Labour tonight criticises Home Office ministers over passport “chaos” which has scuppered some families’ Easter holidays.
Travel plans have had to be scrapped because of a backlog in applications fuelled by a race to renew documents after coronavirus curbs were lifted.
Our sister paper the Sunday Mirror reported how staff being shifted from processing passports to studying visa applications from Ukrainian refugees had also piled pressure on the system.
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Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock has written to his Tory counterpart Kevin Foster criticising the Government’s handling of the fiasco.
Highlighting “deeply troubling evidence of chaos at the Passport Office”, Mr Kinnock’s letter, seen by the Mirror, says: “It was always clear that there would be a surge in applications once Covid travel restrictions were lifted, but it seems that the Home Office and the Passport Office had completely failed to plan for this entirely predictable scenario.”
It adds: “Not only has the Government had two years to prepare for the end of Covid-19 restrictions, it has also had five months of Russian military buildup at the Ukrainian border to undertake crisis planning on Ukrainian visas.
Failure to plan has led to a situation where the Home Office is in effect ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ by simply moving staff from one critical task to another, yet not managing to do anything to an adequate standard.”
A Passport Office spokeswoman said: “Due to Covid-19, over five million people delayed applying for a British passport throughout 2020 and 2021.
“In preparation for the demand for international travel returning, since April 2021 we have been advising people to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their passport.
“This remains the case.
“We are dealing with record demand and in March 2022 we processed more than one million new passport applications - 13% higher than the previous record in March 2019.
“We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one without delay.
“We also offer urgent services for applicants who need a passport more quickly.
“Our dedicated staff are working tirelessly to ensure that passport applications are processed as quickly as possible.”