THIS is how spit happens--Y2K, anyone? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Please bear in mind the following came about because a new, Y2K-ready system was installed in TWO regional pp offices last fall. Previous related articles are at the site--you have to subscribe but it's free and I've never had any spam or other problems from doing so (2-3 years).

ISSUE 1503, Wednesday 7 July 1999

Passports crisis seen months ago, By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor

MPs leaked Home Office line

MINISTERS and senior Home Office officials saw the passport crisis looming but hoped that they could get away without any emergency measures, the department's senior civil servant said yesterday.

David Omand, the permanent secretary, said that he and the immigration minister, Mike O'Brien, had been "following the figures on the graph with anxiety for many months". They knew that it would be "touch and go" to get through the summer, but had underestimated the exceptional demand.

Mr Omand presented his analysis - unusually frank for a senior Whitehall mandarin - as he faced the Commons home affairs committee to explain what he admitted had been "a set of disasters" in recent weeks. It has also placed Mr O'Brien, described by Mr Omand as "the supervising minister", looking vulnerable with a Government reshuffle imminent. He has acknowledged that his job is on the line unless matters improve.

In the Commons last week Mr O'Brien defended his handling of the crisis. He said he had become aware of the situation in "late March" and had authorised the recruitment of extra staff. But questions will be asked why more effective measures, backed by an advertising campaign, were not introduced then.

Although the semi-autonomous Passport Agency manages the system, the Home Office has overall policy control. Mr Omand said he was "not sure" whether it would have been reasonable to suggest emergency measures three months ago. But a combination of events had drawn the agency into a "vicious spiral" as people, aware that there was a problem, applied early for their passports and increased pressure on the system.

The Labour MP David Winnick said: "So the public are a bit of a nuisance, then?" Mr Omand replied: "Not at all. This is not the fault of the public, but if you lose the public's confidence, you are in trouble. Certainly, there was inadequate planning but I think the management of the Passport Agency has actually been very good; they have just been overwhelmed by the volume of applications. What we can all now see is that the seasonal demand for passports this year was running ahead of the previous two years. We have not pinned down why that is."

He suggested that higher consumer confidence and affluence had led many more people to book holidays late, only to find that they needed to renew their passports. Mr Omand said the Passport Agency was now on course to reduce turn-round times from around 40 working days to 10 by September.

But he said: "I am not the chief executive of the Passport Agency and therefore I am not accountable for its performance. So it would be wrong for me to give you a guarantee."

The latest figures for applications shows a slight fall in the backlog from 565,000 to 527,000 at the end of June.

ISSUE 1500, Sunday 4 July 1999

Minister admits passport chaos blunder By David Bamber, Home Affairs Correspondent

THE Government has had to admit that children's passports carry no protection against them being abducted in the course of a marital breakdown despite the fact that this was the reason for making youngsters have their own permits.

The revelation will infuriate the 500,000 people still waiting to get a passport. This week they were told that the huge delays were caused by the introduction of the new system of children's passports for those under 16 to protect them from being taken abroad against the will of the courts. Mike O'Brien, the Home Office immigration minister, said: "One of the main aims of this policy is to make child abductions more difficult."

But The Telegraph has discovered that the system is redundant because the Home Office has failed to ensure that children's passports will be endorsed with relevant court orders warning that they must not be taken out of the country. This means that even if a court has specifically ordered that a child should not travel abroad, customs and immigration officials would not be able to tell by looking at a passport.

Mr O'Brien admitted the major flaw in a parliamentary written answer. He said: "No steps have yet been taken in respect of the endorsement of children's passports. This important issue will be looked at by the Parent and Carer Child Abduction Co-ordinating Group of officials in the light of arrangements for embarkation controls."

David Lidington, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, condemned the failure of the Government to mark passports with relevant court orders. He said: "Last week the Government announced it would allow passports, including those of adults with children on them, to be renewed for up to two years at a Post Office. This must make one question just how firmly the Government really believes separate child passports are really necessary to prevent abductions."

He said that many youngsters grow so rapidly that children aged two often bear little resemblance to themselves six months later, rendering passport photographs useless. The Government has also admitted that more than 40 per cent of the passports of people who leave the country are not checked anyway, so detecting child abduction would, in practice, be even more difficult.

And despite the fact that more than 900,000 children's passports have been issued over the past few months, netting the Passport Agency more than #100 million in revenue, the Home Office has confirmed that not a single child abduction is known to have been prevented so far. Last night a spokesman said it was "too early" to say whether the number of child abductions had fallen since the passports were introduced.

The Home Office's failure to endorse children's passports with court orders banning them from leaving the country will increase the pressure on Mr O'Brien. After weeks of claiming that nothing was wrong with the Passport Agency's service and that 99.9 per cent of travel dates were being met, last week Mr O'Brien had to apologise to the House of Commons and admit that his job was on the line.

Last week there were huge queues outside passport offices and the Government has been forced to announce that it will pay compensation to people who lose their holidays as a result of the chaos.

-- Old Git (, July 07, 1999


Not to mention that a hundred years ago most of these businesses didn't exist but apparently our ancestors still survived. Due, no doubt, to their own self-sufficiency.

-- at work (, July 07, 1999.

Sorry, I answered in the wrong thread.

-- at work (, July 07, 1999.

That's alright, you're statement could apply to just about any of the threads.

-- Will continue (, July 07, 1999.

lies, spin, lies, spun, lies, CYA, lies, not "reasonable" to suggest emergency measures three months before known failure of system, lies, flubs, fibs, lies, total incompetence, lies, ppl fury, lies, maybe burrowrat job on line, more lies, blunder, muddle, over 500,000 still waiting, lies, costing govt $$$$$$$$$$$$$$, lies, turns out whole reason is fabrication to spin more $$ into corrupt lying incompetent govt dept, lies, spin, lies, bureaucratease, lies, no accountability, lies, lies, lies

par for the course, biz as usual, gov as usual, until 1/1/2000

xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxx

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, July 07, 1999.

A & L,

I was going to make some comments myself, but you covered every area that I was thinking about. :-) Thanks Old Git, sometimes we need to be reminded of the truth about how our "civil servants" actually do their jobs. While the story is English, the basic plot applies to virually every bureaucracy anywhere.

-- Gordon (, July 07, 1999.

Bureaucracy in action.

...if you lose the public's confidence, you are in trouble.

Yep. Lessons learned. Or not.


-- Diane J. Squire (, July 07, 1999.

Westergaard had a recent article on this subject. The gist of that article was that the problem was probably not directly Y2K-related, but reflected the extremely poor legislative judgment which required a major overhaul of an agency's procedures at the same time it should be concentrating its resources on preparing for Y2K. Similar to how converting to the EURO will have slowed Europe's y2K conversion, and why the IRS has been fighting (unsuccessfully, I believe) recent changes in its code.

-- Brooks (, July 07, 1999.

One of the reports said the biggest lines were at the two offices where the new computers had been installed in October, I think it was. See:

-- Old Git (, July 07, 1999.

I agree!

Oops, wrong forum...

-- Randolph (, July 07, 1999.

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