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Committee calls for Passport Office reforms

22 July 2022

The Home Affairs Committee has written to the Home Secretary calling for improvements to how the Passport Office manages applications. The Committee took evidence from the Director of Passports, Citizenship, and Civil Registration at HM Passport Office, courier TNT and travel journalist Simon Calder on Wednesday.

The letter expresses extreme disappointment that Teleperformance, the contractor running the Passport Office’s helpline, declined to attend the hearing to answer for their poor performance. Calls to the helpline routinely go unanswered for several hours and the service is cited as a source of frustration for those attempting to apply for a passport. 


It urges the Home Office to review the terms of its contract with Teleperformance to ensure improved performance and avoid applicants being left in the dark. Call operators should have access to useful information about an individual’s specific case so as to provide meaningful, timely and useful advice. Successful applicants should be notified that their passport is on its way to avoid needless anxiety and reduce call volumes. At busy periods, advice should be published on the Passport Office website, so urgent cases know who to contact. 


The Committee additionally calls on the Home Secretary to make changes to how the Passport Office operates to avoid a repeat of the current problems. It recommends more pro-active communication to manage demand, for example contacting customers during periods of low demand to encourage early applications. The digital application system should be modified to enable family groups to be linked and processed at the same time, avoiding gaps of several weeks between individual passports arriving. 


Given problems in attempting to book priority services, the Home Office should monitor the number of people attempting to access the service and consider setting minimum targets for the number of slots available each day. Consideration should also be given to offering extensions of up to six months to passports nearing expiry under certain circumstances.


Chair's comments  


Chair of the Home Committee, Dame Diana Johnson MP said: 

“It is completely unacceptable that anyone taking public money to run a public service should attempt to avoid scrutiny. To do so when that service is in disarray is even worse. Thousands of people across the country have been left exasperated at the difficulty in getting an answer, let alone meaningful information, in their attempts to call the Passport Helpline and this is simply not good enough. 

We have written to the Home Office to call for improvements to how the Passport Office is run that should allow them to better manage demand and avoid a repeat of such problems in the future. Most importantly it needs to improve how it communicates with people. Problems coping with a surge in demand is one thing, but making it so difficult for applicants to get help or even understand what is going on is really poor. 

Given the Home Secretary’s commitment to appear before the Committee on 7 September. We expect a response to our proposals by the end of August.” 

Further information

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