MPs have rejected a Labour motion calling on the immigration minister to apologise to those impacted by delays at the passport office – by 295 votes to 198.
Closing the opposition day debate for the government, Damian Hinds admitted that “sometimes things have not been fast enough” and “waiting times have been too long”, adding: “I am sorry for that.” But the security minister stressed that “it is not for want of will or effort or commitment”.
Addressing the Commons during the debate, Stephen Kinnock declared that the passport office was in a “shambolic state” and that the backlog was one example of the “systemic failure that has been designed and delivered by successive Conservative governments since 2010”.
The shadow immigration minister said there are “countless examples” that the “infrastructure that holds our country together is creaking” and “in some cases, is at breaking point.” He told MPs: “Welcome to backlog Britain.”
“The government had two years to prepare for a spike in passport applications once travel restrictions were lifted. Ministers were warned repeatedly about the possible backlog. But they failed to plan and so they inevitably failed to deliver,” the Labour frontbencher said.
Kinnock argued that it would have been “basic common sense” for the government to meet with passport office officials to prepare for a sudden increase in applications, saying: “It’s basic planning. It is the opposite of the incompetence and indifference that we’ve seen from this Conservative government.”
He told MPs: “The cost of this is not just in broken-hearted families who weren’t able to go on long-planned holidays or go to weddings and funerals. It’s a direct cost to the British economy, to productivity.
“To the huge cost of people having to pay through the nose for fast-track applications. The cost of this when it’s finally calculated will be eye-watering.”
“We need the minister to apologise to all those people who have done what was asked of them throughout the pandemic, worked hard, earned their trips abroad, only to have their hopes dashed and their nerves shredded,” he added.
Kinnock stressed: “It’s absolutely vital to recognise that the lack of investment in our public services is what has fundamentally left us exposed and those are the problems we are facing today.”
“From NHS waiting lists to our courts. From the DLVA to passports. From chaos at our airports and from lorry queues at Dover to our broken asylum system. Everywhere you look, our country is bogged down in delays and chaos. The year is 2022, and this is backlog Britain,” he concluded.
Responding for the government, Kevin Foster said the passport office was advising customers to allow up to ten weeks for their application to be processed but added that the “vast majority” of cases were being dealt with “well before that”.
The immigration minister told MPs that the passport office had processed approximately three million applications between March and May. He claimed that applications would “inevitably take longer” with this level of demand and that the issue was “not unique to the UK”.
Below is the text of Labour’s opposition day debate motion on the passport office backlog.
Sir Alan Campbell
That this House censures the minister for safe and legal migration, the hon. Member for Torbay, for his handling of the crisis at Her Majesty’s passport office; and directs him to come to the House, no later than 20 June 2022, to apologise for the tens of thousands of people who have waited more than six weeks for their passport.