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Passport Office to lose agency status

Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) is to lose its agency status and be brought into the Home Office, home secretary Theresa May has announced today.

The HMPO has been blamed for summer chaos as a backlog of passport applications reached nearly 550,000 in June. The move will make it directly accountable to ministers.

After news of the backlog emerged May introduced a number of measures to tackle the issue. The number of backlogged applications now stands at 80,000.

HMPO will cease to be an executive agency as of 1 October. The decision follows two reviews commissioned by May, and demands from the home affairs select committee.

May said: “As the events of the summer showed, it is essential that HMPO is run as efficiently as possible and is as accountable as possible. I also know that its hard-working staff are committed to delivering a high quality service to the public. I believe these changes will put them in a stronger position to do so.”

Paul Pugh, the current chief executive, has effectively been sacked but will remain in the role until a director general is appointed to take over from him. He will not apply for that position, he has said.

Keith Vaz MP, who chairs the home affairs select committee, has welcomed the decision.

The Public and Commercial Services (PSC) union, which represents passport workers, was outraged at the timing of the announcement, made moments before the Parliamentary debate on air strikes in Iraq.

However aside from the timing of the announcement the union has cautiously welcomed the news, but stressed the Home Office must deal with the issues that currently face the HMPO.

A statement from PCS said: “The Home Office must address the staffing shortages, harmonise pay across the department and ensure further work will not be privatised or outsourced.

“Crucially, senior officials and ministers must sit down with us to negotiate these issues, as recommended in a recent home affairs select committee report.

“The committee also called for the Passport Office to have "the right number and mix of staff" and urged the Home Office not to try to deal with backlogs by redeploying workers from other areas.”

(Image: c. Philip Toscano/PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Judi C   30/09/2014 at 13:00

I can't praise HMPO highly enough. I took my (expired) passport renewal application to the Post Office on Tuesday and it was delivered on Friday. If I'd paid more to fast track it, it wouldn't have benefited me. What a pleasant surprise.

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