Plans to interview adult first-time passport applicants face-to-face have come under fire.
The location of 69 offices where interviews will take place has been announced by the newly created Identity and Passport Service (IPS), which includes the UK Passport Service.
But the Liberal Democrats have already criticised the plan, saying it will pose problems for people who live in remote areas.
Interviews and checks
The interviews, combined with detailed background checks, are designed to crack down on fraud. Only adults who’ve never held a British passport in their own name will be affected. It’s estimated that the figure will top 600,000 in the first year.
After making a written application, applicants will be invited to call the IPS to book an interview at one of the new offices. The interviews – due to last up to 20 minutes – will mainly consist of questions about the applicant’s background.
The IPS will offer appointments at the applicant’s chosen office within four days but those prepared to travel to another office with spare appointments might get a slot the next day. In ‘genuine emergencies’, limited-validity passports will be issued without an interview.
In remote communities where the travelling time to the nearest office would be more than an hour, officials will conduct the interview over a webcam link.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg said: ‘This new network poses a host of practical problems for the poor, the elderly and those who live in remote parts of the UK.
‘Arrangements for conducting interviews by video link do not address the basic problem that people in the Scottish islands and elsewhere will soon be required to attend registration centres a long way from home.’
The interview offices will be in: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Oban, Stirling, Wick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Carlisle, Dumfries, Galashiels, Kendal, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Northallerton, Armagh, Belfast, Coleraine, Omagh, Blackburn, Liverpool, Manchester, Wrexham, Hull, Leeds, Scarborough, Sheffield, York, Aberystwyth, Bristol, Cheltenham, Newport, Swansea, Swindon, Birmingham,Derby,Leicester, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Stoke-on-Trent, Warwick, Boston, Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Kings Lynn, Lincoln, Norwich, Peterborough, Barnstaple, Cambourne, Exeter, Plymouth, St Austell, Yeovil, Andover, Bournemouth, Newport, Isle of Wight, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading, Chelmsford, Crawley, Dover, Hastings, London, Luton, and Maidstone.