One thing that moved faster this week than the queues at Petty
France was the buck, as it passed between the Passport Agency, the Home
Office and Siemens, which installed the much-maligned new system. Media
reporting reached a crescendo with stories of potentially ruined
holidays, honeymoons and school trips and the finger of blame was most
frequently pointed at the Passport Agency and its management.
The Government’s handling of the fiasco was also found wanting, however,
as Mike O’Brien, the minister responsible for immigration, accused
holidaymakers of panicking.
Jack Straw apologised to passport applicants and announced free two-year
extensions to ease the queues, but endured a fierce mauling by Shadow
Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe.
Mohammed al-Fayed’s well-timed offer of refreshments for would-be
travellers completed the Government’s embarrassment. With the backlog
unlikely to be cleared before October, this story could run and run.
Evaluation supplied by Echo Research. Cuttings supplied by Broadcast
Monitoring Company. This article can also be found at