By Claire West

Criminals will find it easier to produce fraudulent passports if the government presses ahead with office closures in the Identity and Passport Service, the Public and Commercial Services union warns.

The union was reacting to the announcement that the passport office in Newport, South Wales, and the majority of its interview offices across the UK will close.

The Newport closure will mean the loss of 250 jobs, with devastating consequences for the local economy in what is a deprived area. The decision to shut 34 interview offices also puts scores more jobs at risk.

These offices - where first-time passport applicants go for interviews - were set up only a few years ago to prevent identity fraud and IPS has acknowledged they have successfully deterred fraudulent applications.

The union has pledged to campaign with politicians and in communities to save the offices, their members' jobs and the vital services they provide.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The Identity and Passport Service is playing fast and loose with the security of the British passport by putting cuts before the needs of the public.

"Not only will this increase the risk of fraud, the Newport closure represents an attack on an area of the UK economy that is crying out for investment not cuts.

"These closures will lead to mass job losses at a time of rising unemployment, and we will do everything we can to reverse this outrageous decision."