Delivery of new passports is carried out by Secure Mail Services. This company replaced services previously provided by the Royal Mail after a competitive tendering exercise in 2003. These new arrangements commenced in February 2004.
Under these arrangements, passports can be tracked throughout the delivery process, and in high-risk areas signatures are collected as proof of delivery. Losses have reduced from 3,593 in the last year of the Royal Mail contract to an estimated 740 for 2006. This represents a reduction of over 80 per cent in the rate of loss.
The figure of 740 is an estimate, as investigations into reported losses for the end of last year are still ongoing. This figure comprises 635 passports reported by customers as not received where the audit trail shows a delivery, and 105 instances of passports being stolen from couriers or from their vehicles.
Where passports are lost or stolen during delivery, the original passports are cancelled and replacements are issued, which are included in the total number of replacement passports issued.