Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Southwark News Column: Passport chaos for families in Southwark

Summer is a time when many people look forward to travelling abroad – for holidays, school trips or family celebrations.

But over the last few weeks more and more people from Camberwell and Peckham have got in touch with me to tell me of the problem they’ve been having with their passports. The Home Office has a huge backlog of applications which is causing long delays and people are having to pay extra to try and get their new passports on time.

The Home Secretary says she’s on top of it, but she’s not. We still don’t know when things will get back to normal, families still don’t know how long they will have to wait and we still don’t know whether the Home Office has finally got a grip.

Here are some examples of people who’ve recently contacted me about their passport problems:

A mother from Peckham applied in March for her 14 year old son’s passport to be renewed so he could travel to France for a football tournament. She was told the application would take about 2 weeks but when it was delayed, she called the Passport Office several times and was promised a call back but she never received any calls. Her son had to miss his tournament because his passport was not returned in time.

A family from Dulwich with a new born baby wanted to travel to France to visit the grandparents. They applied in February for the baby’s first passport and the visit was booked for April. They were told it would take 3 weeks but after delays, the mother came to my advice surgery in early April very worried and distressed that the passport still hadn’t arrived. I contacted the Passport Office and they issued the baby’s passport in time for the family to make their trip.

A worried mother from Peckham came to my advice surgery because her 10 year old son’s passport renewal application was delayed. He had a school trip to Barcelona booked for the end of June and she had applied several weeks earlier but still hadn’t received the passport. I contacted the Passport Office and her son’s new passport was delivered in time for him to go to Barcelona.

A man from Camberwell had booked a flight in March to attend his uncle’s wedding in Spain in August. Even though he applied 5 months in advance, to make sure everything would be ready in time for the wedding, he still hasn’t received his passport. When he contacted me he was very distressed and angry that he had submitted his application on time but worried that he might miss the wedding. I have contacted the Passport Office and am awaiting a reply. 

A man from Nunhead contacted me about his application for a new passport after he lost his old one. He submitted his application in June and was told it would take 3 weeks. When his passport didn’t arrive on time, he paid an extra £87 to ‘fast track’ his application because he had a holiday booked in July. He will now have to take time off work to go to the Passport Office and collect it in person.

I think it’s about time Ministers apologised for this mess and compensated people who’ve had to pay more money and take time off work just to get their passports on time or have lost out on holidays which they’ve paid for.

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