DELAYS in processing passport applications could continue over the summer and may not improve before the end of the year, MPs heard.

More than 550,000 passports were waiting to be dealt with at the end of June and it is still taking around 10 weeks to process 10 per cent (around 55,000) of applications instead of the standard three weeks, the Commons Home Affairs Committee was told.

Newport's Passport Office is one of the locations where applications are processed, and long queues outside the city centre building earlier in the summer.

HM Passport Office director Thomas Greig said turnaround times may not return to normal for another “few months”, leaving some travellers facing the prospect of long waits for identity documents continuing over the summer.

When asked by MPs on Wednesday when the situation could change, and if the wait time would return to three weeks by the end of the year, Mr Greig said: “I don’t think I can guarantee that.”

But he also stressed demand for passports had fallen “significantly” in the last few weeks.

Committee chairman Dame Diana Johnson said it was “completely unacceptable” that people were struggling to get their passports, adding: “This is not rocket science … It just seems to me this is a complete failure if you were looking at this from last July, and we’re still now, 12 months on, with all these people not being able to get their passports. Why is that? Why have you failed so miserably?”

Travel journalist Simon Calder told MPs that in the 21st century it was “extremely regrettable” that people cannot “event get as far as the airport”.

More staff have been hired and the department has “produced more passports than we ever have”, Mr Greig said.

In a typical year, the passport office deals with around seven million applications, but is expected to process a record 9.5 million in 2022.

Around 250,000 passports are processed per week, with five million dealt with so far this year – which is more than the entire amount handled in 2021, Mr Greig said.

MPs, who also raised concerns about long waits for helpline calls to be answered, heard part of the passport office’s service was suspended during the heatwave earlier this week.

Ms Johnson blasted contractors Teleperformance for failing to appear in front of the committee for questioning.

The company, which operates a helpline for the Passport Office, had been issued with financial penalties in the region of the “high hundreds of thousands” of pounds over its performance, Mr Greig said.