The chaos at the Passport Office reflects the wider failures of a Home Office that is simply not fit for purpose under this Home Secretary. The Government have had two years to prepare for a spike in passport applications after the pandemic. They were warned repeatedly about the possible backlog, but they have clearly not acted quickly enough to solve the problem. Can the Minister please explain why that is the case? Can he also tell us how many agency staff are now working to clear this backlog?
The Government have already changed the three-week target to a 10-week target. At the last urgent question on the subject, the Minister insisted that the 10-week target did not need to be adjusted. Given we now know that it is being repeatedly missed, is that still the case or has he changed his position? Can he confirm what the current average period from passport application to receipt of passport actually is?
Some of the cases colleagues are hearing about from their constituents are truly awful. In one case, a couple were trying to get back into the country with their new-born baby after the husband’s two-year work contract in France came to an end, but, having waited two months for a passport, they faced the daunting prospect of having to leave France without a passport for their baby.
The Minister will be aware of the problems MPs and their staff have had accessing any guidance from the Home Office helpline. Is that being addressed? The Prime Minister has threatened to privatise the Passport Office as a solution to this mess, but is it not the case that the privatised TNT courier service is already a major part of the problem, beset with long delays? Surely what we need is genuine leadership and strategy from the Home Secretary. The Home Office contract with TNT is due to end in July. Given its complete failures in delivering passports on time, can the Minister confirm whether the Home Office plans to renew TNT’s contract? Finally, given the thousands of pounds lost when holidays are cancelled, does the Minister accept that the Passport Office’s backlog chaos is making the cost of living crisis worse?
A Government who fail to plan are a Government who plan to fail, and the British people are paying the price for this latest in a growing list of Home Office failures.