This Conservative Government are presiding over backlog Britain, with never-ending travel chaos causing misery and havoc for hard-working people’s holiday and travel plans. Many of my Slough constituents have been waiting not weeks but months for their new passports to arrive. I know it is a similar story for the good people of Wales. Can the Secretary of State clarify how many of the promised 1,700 new members of staff the Government have actually recruited to deal with the crisis?
I should add, for anybody who has an interest in this particular subject, that if there are individual cases that are clearly being badly held up, they should please pass them on to the Wales Office and we will do whatever we can to expedite the service. In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, 850 additional staff have been brought on since April 2021, with a further 350 arriving this summer.
I simply do not believe the statistics the Government keep on giving, and I think the Secretary of State should push back on them. I have 30 cases outstanding and more coming in to my office every single day of the week. The team in Portcullis House used to be five people, but is now only three, so there is less of a service. Members of staff have to queue for two and a half hours to be able to deal with a single passport case. I have people who have been waiting for 14 weeks, some who have been waiting for 18 weeks, children who have been waiting for 14 weeks—this is simply incompetence. When will the Government get a grip of it?
The hon. Gentleman knows that every MP has examples of their own. I can only restate what I said just now: where there are individual cases, we are very keen to help. Some 98.5% of applications are being dealt with within the timescale. I realise that for the people who are not in that particular bracket it is intensely frustrating, and it is frustrating for Members across the House. The situation continues to improve, but if there are ways we can help the hon. Gentleman and his constituents I am very happy to do so.
Like other Members, I have an inbox full of hundreds of constituents struggling to get their passports. Some are waiting 15 or 18 weeks, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has said. Those people are already struggling with the cost of living crisis, they are having to fork out for the cost of passports, and now they are losing out on their vital holidays, which they have been desperately waiting for for more than two years. What support is available for those people? What economic redress is available? What conversations is the Secretary of State having with the Prime Minister—or is he too bothered with propping him up instead of dealing with people’s actual issues?
As the hon. Lady knows, we in the Wales Office have conversations with all Government Departments, especially on this particular issue. Staff numbers are being increased and the pace at which applications are processed continues to improve: it is at 98.5%. I realise that for people not in that bracket, this is a tough challenge, and I can only repeat what I have said in answer to the hon. Lady’s colleagues: if there are individual examples we can help with, we are very happy to do so.
We are all quite surprised to see the Secretary of State here this morning, but perhaps he cannot leave the disintegrating Government because his passport application is stuck in the queue. People across Wales are sick and tired of the Government’s incompetence. Can he explain to my constituent Jamie Dunkley and others across Wales why their Welsh language passport applications have been sent to Peterborough for processing, causing huge delays, stress and additional cost?
The hon. Lady raises an interesting question; this is the first I have heard of it, to be honest. As I keep saying, at the risk of being boring, I am very happy to look into that if it is causing undue delays. Those can also be resolved by the same means I suggested earlier.