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Gold, incentives and meh

Can I claim a fee for passport red tape?

Q - The Passport Agency regularly asks me for written statements 'on company notepaper' to confirm my signature on application forms. Can I claim a fee for this, as it is quite time-consuming?

A - In the interests of security the Passport Agency, not unsurprisingly, writes to a proportion of those doctors and other persons who have countersigned passport applications asking them to confirm their details.

The Passport Office does not pay a fee to anyone who is asked to provide such confirmation, but no one is under any statutory obligation to respond to such requests, so GPs could, in theory, choose to ignore them.

But not replying would cause the application to be eventually rejected, and at the very least result in the applicant being asked to get another person to certify that they know him or her.

An application form does make it clear that GPs, or anyone else who countersigns them, may be contacted subsequently by the Passport Office to check the details.

Although the point may be arguable, it seems reasonable to proceed as if the original fee (if any) charged to the applicant does not simply cover the initial signing but also covers the cost of any subsequent, directly related action which may arise, such as identity checking.

Steve Ainsworth is a management consultant specialising in the NHS and general practice, and is a former FHSA director

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