pounds 10 passport sweetener for travellers

THOUSANDS OF travellers who have been waiting for more than two weeks for their passports were told last night that they will not have to pay the pounds 10 "passport tax" if they collect the documents in person.

The Home Office announced it was waiving the charge for those who had been waiting for more than a fortnight as the Government battled to repair the damage to its reputation caused by the chaos at passport offices around the country. The collection charge has added insult to injury for hundreds of people who have been forced to queue for their passports to have any hope of going on holiday on time.

The move to waive the fee was ordered by Jack Straw after the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, faced calls at question time in the Commons from Sir George Young, the shadow Leader of the House, for the "passport tax" to be scrapped.

"We were already looking at this and the Passport Agency said they could do it," said a Whitehall source. "Most of the fees have been waived anyway."

Underlining the Government's determination to get a grip on the passport backlog, the Home Secretary last night vetoed plans by 45 Passport Agency staff to take part in a sports day events tomorrow. "It's disappointing for them, but we have to draw the line," said a source.

Travellers who choose to collect their passports in person will still face a pounds 10 processing charge on top of the pounds 21 passport fee if they ordered their passports within the past fortnight. But the limited waiver will apply to those who have been caught in the processing chaos caused by problems with a new computer system, and unexpectedly high demand made worse by new requirements for children to have their own passports.

The backlog of applications waiting to be processed has soared from 60,824 in January to 565,536 last week. Mr Straw offered an apology on Tuesday to those who had been left waiting for their passports, but in a fighting performance at the dispatch box, Mr Prescott, standing in for Tony Blair who was at the Belfast peace talks, mounted a defence of the Government.

He told MPs he had been assured that by 11.30am yesterday all the queues of people waiting in person for passports at passport offices had been "cleared completely". And he dismissed suggestions by the Home Office minister Mike O'Brien on Tuesday that the jobs of the Home Office team were "on the line" over the chaos. Mr O'Brien had said: "I think all of our jobs are on the line. It includes mine, it includes the Home Secretary, it includes every member of this Government."

But in an effort to end the impression of crisis, Mr Prescott said: "Nobody's on the line." And he claimed that the latest checks showed the backlog was dropping with more staff working overtime to reduce the delays. He said the reason for children's passports being introduced was to curb child abductions.

The Home Secretary admitted that the service would not be back to normal before October - and even this deadline would depend on a predicted big drop in passport applications "at some stage next month".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'