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Minister Helen Grant's own goal at World Cup after suggesting those suffering passport delays have a 'staycation'

A trouble-prone Kent MP has made another gaffe - by suggesting those hit by a massive backlog at the Passports Office should consider holidaying in Britain instead.

The pronouncement by tourism minister Helen Grant emerged as she watched England take on Uruguay in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The minister, who is also sports minister and Maidstone and Weald MP, sparked anger when she suggested the tens of thousands of people suffering delays and even missed holidays should consider a "staycation".

Helen Grant MP for Maidstone and the Weald
Helen Grant MP for Maidstone and the Weald

In an interview two weeks ago, she said she hoped the passport problems got sorted.

But she added: "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," she said.

It comes just days after Home Secretary Theresa May apologised to those whose travel plans have been disrupted by delays at the Passport Office.

A series of measures was announced to combat the backlog of around 30,000 passport applications.

But Mrs Grant was hit with a backlash from those suffering delays and opposition politicians, who claimed the MP should be prompting the Home Office into swift action.

One retired nurse who missed out on a cruise told a national newspaper Ms Grant's comments were "appalling".

Border workers claim they have been injured by leaning out of windows and scanning passports
Border workers claim they have been injured by leaning out of windows and scanning passports

She added: "She is not living in the real world. Ministers have no business telling me where I can take a break."

But the minister is no strange to controversy.

In February this year she sparked a huge backlash when she urged girls to take up "feminine" sports, such as cheerleading and ballet.

Her views were condemned for focussing on the looks of athletes and not their achievements.

And she was left red-faced in November last year when the sports minister, who claimed she had sport in her DNA when she got the job, spectacularly failed to get one question right in a sports quiz.

Now she may be forced to face tough questions again after her own goal during the World Cup.

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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