Passport Row: Minister ‘Suggests Staycation’

Tourism minister Helen Grant has been branded “appalling” by people caught up in the passports row after she suggested they should consider holidaying in the UK.

Ms Grant – who has been in Brazil for the World Cup – said she was “confident” that delays would be sorted out in time for families to get away.

Home Secretary Theresa May this week apologised to people who have had their travel plans disrupted by the delays after pictures emerged of applications piling up in a passport office in Liverpool.

HM Passport Office says it has been dealing with the highest demand seen for 12 years after an earlier than usual start to the summer surge in applications.

Ms Grant told House magazine she was “in no doubt” that passports would be issued in time.

She said: “But if you don’t want to go away, we have some fantastic holidays here.

“I think there’s a lot to be said for the ‘staycation’. People need to do what they like.”

Ms Grant, who is also sports minister, added: “I think we are going to have a great summer, we are certainly going to have a great summer of sport too, there’s lots of opportunities to build your holiday around a spoilt-for-choice list of events, the Tour de France Grand Depart, we’ve got the golf, we’ve got the Commonwealth Games, we’ve got football that we can watch on the TV.

“It’s a wonderful place to have your holiday.”

Ms Grant tweeted photos of herself in Brazil – including with FA chief Greg Dyke – where she was in the stands for England’s 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday night.

Holidaymakerswho have faced an anxious wait for new passports because of the backlog accused the minister of “not living in the real world”.

Retired nurse Eileen Shepherd, 68, had to miss out on a 1,750 cruise around the British Isles after she was told the day before she was due to set sail that her passport was not ready.

The pensioner, from Darlington, County Durham, said: “How dare she tell us where to go on holiday? Cheeky sod. I think people will be gunning for her.

“That comment is not helpful and not what we expect from elected personnel.

“She is not living in the real world with people like us.

“It is appalling. I’ve worked all my life and saved all my life to be able to go on one big holiday a year and I was robbed of that chance.”

Martin Cook, 43, from Ipswich, endured delays getting his passport and only got it the day before he flew out to Prague for a weekend away with his wife Annabel last month, despite submitting his application four weeks earlier.

He said: “Her comments are laughable. It is ludicrous.

“It is not her place to tell people where to holiday. If somebody has made their plans and put their passport application in in good time they should be able to travel where they like. It is a basic liberty.”

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: “Helen Grant was crystal clear that she was confident that people would get their passports to be able to travel overseas.

“As tourism minister it is completely right that she champions the domestic tourism market, but she was in no way linking the two issues.”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “It is always a matter for individuals and individual families where they may choose to take a holiday.

“The Prime Minister himself and his family, of course, have often holidayed in the UK. But the decisions individual families take are up to them.”

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20 June 2014 | 9:07 am – Source:

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