U.K. lawmakers called for the Passport Office to cut the cost of travel documents and to be brought back under direct ministerial control after the backlog of applications topped 500,000 this summer.

The price British citizens are being asked to pay is “too high” and the Passport Office is making “repeated, large surpluses” as a result, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee said in a report published in London today.

“The state should not be exploiting its own citizens by making a profit on what is a basic right,” the panel’s chairman, Keith Vaz from the opposition Labour Party, said in an e-mailed statement. “Chaos” at the Passport Office over the summer left British citizens unable to go on holiday and sick children unable to return home, he said.

Home Secretary Theresa May had to announce emergency measures in June to speed up the issuing of passports after a surge in demand. Her department blamed the improving economy for the delays, saying it had led to a rise in the number of people traveling abroad.

Vaz said there had been there had been “a complete management failure at the highest levels” of the Passport Office, an agency under May’s department that issues more than 5 million passports a year. The body “delivered a shamefully poor service” to Britons living abroad after responsibility for issuing them with passports was transferred from the Foreign Office, he said.

A U.K. passport costs 72.50 pounds ($118), with extra fees for processing more quickly than the standard three-week period. The Passport Office, which made a surplus of 124 million pounds over the past two years, should set costs “at a break-even point, either by reducing prices, or by devoting surplus revenue to measures designed to raise service standards by investing in the product and training people who deliver it,” Vaz’s panel said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eddie Buckle in London at ebuckle@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net. 

Tags: politics, uk
Photo Credit: Sign for the passport office in Durham, England. Neil Turner / Flickr