THE Labour MP for Newport East has appealed to the home secretary Theresa May to reverse the cuts to the city’s passport office in the wake of the nationwide application backlog.
Jessica Morden spoke during an urgent question on the issue in the House of Commons yesterday, claiming that staff at the Newport office were being put under immense pressure because of the UK Government's incompetency.
She said warnings that cuts to the office would impact the service have been proven right.
Newport’s passport office, which was previously based in the city centre but is now at a smaller location off Lower Dock Street, had faced potential closure three years ago.
This sparked a campaign led by the Argus against the proposals, but despite calls from across Wales for the passport office to be kept in one piece the UK Government halved its 300-strong workforce and shut the centre’s postal application processing services.
Ms Morden told the debate on Thursday: “When the government tried to shut Newport passport office a few years ago staff and unions warned at the time that cuts would impact on service, and they have been proved right.
“It would be good if the Secretary of State could at least acknowledge that putting the full processing function back into Newport, along with the jobs that we lost, would be a start.
“Could she also acknowledge that it’s not only the customers that are suffering badly at the moment, but also the stress that it is putting on staff in Newport who are under immense pressure because of this government’s incompetency?”
Ms May said it was “absolutely right for the passport office’s point of view that they should at look at how they can provide services as efficiently as possible.”
She said demand for the service was “at higher levels that they have been for 12 years."
“Action has been taken and action is continuing to be taken to ensure that we can deal with those applications,” she added.
As HM Passport Office deals with a backlog of 30,000 applications, Mrs May told MPs of measures being introduced, including fast-tracking free of charge applications of people with an urgent need to travel abroad.
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who asked an urgent question, insisted Mrs May did not appear to know what was going on, claiming statements had been contradicted in recent days.