Price of passports to rise by third after summer of chaos

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The Independent Online
PASSPORT PRICES will rise by one-third to pay for a major overhaul of the service in the wake of last summer's chaotic delays, Jack Straw announced yesterday.

The Home Secretary saidthat passport fees would increase by pounds 7 to pounds 28 for adults and by pounds 3.80 to pounds 14.80 for children from next week. The increases were the "minimum necessary" to push through essential improvements to the Passport Agency, he said.

But the Tories claimed Mr Straw had broken his promise that "ordinary applicants for British passports" would not have to pay for the "fiasco" at the Passport Agency during the summer. Mr Straw faced one of his biggest crises since becoming Home Secretary when thousands of people had to queue for hours because of serious problems with the agency's computer systems.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Straw said the increases would be used to fund a pounds 25m-a-year investment programme to speed up applications.

But Ann Widdecombe, the Tory home affairs spokeswoman, said the average family with two children would now have to pay pounds 85 for their passports. "Stop persecuting the ordinary applicant for a British passport," she said. "These announcements will do nothing other than convince the average applicant that the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge lives on."

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said travellers were being made to pay the price for Government "bungling", adding: "This is a Christmas present the British public do not deserve."

Parliament, page 8

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