Five million people delayed renewing their passports during the pandemic which has caused an unprecedented demand since Covid restrictions have been lifted, with post-Brexit travel rules from the EU also adding to the pressure.
MPs are urging those looking to travel to get in their passport applications quickly and criticised the Passport Office for repeatedly missing a ten-week target to process applications.
Boris Johnson is understood to be “horrified” at the backlog in dealing with passport applications and has threateend to privatise the Passport Office if it cannot clear the backlog.
The Prime Minister will summon the agency’s leadership for urgent talks at No 10 on Thursday (28 April).
What have government ministers said?
Boris Johnson has threatened to “privatise the arse” out of the Passport Office if it cannot clear its backlog and deliver better value for money, a senior Government source has said.
The Prime Minister also put the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and other “arm’s length” bodies on notice in comments to Cabinet ministers, according to the source who attended the meeting on Tuesday (26 April).
He is said to be concerned that families wanting to go on summer holidays are under pressure to pay up to £100 extra per passport for fast-track applications because of delays.
The source cautioned that privatisation would not be the starting point, but warned that Downing Street could look to businesses to take over if passport bosses could not meet the 10-week target for standard applications costing £75.50.
MPs have accused the Passport Office of overseeing an "absolute shambles" and said the situation was foreseeable.
They said constituents were cancelling holidays, missing funerals and rearranging trips because of the delays, The Times reported.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps slammed airlines for their recent flight cancellations and urged them to get "reliability back into the system again" before the peak summer season.
Stuart McDonald, the SNP’s home affairs spokesman, said: “All our constituents are having to cancel holidays, miss funerals, rearrange visits, with even a new ten-week target routinely being failed.
"What will be done to avoid this predictable mess getting worse?”
He added: "And can we be assured that the ten-week target will not be lengthened further as we approach the summer?”
Meanwhile immigration minister Kevin Foster urged people planning to travel to get applications in as soon as possible.
Mr Foster said: “We dealt with a million passport applications last month alone.
"To put that into context, we usually deal with seven million in a whole year."
What has the Passport Office said?
The Passport Office has blamed a surge in demand after travel boomed at the end of lockdown and increasing amounts of people are now booking their summer holidays.
Post-Brexit travel rules are also claimed to be adding to the pressure.
The new rules require UK citizens to have at least three months validity remaining on their passports.
In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for HM Passport Office said: “Since April 2021, we have been advising people to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their British passport as more than five million people delayed applying due to the pandemic.
“We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible, with the vast majority of all passport applications being dealt with well within 10 weeks.”
The spokesperson added: “To deal with this demand, we have increased staff numbers by 500 since April 2021.
“This has helped us to handle more applications than ever before, with more than one million passport applications processed in March 2022.”
How have people been affected?
A family missed their £3,000 holiday to Portugal due to a passport mistake, while Mum Nina Gurd was unable to board her flight with her husband John and three sons after being told her passport was not valid because it expired next month.
Earlier this month, mum Ana Tiganescu was forced to leave her son at a Ryanair check-in after a confusing passport rule ruined their holiday.
Last year, a 67-year-old lost her £2,600 dream holiday because of the new passport rules.
Meanwhile Abi Campbell was stopped from boarding her flight back to Glasgow from Tenerife after thinking her passport was valid.