Home secretary Theresa May (pictured) said in a statement published today that she had considered a review by Home Office permanent secretary Mark Sedwill into HMPO’s status, plus relevant Cabinet Office guidance, and “decided that it should be brought into the Home Office and report directly to ministers.”
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Home Affairs Select Committee called for the office to be scrapped and brought back into the Home Office.
The report criticised HMPO’s delay in processing almost 550,000 passport applications in June 2014, and raised concerns over “a complete management failure at the highest levels of the organisation.”
In her statement, May said that “as the events of the summer showed, it is essential that HMPO is run as efficiently as possible and is as accountable as possible.”
She added: “I also know that its hard-working staff are committed to delivering a high quality service to the public. I believe these changes will put them in a stronger position to do so.”
To reflect the changes, the post of chief executive will be scrapped. Pugh will remain in post until his successor is appointed, in a director general-level post.
May in June announced several “contingency measures” to deal with the backlog, which included enabling parents or guardians of children living overseas to apply for an emergency travel document in place of a new or renewed passport for their children, and allowing British nationals overseas seeking to renew a passport to apply for it to be extended for 12 months.
Civil service union PCS has welcomed the announcement but called for longer-term solutions to the problem.
Pointing out that the news emerged in a statement immediately before today’s Iraq air campaign debate, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Despite the cynical timing of the announcement, clearly designed to bury an awkward issue, we welcome this if it will mean we get the staff we need to provide a quality service under public control.
“Instead of the short term measures we've seen, we want to sit down and negotiate a long term solution to staffing to ensure the crisis we saw this summer is not repeated in future.”
See also: Passport Office chief exec accused of ‘complete management failure’