Government challenged over passports backlog

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The number of passport applications waiting to be processed has increased since emergency measures were introduced to clear delays, Labour has claimed.

Last month the government announced extra staff to help process applications, extended passport office opening hours, and fast-track procedures for people with imminent travel plans, to help to clear the backlog which ministers say is caused by an unexpected surge in demand.

But shadow home affairs spokesman David Hanson said the number of "work in progress applications" had risen from 493,289 to 537,663 in the two weeks after the steps were announced.

Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said the Passport Office was experiencing a period of "exceptional" demand but insisted it is responding to the "challenge", during questions on 7 July 2014.

He said the Passport Office usually handles about 5.5 million applications per year and has already received about four million applications, and told MPs: "I think that gives some context as to the work that's involved..."

Home Secretary Theresa May has apologised for delays in processing passport applications and insisted the government is doing all it can to deal with the situation.

Ministers say the Passport Office is dealing with the highest demand for passports for 12 years.

Unions have blamed the backlogs on staff cuts over the past four years.

Paul Pugh, the head of the Passport Office, is being recalled by the Home Affairs Committee for a second round of questioning about delays in the handling of applications.

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