I often thought that the statistic of passport ownership in the US was an interesting one. I though things like “Unlike us in the UK, maybe they don’t have the requirement to travel to other countries when there is such diversity right there in their own country”… (I also laughed when I heard things like World Series but that’s another story)
According to a 2008 State data report, about 28 percent of the U.S. population has a passport, with 85.5 million U.S. passports in circulation as of February 2008. It’s $165 for a passport book and card according to The Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Now compare this to Britain and a Q&A on bbc.co.uk about Identity Cards sited 80% of the UK population own a passport (in 2009). The Office for National Statistics estimated the UK population to be 61,792,000 therefore there are around 49,433,600 passports out to UK Nationals.
Which brings me to my gripe. Today, whilst choosing somewhere hot and, well hot for a family vacation, I remembered that my passport was run out. I had to start the renewal process for my passport.
This is a little red-ish/purple-ish (I guess that makes it burgundy?) book that sits safely in a building for all but 2 or if I’m really lucky, 4 weeks in a year had done its time. Pages stamped with Praha, Quintana Roo, Hewanorra et al. that brought back some happy and some hazy memories, were about to be phased out. (Incidentally, I have look after multiple passports, as I’m the dad in the family and as such, anything involving passports is multiplied)
So, off I go. Renewing a passport is easier now than 10 years ago it seem, so there was no standing in line at the Post Office as you can ‘begin’ the renewal process online . That’s about the only good news though in this passport renewal saga.
My gripe mostly comes down to how much this thing costs! For the privilege of having to have a passport to travel, be that a renewal or your first adult passport, you will be charged the princely sum of £77.50. This will get you a standard 30 page passport. If you want to step up to a jumbo passport due to travelling more then you can get the Jumbo 48-page passport for just £90.50. The full table of costs can be seen here
So, along with hefty summer flight costs, baggage allowances, Pound v Euro etc. I have an extra cost for new documents. Over £200 extra cost. This really yanked my chain. What does this £77.50 go to? I thought I’d call the Identity & passport Service (IPS) to find out. Firstly, I pressed ‘1’ to enquire about fees. This took me to a long automated response about everything that I could already read on their website, then hung up on me. Classic. So I dialled back pressed a few other buttons and got through to a queue, which then gave me the option of a callback instead of waiting. That’s where I am now as of 19:23.
Anyway, my question and reason for this post is to ask, is £77.50 good value for a passport? Does a passport even offer any value? If I’m forced by the government to have one, shouldn’t it be provided for me or is the £77.50 actually a subsidised cost?!
If we roll back to the figures at the start of this post, then the IPS charges about 49,433,600 x £77.50 (flexibility for child passports at £49 and Jumbo at £90.50).
Three Billion, Eight Hundred and Thirty One Million, One hundred and Four Thousand Pounds.
As a comparison for your interest (if you’re still following), the US figure comes out at $14,107,500,000/£8,606,690,681.47
It IS over 10 years though so lets cut is down some more.
Through writing this post I’ve gone from feeling ripped off, to thinking well it is £70 over 10 years so only £7 a year. Sounds like value like though in that time frame (although brings me back to can a passport HAVE value)
So now I really want to know from IPS where the cost of a passport goes to.
Feel free to chip in cause I bet they don’t call me back today.
FYI from DirectGov:
For help, call the IPS Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000.
The Adviceline is open:
– 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday
– 9.00 am to 5.30 pm weekends and public holidays
If my Gran needs a new passport though, its free. Result!