In Depth

Passport delay victims should be compensated, say MPs

Inquiry slams passport office for 'summer of chaos' and for making profits on passport applications

Travellers left out of pocket by the HM Passport Office's "summer of chaos" should be compensated, a group of MPs has said.

The Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the passport agency as its backlog of unprocessed applications rose above half a million in June.

The agency's failure to process people's passports on time meant that some travellers were unable to go on holiday, some had to rebook flights and others incurred extra costs to collect their delayed documents in person.

MPs said that applicants who were forced to upgrade to the fast-track service after 1 May, but before the government began offering a free upgrade, should also be compensated.

Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, said there had been a complete failure of management at the agency, whose leaders would be "unlikely to survive to the final round of The Apprentice".

He called for the Passport Office to lose its agency status and be brought back under direct ministerial control.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire told The Guardian that the Passport Office had faced unprecedented demand this year, with more than five million passports issued so far. Contingency measures introduced by the Home Office had a "significant impact", he said, reducing the outstanding number of applications from a peak of nearly 550,000 in June to around 90,000 today. However, Vaz said that the contingency measures were "too little, too late" for this summer holiday period.

The Home Office acknowledged that it needs to make sure there is no repeat of these failings and is currently considering the findings of two reviews of the Passport Office.

The Home Affairs Select Committee also slammed the government for making a profit on passport applications. "The state should not be exploiting its own citizens by making a profit on what is a basic right," said Vaz. "Despite making a surplus of £124m over the past two years, making record overtime payments and giving its chief executive a salary larger than the Home Secretary's, it is scandalous that bonuses of £674,000 have been awarded during this period."

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