On Thursday in the House of Commons Tim Loughton, the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham raised a point of order that was clearly very concerning. It relates to the way in which MPs and Ministers can obtain their passports from the Portcullis House which is just next door to the Westminster Building and it is where many MPs have their offices. The person who responded was Rosie Winterton who is the Deputy Speaker and also the Labour MP for Doncaster Central. She indicated that this needs to be made clear to the Ministers. Along with the rule breaking from the Ministers is of course the fact that people outside of Parliament are facing many more challenges when they need to obtain their passports which is a theme that also needs to be addressed by the Government. However back to the question and response which is below and it can be obtained from here on line.
Tim Loughton: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that you, like all other colleagues, have staff spending a lot of time in the special queue for the very welcome passport facility in Portcullis House. However, one of my staff recently spent more than two and a half hours in that queue, and yesterday a member of my staff was turned away because there were not enough staff there to deal with the queries, which is unfortunate. This is taking up an awful lot of our office time at the moment.
Hon. Members are, quite rightly, able to go to the front of the queue if they have an urgent case to deal with themselves. However, I gather that a particular complaint has been that hon. and right hon. Members have regularly been going to the front of the queue with an office staff member and then going away, leaving that staff member to deal with the query. That is not the procedure that I gather was agreed, and it is very unfair on the rest of us, whose staff are spending a lot of time there, only to fall further down the queue because other hon. Members are frankly gaming the system. What advice can you give, Madam Deputy Speaker, to make sure that everybody is following the spirit of the rules as well as the rules themselves?
Rosie Winterton: I thank the hon. Member for his point of order and for notice of it. I have been to the passport office in Portcullis House in person—I do not have staff members going; I go myself—and I think the staff there are doing a marvellous job in assisting hon. and right hon. Members with their queries. I am sure the hon. Member will understand that the operation of the service is a matter for the Home Office. However, the House will have heard his concerns, and I very much hope that those on the Treasury Bench will report them back as quickly as possible. Perhaps Members could be contacted to explain exactly how the system should work, and what is and is not acceptable, because we obviously must not put pressure on the officials working there. It is for Members to take the responsibility.