Passport Office hitting targets, insists May

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The government has rejected claims there is a problem with the passports applications system, after Labour suggested half a million people were affected by delays.

Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs that despite an "unprecedented" rise in passport applications at the beginning of the year the Passport Office was meeting its targets.

"We are still meeting the service standards of 97% of straightforward applications being returned within three weeks and 99% being returned within four weeks," she said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused Mrs May of being complacent, and described the situation as a "shambles", during resumed debate on the Queen's Speech on 10 June 2014.

Ms Cooper claimed people were having to pay to fast-track their applications or travel across the country to collect their passports in person.

Mrs May replied: "I have to say we are not complacent about this issue, we are continuing to look to see if there are further contingency measures that need to be put into place, should we see the significant increase in applications we have seen in the first few months of the year continue."

Keith Vaz, the Labour chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told MPs the head of the Passport Office had been called in for questioning.

Mr Vaz said he was concerned by reports that "80 members of staff have been moved off from passport fraud duties to help with the backlog", telling MPs: "That means they are not doing the very important work that they are required to do in checking fraud."

'Revenge porn'

The Queen's Speech, prepared by the government and announced last week, featured 11 bills and six carry-over bills from the previous parliamentary session.

There will be new court powers to combat human trafficking, in a Modern Slavery Bill, as well as tougher powers to seize the assets of crime bosses, tackle cyber crime and make possession of written paedophilia a criminal offence.

Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert called for new laws to punish people who release "revenge porn" designed to humiliate their ex-partners.

The Cambridge MP warned that the problem was getting worse and said he was "shocked" to discover there are no penalties tackling the issue.

"I don't often call for new criminal sanctions, it's not my natural style. But I think this is an area where we do need to make a criminal sanction available where people knowingly share indecent images such as this knowing that there would not have been consent," Mr Huppert argued.

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