Passport chaos: Tourism Minister Helen Grant risks backlash by suggesting 'staycations'

The Passport Office still has 30,000 documents to process

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The Independent Online

Conservative Tourism Minister Helen Grant risks facing a public backlash, after she suggested that people caught up in the passports row could instead consider spending their holidays in Britain.

Ms Grant said on Thursday that she was “confident” that the backlog of 30,000 passport applications would be dealt with before people planned to go abroad this summer, but added that there was “a lot to be said for the ‘staycation’”.

Asked about the situation in an interview with the House magazine, Ms Grant appeared to attempt to use the situation to promote her department.

"I'm in no doubt, I'm very confident that people will get their passports,” the Maidstone MP said.

"But if they don't want to go away, we have some fantastic places to visit and holiday not that far from here.

"I think there's a lot to be said for the 'staycation'. People need to do what they like," she said.

She went on to explain the benefits of staying in the UK this year.

"I think we are going to have a great summer, we are certainly going to have a great summer of sport too, there's lots of opportunities to build your holiday around a spoilt-for-choice list of events, the Tour de France Grand Depart, we've got the golf, we've got the Commonwealth Games, we've got football that we can watch on the TV.

“It's a wonderful place to have your holiday," she added.

Her comments come after it was revealed that the Passport Office is struggling to cope with an unusually large backlog of passport applications – forcing Home Secretary Theresa May to promise that “urgent” renewal applications will be fast-tracked free-of-charge.

The full scale of the pressure on the department was revealed yesterday to the home affairs select committee, when Paul Pugh, the chief executive of the Passport Office, apologised to applicants and said nearly 500,000 documents in total are still outstanding.

Additional reporting by PA