It has been extremely heartening to see the large numbers of people from the North East who have offered to open their homes to welcome families fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
Back in March, I spoke in a Westminster opposition day debate which had been called by the SNP specifically to discuss the growing Ukrainian refugee crisis. In what was a well-tempered debate, I drew Ministers’ attention to the delays in the Home Office when it came to issuing the documentation needed to allow Ukrainians to seek refuge in the UK
The Home Office is clearly a government department that, for some time, has not had its troubles to seek, whether in terms of its organisational capacity, its institutional culture or aspects of its political leadership. I make that as a simple observation, and not to be in any way critical of the thousands of dedicated staff within that organisation who are working night and day to achieve the best outcomes that they possibly can for people.
However, faced with the biggest enforced mass movement of people since World War II, I’m sorry to say that two months on even from that debate, the Home Office appears to be no further forward in eliminating the bottlenecks which have prevented Ukrainian refugees from finding sanctuary here. Meantime, my office staff have observed from our casework that other ‘business as usual’ visa applications have also slowed.
With summer approaching and after 2 years of pandemic and lockdown, this is the first time that many of us feel ready and able to travel overseas. So, it should not have come as a surprise that passport renewals and applications would rise at this point in the year, with many travelling for the first time since 2019. Regrettably, it appears the Passport Office was unsighted and unprepared on this.
In April, they increased the standard period to renew passports from 6 weeks to 10 weeks, something which wasn’t widely reported at the time. Nevertheless, I have heard from several constituents who applied for new passports in good time in March or February and booked holidays and travel well after the expected month and a half turnaround. However, their holiday, and all their costs, are now at risk because of the delays in processing applications at the Passport Office.
Sadly, the bureaucratic logjam in government doesn’t end there. For many months, DVLA has been the source of very many constituents’ complaints over delayed or cancelled applications and a lack of communication.
The issuing of driving licences, for those who are fit and eligible, should be a routine administrative transaction. However, the inability to get a driving licence to which someone is entitled, particularly in an area like ours, makes the difference in many cases between being able to work or not, or being able to travel or not. That’s why it matters that the UK Government gets this sorted out and does so quickly.
If you are affected by any of these issues, please contact my office and I will do all I can to help you with your specific case.