Ministers ‘in denial’ over Passport Office chaos

Published on Thursday, 12 June 2014 10:48
Written by Daniel Mason

Ministers are "in denial" about chaos at the Passport Office, opposition politicians and trade unions have claimed.

Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, described the situation as "seriously chaotic".

It follows reports in the Guardian that security checks were relaxed on British passport applications from abroad in an attempt to deal with a huge backlog of work.

The government responded by saying it had no knowledge of the guidance to ease the checks and ordered that all security measures should continue to be implemented.

Meanwhile the Telegraph revealed that senior diplomats knew of serious problems building at the Passport Office a month ago.

In the House of Commons yesterday David Cameron said around 30,000 passport applications had been delayed and that more staff were being redeployed to an emergency clearing office.

He claimed the extra pressure was due to the Passport Office facing 300,000 more applications than usual, a 12-year high.

But Cooper said: "The government is clearly in denial about the extent of the crisis at the passport office despite being warned months ago," she said.

"We know staff from the fraud department have been moved over to deal with a backlog of passport applications Theresa May claims does not exist.

"And now we find out staff have been told to scale back vital security checks - if this is what the prime minister meant by getting a grip on the situation, he needs to think again."

Cooper said May, the home secretary, should "stop burying her head in the sand" and "come clean about what is actually going on".

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, added that ministers had "very serious questions to answer" over the affair.

"They are going to extraordinary lengths to try to deny the reality that crude political decisions to cut staff have caused this crisis," he said.

"They must now sit down with us and negotiate a solution to put the Passport Office back on track and win back the trust of their staff and the public."

Earlier the PCS threatened industrial action if the backlog was not addressed.

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