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Government Efficiency: Online Services

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 9 June 2022

5. What steps his Department is taking to (a) improve Government efficiency and (b) reform Government online services. (900328)

Digital transformation is central to improving the delivery of Government services. My Department is leading work to improve the efficiency of the top 75 Government services; to embed a build once, use many times approach to technology; and to build a new system that will enable citizens to prove their identity and access online Government services through a single account, one login. In the last financial year, technology platforms built by Cabinet Office digital generated £74 million of savings to Government—six times more than cost to run.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for outlining the Government’s improvements in online applications, but may I ask what conversations she is having with the Home Office? Many Carshalton and Wallington residents have been in touch about delays in the Homes for Ukraine scheme and passport renewals, so what discussions has the Cabinet Office had with the Home Office on improving its online application systems?

Home Office colleagues are working harder than ever to deal with huge surges in demand for passports and visas as a result of the recovery from the pandemic and the UK’s response to the illegal war in Ukraine. The Home Office is currently prioritising Ukraine visa scheme applications in response to the illegal invasion of Ukraine. The Government are communicating directly with other visa customers to note that economic visas are taking longer to process at this time. Staff are being redeployed to those visa routes and further staff are being recruited and onboarded. More passport applications are being processed than ever before, with nearly 2 million applications completed between March and April. Despite that, the vast majority of passports are being processed within 10 weeks.

The Minister’s warm words do not match the reality of the Government’s plans. Their all-male cuts committee, headed by the Chancellor, will not create efficiencies by cutting 91,000 civil servants; in fact it will gut the civil service’s capability to deliver the vital frontline services that our communities rely on. Will the Minister explain to the public how all Departments being asked to model 20%, 30% or 40% job cuts will better serve their needs when it comes to getting their passport on time, not having to wait in queues at the airport or accessing swift justice in our court system?

I am afraid the hon. Lady is out of step with reality. Many MPs have gone to the hub in Portcullis House and have got turnarounds for their constituents’ passports. Many people have got their passports within nine days. [Interruption.] She is asking about technology: improvements in artificial intelligence mean that if there is no issue with someone’s passport, it is returned within nine days flat.