This change follows the exceptional demand for passport applications and renewals earlier this year. In response the Home Secretary introduced a series of measures to ensure people were able to travel.
These actions have had a significant impact, reducing HMPO’s outstanding number of applications from a peak of nearly 550,000 in June to around 80,000 today. Recognising this is little comfort for those who experienced delays, the Home Secretary also commissioned two reviews to ensure HMPO is run as efficiently and accountably as possible and there could be no repeat problems.
As a result of these reviews, HMPO will cease to be an Executive Agency from 1 October 2014. The post of Chief Executive will be abolished and replaced by a Director General for HMPO to reflect the changes to the organisation.
Current Chief Executive, Paul Pugh, will remain in post until his successor has been appointed.
As with the abolition of the UK Border Agency, this will bring HMPO back into the Home Office and will make it directly accountable to Ministers.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
On 12 June 2014 I informed the House that I had asked the Permanent Secretary, to conduct a review to consider whether HMPO’s agency status should be removed. I have considered the review and relevant Cabinet Office guidance and decided that it should be brought into the Home Office and report directly to Ministers.
As the events of the summer showed, it is essential that HMPO is run as efficiently as possible and is as accountable as possible. 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.
The contingency measures announced by the Home Secretary on 12 June 2014 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. Comprehensive proof of parent / guardian status still had to be provided to ensure child protection.
This measure has been successful in helping families who needed to travel but had been experiencing passport delays. Now that the performance of HMPO has improved and demand for emergency travel documents has fallen to around seven a week, the process will return to normal.
This means that from 1 October emergency travel documents will only be issued on urgent and compassionate grounds and child passport applications will be dealt with by HMPO staff in the UK. Should there be any delay due to HMPO, British diplomatic posts will be able to issue emergency travel documents free of charge where there is a need to travel within the next seven days.
The other provisions - allowing British nationals overseas seeking to renew a passport to apply for it to be extended for 12 months and free upgrades for domestic applicants who have an urgent need to travel within the next seven days, whose application has been delayed through no fault of their own – will continue but remain under review.