PM threatens to 'privatise the arse' out of Passport Office as Brits face holiday chaos

26 April 2022, 08:15 | Updated: 26 April 2022, 16:18

Brits are facing chaos over the summer holidays due to a massive passport processing backlog
Brits are facing chaos over the summer holidays due to a massive passport processing backlog. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has threatened to "privatise the arse" out of the Passport Office if it cannot clear the backlog that is threatening holidaymakers' summer getaways.

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The unprecedented spike in the number of people wanting to renew their passports comes after Covid lockdowns caused many to decide against going on trips abroad.

With five million people having put off renewing their passports, there is now a massive demand for the documents – and a ten-week target to complete applications is repeatedly not being met.

Mr Johnson is understood to be "horrified" at the backlog in dealing with passport applications and will summon the agency's leadership for urgent talks at No 10 next week.

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 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 Tuesday's meeting.

The problem at the passport office has been compounded by the requirement for Brits to have at least three months left on their passport before it expires when they travel to the EU.

MPs said their constituents were facing an "absolute shambles" in the scramble to get a passport – with time beginning to run out for anyone renewing ahead of the summer.

Labour MP Stephanie Peacock talked about a woman who has waited more than five months for her daughter's passport and is yet to receive it despite their holiday coming next week.

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Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said the case would be looked at and the delay was "very, very unusual… there must be a problem".

Stuart McDonald said in the Commons on Monday: "All our constituents are having to cancel holidays, miss funerals, rearrange visits, with even a new 10-week target routinely being failed.

"What will be done to avoid this predictable mess getting worse? And can we be assured that the 10-week target will not be lengthened further as we approach the summer?"

Home Office minister Kevin Foster said a million applications were handled last month - a seventh of what is normally processed in an entire year.

He said processing is expedited for people with compelling reasons, like an upcoming funeral, and 4.7 million people were texted last year about renewing their passports.

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He added: "But no, we don't have any intention to further extend that standard.

"We are at the moment processing most passports well within it, but we would advise people this is a very, virtually unprecedented surge in demand.

"And if people are planning to travel this summer we would advise them to get their application in as soon as possible."

Tory MP Simon Hoare described the passport backlog as "unprecedented, true, but foreseeable, absolutely".

"I hear what the minister has said, certainly my constituents are telling me their experience is either really very good or it is an absolute shambles," he said, adding: "Something needs to be done to arrest this and quickly."

A Passport Office spokesman said: "We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible and we do offer urgent services for applicants who need a passport more quickly."