

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“We are at the moment processing most passports well within it, but we would advise people this is a very, virtually unprecedented surge in demand, and if people are planning to travel this summer we would advise them to get their application in as soon as possible.”

Conservative MP Simon Hoare described the passport backlog as “unprecedented, true, but foreseeable, absolutely”.

The North Dorset MP added: “I hear what the minister has said. Certainly my constituents are telling me their experience is either really very good or it is an absolute shambles.

“But I agree with what the member who raised the question in the first instance said – there needs to be a better interface between members of Parliament and the Passport Office when those constituents, either through family funeral reasons or for holiday or business reasons, are not getting through (and) are then being lied to by officials when they do get through.

“Something needs to be done to arrest this – and quickly.”

Mr Foster replied: “I would say, to give a background: early in January, we were processing about 60,000 passports a week and by mid-March we had nearly trebled, and actually nearly quadrupled, the output of the service.

“I agree with him on the points earlier made that we do need to review the performance of the hotline for MPs, particularly where there are compelling and compassionate circumstances behind expediting an application.”

But Labour MP Stephanie Peacock, for Barnsley East, raised the case of a mother who submitted her daughter’s passport application in January – five months in advance of their holiday next week – but has yet to receive one.

Ms Peacock told MPs: “What is the minister doing to address the unacceptable delays in passport applications?”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said ministers would examine the case, noting: “That’s a very, very unusual delay. There must be a problem.”

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