Grant suggests holidaying at home

Halstead Gazette: Tourism minister Helen Grant said there were some "fantastic places to visit" in the UK as thousands wait for their new passports Tourism minister Helen Grant said there were some "fantastic places to visit" in the UK as thousands wait for their new passports

Tourism minister Helen Grant has risked the wrath of people caught up in the passports row by suggesting they consider holidaying in Britain.

Ms Grant said she was "confident" that a backlog of up to 30,000 applications would be cleared in time for families to go away.

But she added that there was a "lot to be said for the 'staycation'".

Earlier this week Home Secretary Theresa May issued an apology to people whose travel plans had been disrupted by the delays.

HM Passport Office says it has been dealing with the highest demand in 12 years, with the summer surge in applications starting earlier than usual.

Asked about the situation in an interview with the House magazine, Tory MP Ms Grant said: "I'm in no doubt, I'm very confident that people will get their passports.

"But if they don't want to go away, we have some fantastic places to visit and holiday not that far from here.

"I think there's a lot to be said for the 'staycation'. People need to do what they like.

"I think we are going to have a great summer, we are certainly going to have a great summer of sport too, there's lots of opportunities to build your holiday around a spoilt-for-choice list of events, the Tour de France Grand Depart, we've got the golf, we've got the Commonwealth Games, we've got football that we can watch on the TV.

"It's a wonderful place to have your holiday."

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "It is always a matter for individuals and individual families where they may choose to take a holiday.

"The Prime Minister himself and his family, of course, have often holidayed in the UK. But the decisions individual families take are up to them."

Ms Grant is at the World Cup in Brazil in her other capacity as sports minister, and is due to watch England take on Uruguay in Sao Paulo tonight.

She was embarrassed soon after being appointed when she fluffed every question in a sports quiz, failing to name the FA Cup winners or the current Wimbledon women's champion.

The Maidstone MP also came in for criticism recently after suggesting British girls might want to take up "feminine" activities such as cheerleading and ballet.

Frustrated Britons caught up in the passport debacle branded Mrs Grant's comments "appalling" and said she was "not living in the real world".

Retired nurse Eileen Shepherd, 68, had to miss out on a £1,750 cruise around the British Isles after running into she was told the day before she was due to set sail that her passport was not ready.

The pensioner, from Darlington, County Durham, said: "How dare she tell us where to go on holiday? Cheeky sod. I think people will be gunning for her. That comment is not helpful and not what we expect from elected personnel.

"She is not living in the real world with people like us.

"It is appalling. I've worked all my life and saved all my life to be able to go on one big holiday a year and I was robbed of that chance."

Ms Shepherd said her 12-day cruise around the coast of Britain was "in a sense a staycation", but it still required all passengers to have a passport.

"Ministers have no business telling me where I can take a break", she said. "Does she get quizzed about where she goes on holiday?"

Martin Cook, 43, from Ipswich, endured delays getting his passport and only finally got it the day before he flew out to Prague for a weekend away with his wife Annabel last month, despite submitting his application four weeks earlier.

The BT project manager said of Ms Grant: "Her comments are laughable. It is ludicrous.

"It is not her place to tell people where to holiday. If somebody has made their plans and put their passport application in in good time they should be able to travel where they like. It is a basic liberty."

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: "Helen Grant was crystal clear that she was confident that people would get their passports to be able to travel overseas.

"As tourism minister it is completely right that she champions the domestic tourism market, but she was in no way linking the two issues."

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