Passport chief says sorry to holidaymakers hit by backlog in applications

The head of the Passport Office has apologised to applicants who have suffered delays after coming under considerable pressure from MPs over a backlog crisis at the agency.

Paul Pugh, chief executive of HM Passport Office and Registrar General for England and Wales, said he was sorry for every case when “service standards” had not been met – but only after a grilling from chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz.

Mr Pugh also confirmed figures provided earlier to the committee by Mike Jones, Home Office group secretary at the Public and Commercial Services Union, that as of Monday around 480,000 passport applications were logged as work in progress at the agency.

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Mr Jones earlier revealed that this figure has surged from around 290,000 work-in-progress applications in March.

The Passport Office has been accused of putting holidaymakers’ summer plans in jeopardy after it emerged interviews for first-time applicants were suspended in London as staff struggled to deal with the backlog.

Addressing Mr Pugh, Mr Vaz asked said: “You don’t seem to recognise the fact that people are very upset and angry. Would you like to apologise?”

Mr Pugh replied: “I absolutely recognise the anger and distress that some people have suffered and I would like to put on record that yes, in every case where we haven’t met our service standards, where we haven’t been able to meet the customer’s needs, yes, certainly, we are sorry for that.”

Mr Pugh revealed he had considered resigning but decided against such a move as it was his responsibility to lead the Passport Office through “tough times”.