Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.
I thank the staff working on the passport backlog, but many people across our country will not be satisfied with the Minister’s response today. A constituent told me yesterday:
“It’s terrible. We’re due to fly out on Sunday but are still unable to get our youngest son’s passport. Every time I phone I get passed to a different department, then hold, then the phone line goes dead.”
Another told me:
“I’ve called 40 times in the past week, they cut me off every time. I don’t know what to do and am breaking down at this point.”
The facts are that there are long queues outside passport offices; that hours and hours are being spent on phone lines; and that families are afraid of holidays getting cancelled. This situation was avoidable. It was obvious that, when restrictions ended, people would need passports to get away.
The Prime Minister blames a mañana culture at the Passport Office. We need a strategy that improves performance and helps families now, not those flippant comments. During a cost of living crisis, telling people to spend an extra £100 per person to fast-track their application rubs salt into their wounds.
Yesterday, the Home Secretary told us of record passport delivery, which is good, but we need the facts today. How big is the actual backlog? By when will the Passport Office’s too-long 10-week timeframe be down to the normal three weeks?
Deliveries are also delayed and other companies are having to help TNT. Its £77 million contract cannot be value for money, so will the Government be renewing that contract in July?
After years of covid, families finally want to get away this spring and summer. Instead, they face losing thousands of pounds if they cannot keep their holiday after the grief of chasing their passport. The Government need to do much, much better than this.