A North East MP has told of ‘toxic working cultures’, ‘bullying tactics’ and a staff member who ‘contemplated suicide’ at Durham passport office amid a backlog of applications.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Mary Kelly Foy, MP for City of Durham recalled damning stories from inside HMPO (Her Majesty’s Passport Office) Durham and slammed the Government’s ‘failure’ to deal with an increasing number of passport applications.

Yesterday, she raised concerns after revealing she was refused a permit to visit the passport office to discuss issues with staff and was told that any visit must be delayed until later in the year.

Following a call out to staff on social media, Ms Foy says she was ‘blown away by the accounts’ she received and branded the responses ‘stark reading’.

She told the House of Commons: “Staff morale is understandably at an all-time low. Covid outbreaks have led to staff shortages, yet staff are under pressure to return to office working, including bullying tactics from senior officials and poor communication from management.

“Disturbingly, staff have told me they’re too afraid to speak out about their working conditions for fear of disciplinary action.

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“Staff are subject to verbal abuse from the public and have shockingly witnessed an attempt to self-harm by an applicant desperate to receive their passport.

“Tragically, one member of staff’s mental well-being has been impacted so severely that that they told me they had contemplated suicide.”

“After reading these emails I am starting to think I know why HMPO didn’t want me to visit.”

The Labour MP was speaking in the House of Commons during an opposition day debate on passport backlogs on Tuesday lunchtime.

She added: “My constituents who work for the Passport Office deserve better and so does everyone in Durham who is anxiously awaiting passports.”

One whistle-blower condemned management as “firefighting all the time, with no visible strategy for tackling problems”

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Yesterday it was revealed by The Mirror that 1.4% of the 250,000 weekly passport applications are taking longer than the 10-week target to deal with applications set by the Home Office.

On May 25 Boris Johnson claimed during Prime Ministers Questions that to the best of his knowledge, ‘everybody is getting their passport within four to six weeks’.

The Northern Echo has contacted the Home Office for a response.


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