Investigation into the UK Passport Office – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Committee of Public Accounts

Related inquiry: Investigation into the UK Passport Office

Date Published: 6 April 2023

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In 2022, following the removal of COVID-19 travel restrictions, His Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) received a record number of passport applications. HMPO had anticipated this surge in applications, and made plans to prepare for it. But while its staff have processed record numbers of applications, ultimately, its performance has let down hundreds of thousands of customers who faced unacceptable delays in receiving their passports. The consequences of these delays included people being unable to travel for family emergencies, losing money spent on holidays and having difficulties proving their identities.

HMPO has shown a concerning lack of curiosity about the consequences of these delays for its customers and has not put the customer’s perspective at the centre of its decision-making. Weaknesses in its management information and the performance of its contractors exacerbated the confusion and frustration of customers, many of whom raised their concerns with their Members of Parliament in the hope of getting them resolved more quickly.

HMPO estimates that less than half of the ‘missing’ demand for passports from the COVID-19 pandemic materialised in 2022, and is planning for another surge in applications in 2023. HMPO has identified lessons from 2022 and taken steps to improve the handling of communication with customers to ensure it can meet expectations into the future. But it will need to successfully implement its delayed digital transformation programme and be bolder in trying to manage the demand it faces, rather than just reacting to it.