Couriers have lost hundreds of passports and key documents despite the number sent out already dropping drastically, it has been revealed. The service has been stained in chaos and backlogs after a surge in passport applications as international travel reopens after the coronavirus pandemic.
As the Mirror reports, figures have uncovered the scale of these key documents going missing which has triggered questions in Parliament alongside pledges that more staff will be recruited to help ease delays. The publication revealed that even as the number of passports sent out dropped in 2020 and 2021 when travel curbs were in force, the number lost by delivery courier TNT, which has the exclusive contract, rocketed.
A freedom of information request to the Passport Office showed that in 2018 it issued 6,681,299 passports. Some 422 passports or “supporting documents” were lost “during delivery by courier” – 0.006%.
Figures in the following year also shared similarities with 6,707,500 being issued and 437 were lost. In 2020, when planes were grounded and many countries closed their borders, the number of passports issued plummeted to 3,948,060 – yet the number lost while being dispatched climbed to 519.
Last year, when restrictions on foreign travel still hampered many business trips and holidays, 4,823,620 passports were issued. But the number lost during delivery by courier spiralled to 1,196 – and that only covers 2021 to July.
The reoccurring issues have sparked debate in accountability with Prospect union general secretary Mike Clancy arguing: “Lack of government investment has already caused passport chaos, with many families facing huge uncertainty about whether they will get away for a break this summer.
“Now we find out that the privatised delivery service is losing passports at a record rate too. It’s time for the Government to actually invest in public servants rather than threatening massive, damaging cuts to the civil service.”
It’s reported that Boris Johnson previously threatened to “privatise the a***” out of the Passport Office over delays but critics argued the problems lay with TNT, which was awarded a £77million, three-year deal in July 2019. The contract is due to run out this summer.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper argued “The passport crisis is a total scandal. Families are missing out on hard-earned breaks and losing thousands in cancelled holidays, all because of Home Office ministers’ incompetence.
“Delays in decisions and problems with deliveries are causing a total nightmare for families who have been really looking forward to a first holiday away after Covid. Boris Johnson may have threatened to privatise the Passport Office but as the Mirror’s data makes clear, it’s the private contracts that are causing some of the worst problems.
“Ministers need to get a grip of the TNT contract and sort out the delays before more families lose out.” Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “The sheer number of passports going astray during delivery simply isn’t good enough.
“The Home Office is presiding over a sloppy shop. It’s high time ministers get a grip of this mess and step in to save the summer holidays for people left waiting on passports that’ll never arrive.”
A spokeswoman for FedEx, which owns TNT, said: “Last year, when Covid-19 restrictions eased, we saw a significant increase in items being delivered through our dedicated HMPO (Passport Office) network. This had a regrettable, short term impact on service levels, which were restored after taking a number of operational actions.
“Since December 2021, we have been operating successfully within the service level requirements agreed with HMPO and we continue to stay focused on providing a reliable service for our customers.’’
A Passport Office spokesman said: “Between January 1 and July 31 2021 HM Passport Office sent over 3.3 million items to its customers. While regrettable, less than 0.04% of those were reported as having been lost during delivery, and many of those items have been subsequently recovered. The safety of our customers’ personal data is of paramount importance and every attempt is made to recover lost or mis-delivered documents. Once reported, passports are cancelled on the system immediately in order to mitigate against the risk of misuse and we continue to work with our delivery partner to develop measures to reduce the number of losses overall.”
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