The Daily Mail’s petition demanding Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports be made in the UK raced past the 150,000 mark last night.
It came during a day of mounting pressure on ministers over the decision to hand the contract to a foreign company.
The tally means the equivalent of more than 2,000 people an hour have signed our petition – which last night stood at more than 153,000 – since its launch on Saturday.
It calls on ministers to think again after awarding the production contract to Franco-Dutch firm Gemalto, which will take over from British producer De La Rue in 2019.
The move puts the jobs of hundreds of workers at De La Rue’s Gateshead printing plant at risk. Yesterday home office minister Caroline Nokes and Theresa May were grilled by MPs in a heated debate in the Commons following an urgent question from a Labour MP.
The Daily Mail’s petition demanding Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports be made in the UK raced past the 150,000 mark last night
However, while many Labour politicians have backed the plan to keep producing the passports in Britain, former leader Tony Blair last night sneered at their ‘false patriotism’.
The Home Office says it will save £120million over the course of the contract by choosing Gemalto. But industry insiders believe the cost to taxpayers in lost tax revenues could be up to £36million.
This figure includes the loss if the De La Rue workers facing redundancy were unable to find new jobs. It is believed the knock-on effect could cost the economy in the North-East – a region with the highest unemployment rate in the country – millions more.
The Mail asked the Home Office if a fiscal impact assessment had taken place but a spokesman declined to answer. It is understood it could cost up to another £30million in ‘transition’ costs, as ‘dual operation’ takes place while production switches from one company to another.
Around 200 posts at the Gateshead plant are at risk and more jobs face the axe in De La Rue’s extended supply chain.
Sources said De La Rue – which holds the current £490million contract – bid millions less for the contract this time around after identifying where it could make efficiency savings. It puts Gemalto’s bid at as low as £320million. The source said industry figures were struggling to understand how the contract could be ‘commercially viable’ and deliver quality of service with such a low bid.
In the Commons yesterday shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the Government could not be ‘allowed to hide behind EU procurement rules’, adding ministers must ‘take responsibility for the potential fallout this may have on workers, their families, the community and their wider industrial strategy’.
Labour’s John Spellar demanded Mrs May perform a U-turn, saying she should follow the example of other governments who ‘look after their own industries’. Germany, France, and Spain all award passport contracts to domestic firms.
Tory MPs also criticised the Government’s decision.
An urgent question was raised by Labour’s Liz Twist – whose Blaydon constituency includes a De La Rue factory – in which she asked Miss Nokes about the security implications of a non-UK company making British passports. Miss Nokes said all passports will continue to have personal data added to them in the UK, saying ‘robust processes established over a number of years’ have determined that manufacturing passports overseas ‘presents no security concerns’.
She added there was ‘no place for sentimentalism’ when deciding contracts, saying: ‘I am as sorry as anybody that we do not have a British company at the top of this process, but the reality is that, as a minister, I have to reflect on value for money, quality and security.’
Mrs May vowed to press on with the plan to hand the passport contracts to Gemalto.
She told MPs she would not step in because her Government believed in ‘competition and open markets’, adding: ‘Those who say passports can only be produced in their own country would be denying De La Rue a significant amount of their business.’
Weighing in on the row last night, a sneering Mr Blair said it was a ‘perfectly formed example of how we have fallen as a nation into the vice of a false patriotism’.
‘We want to change them from magenta to blue and it appears that it is a Franco-Dutch company which has won the contract for the new passports. Outrage. A “national humiliation” one Brexiteer called it,’ he said, in a speech on Brexit delivered at Speaker’s House, Westminster.
‘The national humiliation is not that we have chosen a foreign company over a British one.
‘The national humiliation is we think the colour of our passports defines our sense of nationhood.’
Mail petition: Give the contract for the UK’s new blue passport to a British firm
The Government has decided Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports should be made by a European company.
Now the Daily Mail and MailOnline are calling on ministers to put British workers first by reversing the decision and giving the contract to a British firm.
Simply enter your name, email address and home town into the form below to add YOUR voice – the total will be regularly refreshed so you can see how you’ve made a difference.
Be assured, your details will be kept confidential. If you can’t see the entry form details, simply copy and paste this address into your browser www.dailymail.co.uk/passports