Someone has sent me a transcript of this conversation with the Passport Office.
Passport office: we can’t guarantee when your passport will be sent or when you will receive it
ME: what can I do?
Him: You can’t do anything,
ME: Can’t I pay to upgrade,
HIM: We can’t talk about that you have to ring this number…..
ME: But that’s your number
HIM: We can’t talk about it until you mention it.
Me: Ok I’m mentioning it and in fact I can categorically say I want it
Him: We can’t guarantee that they will do anything and they may not respond to you but you can then apply again for an urgent upgrade after that and you may be lucky that time…….
There was an Urgent Question on the passport chaos last Thursday, when I tried but unfortunately didn’t get called to ask the Home Secretary a question. Labour has now called an Opposition Day debate on it for tomorrow (Wednesday). I won’t be able to make a full speech as I have other meetings scheduled which can’t be moved, but I will be there for some of it. The Home Secretary announced last week that those who have to fast-track their applications because of delays won’t have to pay the additional £55 fee if their case is classed as urgent. She wasn’t able to say what guidelines would be given to allow staff to decide what is or isn’t urgent. She also wasn’t able to say how people will be able to convince passport office staff that their applications are urgent if they can’t get through on the phones (or if they end up in a conversation like the one above!)
Labour will be calling tomorrow for those who applied in good time, but have already been forced to pay the extra £55 to have their applications fast-tracked because of delays, to have that money refunded.
Here’s what the daughter of my 94 year old constituent – who we helped get her passport the day before she was due to go on a cruise, her first overseas travel for 20 years – had to say to the Daily Mail:
“Families hit by the passport crisis are being asked to pay £55 extra a person to save their summer holidays – on top of the £72.50 standard fee. Mrs May this morning admitted the Passport Office will put more staff and resources in place to deal with a backlog of applications caused by a surge in people wanting to go abroad.
Angry families said they were being held to ransom.
Audrey Strong, 67, from Timsbury, near Bath, said her 94-year-old mother paid the levy to be able to go on a cruise. She added: ‘They’re holding people to ransom. It’s disgusting – I don’t think she should have to pay all that money, but she did it because she would have lost her holiday otherwise.’”