Lords urge rethink on giving UK passport contract to French firm

Lords are demanding a rethink on awarding the contract for the new blue British passports to a Franco-Dutch firm
Lords are demanding a rethink on awarding the contract for the new blue British passports to a Franco-Dutch firm
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National pride should force a Government rethink over its decision to choose a Franco-Dutch firm to make post-Brexit blue British passports, peers have heard.

Security concerns were also raised in the Lords after it emerged Gemalto, which has its headquarters in Amsterdam and is listed on the French and Dutch stock exchanges, is the frontrunner for the new contract.

The Government claims the new contract will save £120 million during the lifetime of the 11-and-a-half year contract. British-based De La Rue is the existing provider.

Labour’s Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, speaking during a private notice question on the issue today, said: “On both sides of this House, there is a desire that this ought to be reviewed – in the name not just of security, but of national pride.”

Conservative Lord Naseby said the Government should realise the possible decision would have a “huge adverse effect on the whole of British industry and the British people as they face Brexit” as he called for a review.

He suggested the extra cost under the UK bid would amount to 63p per passport produced, which the Lords heard was reported would cost £540m compared with the Franco-Dutch £490m offer.

Conservative former cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean bemoaned the decision to give preference to a state company over a firm that has to make a profit and employs people in the UK.

He said: “Surely that is an extraordinary position for a Conservative Government to take.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokeswoman Baroness Ludford said the “farce of the Blue passports continues”.

The Earl of Courtown, speaking for the Government, said: “This is a good contract, it will save the taxpayer money and with all these contracts they do have to go out through a commercial process – and in this case, there will be jobs created in this country over this new contract.”

He also earlier said: “As far as the security issue is concerned, under this new contract all passports will continue to be personalised with the passport holder’s personal details - such as name and photograph - in the United Kingdom.

“This will ensure no personal data will leave the United Kingdom.”

READ MORE: Post-Brexit passports ‘to be made in France’