Hundreds of passports were lost by a private courier, despite a plummeting number of the documents being sent out.
International travel has started back up again following the Covid-19 pandemic. This has created a surge in passport applications which took the government by surprise – causing a major backlog.
But even with more staff being recruited to ease delays, The Mirror has revealed that, despite a reduction of passports being sent out because of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, hundreds of passports were lost by the Passport Office’s exclusive courier, TNT.
A freedom of information request to the Passport Office has found that there were 6,681,299 passports issued in 2018, with 422 passports or “supporting documents” being lost “during delivery by courier” – which comes to 0.006 per cent. The figures were similar in 2019, also, with 6,707,500 passports issued compared to 437 that were lost.
But in 2020, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on travel caused the number of passports issued to plummet, with 3,948,060 sent out – but the number lost while being dispatched rose to 519. Similar issues were found in 2021, with foreign travel still hit and miss for many business trips and holidays, as 4,823,620 passports were issued, but the number of passports lost during delivery by courier spiralled to 1,196 – with the figures only covering 2021 to July.
Prospect union general secretary Mike Clancy said: “Lack of government investment has already caused passport chaos, with many families facing huge uncertainty about whether they will get away for a break this summer. Now we find out that the privatized delivery service is losing passports at a record rate too.
“It’s time for the Government to actually invest in public servants rather than threatening massive, damaging cuts to the civil service.”
These findings come as as Boris Johnson threatened to “privatise the a ***” out of the Passport Office because of the delays to applications. But many critics have pointed out some of the problems are due to TNT, the courier service awarded a £ 77million, three-year deal in July 2019 – with the company’s contract due to run out in the summer.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The passport crisis is a total scandal. Families are missing out on hard-earned breaks and losing thousands in canceled holidays, all because of Home Office ministers’ incompetence.
“Delays in decisions and problems with deliveries are causing a total nightmare for families who have been really looking forward to a first holiday away after Covid.
“Boris Johnson may have threatened to privatise the Passport Office but as the Mirror’s data makes clear, it’s the private contracts that are causing some of the worst problems. Ministers need to get a grip of the TNT contract and sort out the delays before more families lose out. “
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “The sheer number of passports going astray during delivery simply isn’t good enough. The Home Office is presiding over a sloppy shop. It’s high time ministers get a grip of this mess and step in to save the summer holidays for people left waiting on passports that’ll never arrive. “
A spokeswoman for FedEx, which owns TNT, said: “Last year, when Covid-19 restrictions eased, we saw a significant increase in items being delivered through our dedicated HMPO (Passport Office) network. on service levels, which were restored after taking a number of operational actions.
“Since December 2021, we have been operating successfully within the service level requirements agreed with HMPO and we continue to stay focused on providing a reliable service for our customers.”
A Passport Office spokesman said: “Between January 1 and July 31 2021 HM Passport Office sent over 3.3 million items to its customers. While regrettable, less than 0.04% of those were reported as having been lost during delivery, and many of those items have been subsequently recovered.
“The safety of our customers’ personal data is of paramount importance and every attempt is made to recover lost or mis-delivered documents. Once reported, passports are canceled on the system immediately in order to mitigate against the risk of misuse and we continue to work with our delivery partner to develop measures to reduce the number of losses overall. “
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