Tens of thousands waiting more than 10 weeks for UK passports

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NEWPORT, WALES - MAY 24: People queue outside the Newport HM Passport Office on May 24, 2022 in Newport, Wales. There has been a surge in demand for passport applications as people delayed applying during the COVID-19 pandemic due to travel restrictions. Her Majestys Passport Office (HMPO) anticipate 9.5 million British passport applications will be made this year. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
People queue outside the Newport HM Passport Office on 24 May in Wales. (Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of people are waiting for UK passports because of an ongoing backlog, figures have revealed.

Statistics obtained from the Home Office by the Labour Party show that more than 35,000 people had to wait more than 10 weeks for their passport to be issued in the first three months of this year.

This is despite prime minister Boris Johnson's claim in Parliament last month that "everybody's getting their passport within four to six weeks."

He later clarified his remark, saying "91% of people are getting their passports within six weeks”.

It comes as British families are already plagued by travel disruption, with several airlines cancelling flights earlier this month.

Watch: Long queues form at passport offices amid delays

Read more: EasyJet cancels 52 flights to and from Gatwick as travel misery shows no end

The new passport waiting figures were provided by the Home Office in response to parliamentary questions from Labour and cover the first three months of 2022, the most recent period for which data is available.

Hundreds of people queued up outside passport offices in Newport and Liverpool last month in a desperate bid to secure their documentation before travelling abroad.

One of those affected by the delays was five-year-old Max Goodsir, whose family were forced to go on holiday without him when it took more than 12 weeks for his passport to be supplied.

His mother, Victoria Richards, told The Independent last month they had planned a family trip to Cyprus on 3 April, and submitted the applications for her daughter and her son on 1 March.

While her daughter's came back within three weeks, Max's passport took more than 12 weeks to arrive, meaning the rest of the family went on holiday without him.

"I was, and still am, gutted about him missing his first-ever beach holiday, a time to make sandcastles and swim in the sea and spend precious time away with his grandparents," said Richards.

Labour said the Home Office figures also revealed that passport civil servants were cut by almost a fifth in recent years.

In this photo illustration, a new dark blue colored British passport held in a travellers hand with holiday suitcase. (Photo by: Peter Titmuss/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Thousands of people are waiting more than 10 weeks for a new UK passport. (Getty Images)

Read more: Passport website goes down amid huge surge in applications

The number of full-time civil servants in the sector was cut from 3,913 in 2016 to 3,232 in 2021, with many replaced by agency staff, Labour said.

Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said: “The Home Office is a shambles and ministers are totally failing to get a grip.

“Thousands of people have already had to wait more than 10 weeks for their passports, far too many passports are getting lost in the system and no one can get proper information out of the helpline.

“The government has failed to plan and badly mismanaged our services - this is the Tories’ Backlog Britain and it is letting families down.”

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “These figures blow apart Boris Johnson’s nonsense claims.

“This backlog is causing misery for families who are already feeling the pinch, and this hapless government is refusing to even acknowledge it.

NEWPORT, WALES - MAY 24: A close-up of a sign at the Newport HM Passport Office on May 24, 2022 in Newport, Wales. There has been a surge in demand for passport applications as people delayed applying during the COVID-19 pandemic due to travel restrictions. Her Majestys Passport Office (HMPO) anticipate 9.5 million British passport applications will be made this year. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
HM Passport Office says people should leave 10 weeks to apply for a new passport. (Getty Images)

“From processing passports to getting people through airports, this Tory government can’t even get the basics right."

HM Passport Office (HMPO) said there was "unprecedented" demand for passports following the coronavirus pandemic as restrictions ease.

"Since April 2021, HMPO have been advising people to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their British passport. This remains the case," it said.

"The vast majority of all passport applications are being dealt with well within 10 weeks. However, a passport can only be issued once all the checks have been completed satisfactorily and will take longer if applications are submitted with missing or incomplete information."

Watch: Holidays in jeopardy thanks to passports backlog

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