Passport Office boss to face MPs
8:52am Tuesday 17th June 2014 in News
The head of the Passport Office faces a grilling from MPs today in the wake of thousands of people seeing their holiday plans put in jeopardy because of a backlog of applications.
The agency was accused of being in "chaos" and boss Paul Pugh will appear before the influential home affairs select committee to explain the long delays in handling cases.
The Passport Office has been accused of presiding over a shambles, and last week interviews for first-time applicants for passports were suspended in London as staff struggle to deal with the 30,000 backlog of applications, which are normally dealt with in three weeks.
A report shows the office estimated a year ago that applications would surge by as much as 350,000 this summer because of overseas embassies shutting their passport desks and transferring operations to Britain.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, the committee's chairman, said: "The HM Passport Office is in chaos and the Home Secretary's urgent action shows the true scale of the problem.
"The agency needs to ensure that these measures are implemented as quickly as possible. Whilst it is important that every possible step is taken to reduce these delays, it is irresponsible to override security measures.
"We will be asking Mr Pugh for a full explanation of what has happened and specifically how these emergency measures are being put in place.
"It is vital we have the full facts in order to understand whether this government agency is still fit for purpose."
After weeks of mounting public anger, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a raft of measures aimed at clearing the backlog.
Fast-track processing fees for passport applicants who need to travel abroad urgently have been dropped, a nd people renewing their UK passports from overseas are being given a 12-month extension to their existing passport. Those applying for passports overseas on behalf of their children will be given emergency travel documents.
A Home Office spokeswoman said it was normal practice during busy times to redirect people to passport offices outside of London, and that only a "handful" of people had been affected.
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