THERE are understandable reasons for the unprecedented demand on the passport office.

For the last two years, no one has been going abroad and so very few people applied for their passports to be renewed. This summer, and despite the chaos at some airports, there is the prospect of some holiday sun and so all those who should have renewed their passports over the last two years are suddenly putting in applications.

Across the country, several hundred new employees have been recruited to try and deal with the workload, but figures released by Labour this week – which the Home Office minister in yesterday’s Commons debate ducked addressing – suggest that 35,000 of the 250,000 weekly applications are not getting their passports turned around within the ten week target.

This is not acceptable, and now stories are emerging through Durham’s Labour MP about toxic working conditions in the town’s passport office which are also not acceptable. Bullying and abuse, be it from applicants or from managers, has no place in modern society and is to be deplored.

One of the oddest aspects of this story is that the Durham passport office seems to have refused the request from MP Mary Kelly Foy to visit the office, putting her off until later in the year and so after the summer holiday season.

The office is in her constituency, it employs her constituents, and it is doing public work in which there is a great deal of immediate public interest. The elected local representative has to be allowed to visit in such circumstances, and the managers must now be regretting the refusal as Ms Foy has since collected information through unfiltered social media.