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Points of Order

Volume 584: debated on Tuesday 22 July 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could give me some advice. I have a constituent who applied for a passport eight weeks ago and is travelling on Monday. My office tried to contact the Home Office’s hotline. My staff got through but were told that because of data protection the hotline staff could not discuss the case. I rang back, and they certainly spoke to me, and they then told me that yes, the application is in the Liverpool office and has not been looked at. But this is only a replacement passport, not a new one. My constituents tried to get an appointment to be fast-tracked; they were willing to drive to Liverpool for it. There are no appointments available. My constituents want me to find out what action I can take, Sir, to sort this out.

I do not think the timing of the raising of this point of order is accidental. Sadly, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I myself can provide him no salvation, but it may be that help is at hand. Home Secretary.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. If my hon. Friend passes the details of that constituent to either myself or the immigration Minister, we will ensure that the issue is taken up. Of course, as I indicated to the House in June when I made a statement about the Passport Office, we have opened up the possibility of a free upgrade for individuals whose passport has been waiting more than three weeks and who have an urgent need to travel, so we will take that case up.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Many Members across the House may have experienced what I have experienced, certainly in my constituency office, which is an increase in the number of cases of people being concerned about passport delays and struggling to get their passports in time. Would the Home Secretary agree to publish weekly figures about the detail of the backlog in the passport agency, so that we can tell whether her reforms are actually working?

The natural spirit of last-day generosity has been very fully exploited by the shadow Home Secretary. That is not a matter for the Chair. However, the point has been made with some force and it is open to the Home Secretary to respond if she wishes.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Ministers had, by this morning, still not confirmed that this House would be able to scrutinise the British nominee to the next European Commission, the noble Lord Hill, before the European Parliament does so in September. That would be an EU reform that the Prime Minister would not need any other country to agree to. I wondered whether you had had any confirmation of such a process being allowed in future?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman both for his point of order and for his courtesy in giving me advance notice of it. The hon. Gentleman will know well that the matter of pre-appointment hearings for ministerial nominees to various public offices is what I think I can best describe as a developing area of parliamentary scrutiny. There have been many exchanges between the Liaison Committee and the Government on this matter. No doubt those exchanges will continue, but it is not a matter for the Chair in the House; nor am I in a position to offer the hon. Gentleman any information beyond that which he already possesses.

That said, if the hon. Gentleman happens to have some spare time and would care to read my Michael Ryle memorial lecture, which now features on the parliamentary website and which I delivered, if memory serves me correctly, at the end of June in Speaker’s House, he might find it a satisfying read. What is for sure is that he will find that I do myself have some views on that matter. We will leave it there for now.

If there are no further points of order, we come to the ten-minute rule motion.