UK & World News
Passport Surge: Theresa May Warned A Year Ago
Theresa May was warned a year ago the closure of overseas passport offices would lead to 350,000 extra applications, it has emerged.
It comes as a huge surge of requests for passports was blamed for a significant backlog, prompting the Home Secretary to bring in a series of measures aimed at tackling delays.
Mrs May said the hold-ups, affecting holidaymakers and business travellers had been caused by the highest demand seen for more than a decade, and agreed it was an "unprecedented increase...which no one could have foreseen".
But in a report published in July last year, Paul Pugh, the head of the Identity and Passport Service, predicted there would be around an extra 350,000 applications to UK offices as a result of overseas embassies closing their passport desks and relocating operations back to Britain in a £20m cost-cutting move.
In an emergency Commons statement on Monday, Mrs May said the passport office was receiving "350,000 more applications for passport applications and renewals" than normal for this time of year.
Mrs May also indicated the increase was due in part to the "improved economic environment".
She insisted the Government was doing all it could to deal with the backlog of more than 30,000 applications which had not been dealt with within the normal three-week deadline.
In a sign of the continuing crisis, interviews for first-time applicants for passports have been suspended in London, with people directed to other offices in the region.
With anger mounting over the delays, Mrs May announced a series of measures aimed at tackling he problem.
Urgent applications will be fast-tracked for free, and an extra 200 staff would be drafted in to deal with applications.
People applying to renew passports overseas for travel to the UK would be given an automatic 12-month extension.
And those applying for passports overseas for their children would also be issued with emergency travel documents for travel to the UK - although they will still have to provide "comprehensive proof" that they are the parents.
Mrs May admitted there was no "big bang, single solution" to the crisis.
But her Labour opposite number accused Mrs May of presiding over a "sorry shambles" and called on her to apologise to the thousands of people whose travel plans had been thrown into doubt.
The Home Office says the 350,000 mentioned in the IPS report and those quoted by Mrs May are two different sets of figures.
The forecast figure was also for the full year, while the extra applications mentioned by the Home Secretary covered the period January to May.