Poor old Mr Pugh of the Passport Office (£104,000pa), he got dressed down to his underwear by Keith Vaz who wanted him to apologise and mean it. Vaz is always inviting officials to “say sorry” and the only pleasure is in seeing the words stick in their collective bureaucratic craw. Perhaps it’s a childhood sense of honour on their part because sorry they’re not.
“We understand the anger. We sympathise with it. We fully recognise the impact when we fail to provide what the public wants. Where we have failed to meet our service standards, that is obviously not the best use of resources.” On they go.
But Vaz has 14 different ways of telling them to apologise and the easiest approach is to get it over with: “I am extremely sorry, and I offer my personal apology to anyone who’s been inconvenienced/bereaved/beheaded by Islamists/embarrassed in front of their neighbours as a consequence of my organisation’s performance.”
What does that cost? It’s not an admission of liability, it’s an apology.
Back to poor old Mr Pugh who seems to have been there in the office personally processing applications 18 hours a day. But even he failed to answer the emergency hot line when Mr Vaz rang it. Keith Vaz had to ring the Home Secretary herself to get his constituent’s passport issued. Vaz, personally, you understand.
The PM has said there is a backlog of 30,000 passports waiting to be processed. But Mr Pugh doesn’t have a backlog, he has “work in progress”. Mr Pugh’s work in progress numbers 480,000. There may be something there for Edward the Unready tomorrow at PMQs.
Whence this crisis? They closed down all the overseas passport offices and that’s meant an extra 400,000 applications dealt with in the UK.
Without that extra load, delays would just be a periodic inconvenience.
Mind you, they did give the Treasury £70m last year as a result of Mr Pugh’s prudence, thrift and/or penny-pinching.
It would be worth the best part of a billion, if floated. And then who’d be apologising to whom?