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118,000 join passport battle to STOP British passports being made abroad

The loss of UK jobs caused by the decision to make the new blue passports abroad is a betrayal of Brexit voters, it has been claimed

More than 118,000 readers have already signed the Daily Mail’s petition demanding Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports be made in the UK.

The huge response piled pressure on ministers and led to calls last night for a Parliamentary debate.

The tally surged to six figures within 36 hours of the petition’s launch on Saturday, and last night passed the 118,000 mark.

It calls on ministers to think again after awarding the passport production contract to Franco-Dutch firm Gemalto, which will take over from British producer De La Rue – which has a printing plant in Gateshead – in 2019.

Last night there was praise for this newspaper’s army of patriotic readers who have already signed up, and calls for a debate before the Government finalises the deal.

Labour MP and former minister John Spellar said the strength of support for the Mail’s petition showed why the Speaker should hold a Commons debate. ‘It is a hugely important issue,’ he said. ‘Ministers should come and explain why they are not backing British industry, and if they are claiming vast savings they should lay some figures before Parliament to justify that and not hide behind so-called commercial confidentiality.’

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: ‘This petition shows there’s obviously massive support for this. It is the ultimate symbol of nationality. A Prime Minister who was elected on a slogan of Brexit means Brexit needs to show she means it.

‘It’s a completely outrageous idea that they should be printed in France. No other country in Europe would do this.

‘A full debate needs to happen in Parliament before we issue the contract to a foreign company.’

Furious peers have called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to rethink giving the lucrative contract to Gemalto

Furious peers have called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to rethink giving the lucrative contract to Gemalto

Gateshead Labour MP Ian Mearns said the decision was ‘inexplicable’, adding: ‘Ministers need to come and explain if they have done an assessment … of what the loss to the exchequer would be by this contract being awarded [abroad].’

Ministers face a week of grilling over the decision not to award the contract to a British firm after saying it was a result of EU competition rules. Labour MPs will today ask the Speaker to grant an urgent question so Home Secretary Amber Rudd or one of her junior ministers is summoned to the Commons to explain the choice of Gemalto.

Tomorrow, Theresa May is expected to be quizzed on the matter when she appears before the Commons liaison committee.

Then on Wednesday, Miss Rudd will be pressed on the issue at a session of the home affairs select committee before Mrs May faces MPs at PMQs. Parliament’s e-petition page states that once an issue has attracted 10,000 signatures, there will be a guaranteed Government response. Upon 100,000 signatures, the issue must be considered for a full debate in Parliament. Such petitions are almost always debated.

Our petition was launched on MailOnline after a deluge of calls and letters from readers.

Among the concerns they raised were that hundreds of jobs could be lost at the Gateshead site and that handing data on British citizens to a foreign firm could increase the risk of hackers successfully targeting sensitive information.

Others said producing the blue documents abroad made a mockery of Mrs May’s claim their re-introduction would be an ‘expression of our independence and sovereignty’ post-Brexit.

On Saturday, Unite union chief Len McCluskey branded ministers’ decision the ‘passport betrayal’, saying it was ‘not about red versus blue’ but ‘saving decent British jobs’. He added ministers should ‘back Britain’s workers and make our passports truly something to be proud of’. Tory MPs have made similar calls.

This is the Polish factory owned by Gemalto that could make Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports

This is the Polish factory owned by Gemalto that could make Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports

Several countries sidestep EU competition rules and insist on their passports being made at home for national security reasons. Germany, Spain, Italy and France all award contracts to domestic makers.

EU rules on public procurement were designed to obtain better value for taxpayers by ensuring public contracts above certain thresholds are awarded through ‘transparent, non-discriminatory and competitive tender procedures’. But countries can rely on a ‘national security’ exemption to justify directly awarding contracts.

Osborne dragged into row over blue passports 

George Osborne has been dragged into the row after it emerged a firm he works for owns part of Gemalto. 

He is paid £650,000 a year as an adviser to fund managing firm BlackRock, which has a 2.67 per cent stake in the Franco-Dutch firm.

Mr Osborne insisted attacking the outsourcing decision was ‘hypocrisy’.

 He tweeted a link to an Evening Standard article that said: ‘Surely this is exactly the kind of global free trade the Brexiteers told us they were all in favour of?’ 

There is no suggestion Mr Osborne or BlackRock were involved in Gemalto’s bid.