HM Passport Office Backlogs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:33 am on 12th May 2022.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 9:33 am, 12th May 2022

I am grateful to Nick Smith for raising this question, because this mess is causing untold misery for people and families across the UK. It is not, as Members have said, about hard-working staff; it is about leadership and planning. On that note, I am worried that the Home Secretary just does not get the scale of the problem. Yesterday, like the Minister, she invited colleagues to send details of their cases directly. My inbox is bursting at the seams and is about to explode with the cases. If all 650 of us were to send our cases to the Home Secretary, she would never be able to look at her inbox again. Does the Home Secretary understand the scale of the problem? Does that complacency explain why it took the Home Office until April to flag up this issue to the public and warn them of the change in target times?

I welcome the new facility at PCH. However, on the phone lines, what are folk being charged for phoning? For example, I know that colleagues have noticed that their constituency office phone bills are going through the roof because staff are having to spend hours on phone lines. I hope that is not the case for members of the public. I seek reassurance on that.

We have been reassured that the Home Office expected this year to deal with 9.5 million British passport applications and had been planning for that, but something has gone wrong. Was it the estimate? Apparently not, given what the Minister said, so what went wrong with the preparation? It is all well and good to be told that the Passport Office is processing higher or record numbers, but that is not the test—the test is whether there are sufficient numbers and that is clearly not happening. When will the Passport Office have enough staff to process sufficient applications?