The number of passports lost by the Home Office has tripled last year amid the Covid chaos at the Passport Office.
A total of 312 passports were ‘confirmed lost’ between January 1 and October 31 in 2021, compared to just 111 in 2020.
The total for last year will be confirmed next month but the loss still exceeds the 168 lost passports reported in 2019, before Covid hit.
According to the Telegraph, understaffing at the passport office is believed to be causing ‘disorder’ and ‘misery’ for holidaymakers.
People continue to report long delays in obtaining documents to travel which has left many families unable to travel, leaving dreams of travel dashed.
A long line of frustrated holidaymakers stands outside the Passport Office in London Victoria on July 26.
An interior view of Heathrow Airport on July 28 as holidaymakers face travel chaos as they leave the country
The Passport Office has 4,376 full-time equivalent employees in 2015, and by 2021, it will reach 3,704.
The situation appears to have improved with agency numbers at 5,043 by 30 June 2022, but the UK population has also increased over that period from 65.12 million (2015) to 67.22 million (2020).
what’s going on Why has the backlog of passport applications increased to 5 lakh? And what is being done to solve the crisis?
what’s going on
More than half a million Britons are struggling to process their passport applications.
A head of the Passport Office has revealed that the backlog of applications reached 550,000 at the end of June – with 10% waiting more than ten weeks.
Why is there a backlog?
HM Passports said more than 5 million applications for passports were delayed during the pandemic because of international travel restrictions as governments around the world closed their borders to effectively control the spread of Covid.
When Passport Office director Thomas Greig was challenged by angry MPs to ‘why have you failed so badly’ while appearing before a committee, he admitted that staff are WFH despite the scale of the backlog. The agency insists that WFH is not affecting its staff’s ability to process passport applications.
Is it worth going to the passport office without an appointment?
It depends. Holidaymakers queuing without appointments outside Victoria’s passport office say authorities are turning back anyone who does not leave the UK in the next 48 hours.
The HM Passport Office website advises that people applying for a passport can expect to receive it within 10 weeks.
Those who need their passports more urgently can pay £177 to get them within two days via the online premium service. This involves booking an appointment and receiving your passport after a half-hour meeting at the passport office.
Or they can pay £142 to have your passport delivered to your home using the Fast Track service – although this can take up to a week.
What is HM Passport Office doing to clear the backlog?
In April, the agency said:
- It has increased its staff by 500 since April 2021 and is in the process of hiring another 700. More than 4,000 employees in passport production roles by April 1, 2022;
- Additional staff are being recruited to assist with customer inquiries at the passport advice line currently operated by Teleperformance;
- It has onboarded more delivery companies to ensure passports and supporting documents are delivered to customers on time;
- It has increased availability for fast-track appointments and extended working hours at seven HMPO public counters.
Sharing the numbers, Liberal Democrat MP Vera Hobhouse said: ‘The passport office is in shambles and the British people are suffering the consequences of government incompetence.’
“This huge increase in lost passports is clearly unacceptable and speaks volumes about the appalling state of the passport office,” he added.
A Home Office spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘More than 5.26 million items were successfully delivered to our customers between 1 January and 31 July 2021, while only 0.006% were lost.
‘While this is regrettable, it represents a small fraction of the number of passports and supporting documents that were successfully delivered.
‘Every effort is made to recover lost or misdelivered passports and we will continue to develop measures with our delivery partners to reduce the overall number of losses.
‘HM Passport Office staff processed the majority of applications within the published timeframe, with 97.7% of applications processed within ten weeks in the first half of the year.
‘HMPO has significantly increased its resources over the 17-month period, and will continue to recruit to cover attrition, ensuring it is fully resourced.’
It comes after former cabinet minister Michael Gove cited the passport backlog in June as evidence that Boris Johnson’s government had failed to deliver ‘some essential functions’.
Mr Gove, who was sacked as Secretary for Leveling after Mr Johnson asked him to step down as Prime Minister, admitted that some services were ‘just not working at the moment’.
In a discussion about what the Conservatives want from the next prime minister, he said the state should ‘do less’ but be ‘stronger and more effective’.
“I believe there are some essential tasks that the state needs to do better, and which we are currently failing to do,” Mr Gove told the Policy Exchange programme. ‘There are some key functions, giving you your passport, giving you your driving licence, which are just not working at the moment.’
He also raised ‘bureaucratic obstruction’ on broader issues such as defense procurement.
“We no longer focus effectively on effective delivery of services to the people or what the state should do,” he said.
‘I think it’s because we’ve become a government and an administration that’s been blocked by powerful stories told by people with a mission – and our own sense of mission isn’t strong enough to resist it.’
After more than 12 years in government, some critics have blamed the Conservatives for the problems but former Brexit minister Lord Frost sought to lay some of the blame on civil servants.
‘We are always told we have a Rolls-Royce and the problem is ministers are not making their wishes clear,’ he told the debate.
‘Well, the ministers have made clear their desire to return to their offices a few months ago, but it has not happened yet. So I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the civil service and the state work.’
But Baroness Cavendish, the former director of No 10’s policy unit, was angered by his comments rather than criticizing ministers.
‘There are people on this panel who have been in government for the last few years and under your leadership this has broken down – so why haven’t you done anything?’ she said.
Boris Johnson threatened the Passport Office and DVLA in April to ‘privatize the a*** off’ if they didn’t boost services.
A long line of frustrated holidaymakers stands outside the Passport Office in London Victoria on July 21.
The Prime Minister laid on a ‘post-Covid thinking culture’ in some government agencies as he asked the Cabinet to find capabilities that could help ease the cost-of-living crisis.
The passport office had previously blamed its backlog for over 5 million people delaying their applications due to the Covid pandemic.
It was also revealed last month that the backlog at passport offices had risen to 550,000 in June – 10% waiting more than ten weeks.
Passport Office director Thomas Greig was challenged by angry MPs in July to ask ‘why have you failed so badly’ when he appeared in committee, admitting that staff are WFH despite the scale of the backlog. The agency insists that WFH is not affecting its staff’s ability to process passport applications.
Mr Gregg also raised eyebrows last July when he revealed the passport office had failed to clear the backlog despite preparing for a surge in applications.
It even prompted committee chairwoman Diana Johnson to say: ‘If you’ve been planning for this since last July, 12 months ago, it’s not rocket science, is it?’
A Passport Office spokesman told MailOnline in July: ‘The majority of applications are completed within the published timeframe, with 97.7% of applications being processed within 10 weeks in the first half of this year.
‘But we cannot compromise on security checks and people should apply with plenty of time before they travel.’
Thousands have also been affected by airport chaos, last-minute cancellations and travel disruptions across the UK as airports including Heathrow struggle with staff shortages.
Airlines and airports have cut staff throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and have struggled to recruit enough to cope with summer passenger numbers this year.
In July, Heathrow told airlines to stop selling summer tickets because the airport could not cope with the number of people going on their summer holidays.
Passenger numbers at Britain’s biggest airport have been cut to 100,000 a day – 4,000 less than planned.