The voices of more than 300,000 Daily Mail readers were heard in Downing Street yesterday as the newspaper presented its post-Brexit passports petition to No 10.
Several MPs joined a team of Mail reporters to present a petition of 318,727 signatures demanding a U-turn on the decision to give the contract for the new blue passports to a foreign company.
The Mail’s petition attracted more than 100,000 signatures in the 36 hours following its launch less than two weeks ago, with the tally continuing to soar as readers registered their opposition to the controversial Home Office move.
Andrew Brigden MP, Nigel Evans MP, Andrew Rosindell MP, David Churchill Daily Mail reporter and Eleanor Hayward and Number 10 Downing Street
The petition remains open to sign, despite yesterday afternoon’s handover at the front door of No 10.
MPs Nigel Evans, Andrew Rosindell and Andrew Bridgen, who also attended the handover, said it showed there was strong support for a re-think on handing the contract to Franco-Dutch firm Gemalto.
Critics believe the Government should have chosen Gemalto’s British rival De La Rue as its preferred bidder.
Last night, Mr Rosindell said: ‘The British people voted to leave the EU on the understanding we were going to get back control and one of the things we should be controlling is our British passports.
‘We should have the gold standard of British passports. As far as I’m concerned, it can’t be that unless it’s manufactured here in the UK.
‘The Government needs to change this pretty quickly because most people out there don’t understand why this has been allowed to happen.’
He added: ‘The Daily Mail are always ahead of the game on these things and they know that the British people are utterly dismayed about this and they want to see the passport made in Britain.
‘Congratulations to the Daily Mail for leading this campaign and to all the readers that have taken part and made this possible. I hope the Prime Minister and the Government will now review this and change the policy.’
The handover of the petition comes after revelations about flawed ID cards supplied by Gemalto. It was revealed to have supplied Estonia with as many as 750,000 ID cards with security flaws.
And yesterday the Mail revealed how experts believe the company could be linked to millions of cards vulnerable to cloning and identity theft issued across Europe. The cards were said to contain chips and software sourced by Gemalto from a German firm.
British bidder De La Rue, which has been making the current passports since 2009, believes it came out ahead of its foreign rival on both quality and security – and was undercut only on price.
Over 300,000 people have now signed the Daily Mail’s petition
It is preparing to take the Home Office to court over the decision and has a deadline of April 17 to lodge a challenge after the deadline was extended.
Mr Bridgen said: ‘It’s a huge petition in a very short amount of time. Theresa May, the Government and the Home Office in particular, would do very well to take this strength of feeling into consideration. It’s clearly an issue very close to the hearts of the British people. These are major concerns, especially when you look at the Estonian security issue.’
Mr Evans said: ‘It’s common sense to make and produce the British passport in the United Kingdom.
‘I hope the Government will listen to what Daily Mail readers are saying and what the general public are saying.
‘They are saying it is rather odd that the French seem to be proud of their passports being produced in France, the Germans are proud that the German passport is produced in Germany, and yet anyone can produce ours.
‘I am a free trader, the people who sign this petition of course believe in free trade. But we also believe in equality of opportunity.
‘And security issues need to be addressed. There was already this problem in Estonia and clearly we could have a similar problem here.’
Critics have pointed out that the Gemalto bid saves only £10million a year, the equivalent of just six-and-a-half hours of UK foreign aid spending.
De La Rue has questioned whether Gemalto’s bid is ‘sustainable’ after suggesting it bid below cost price.
Estonia’s president from 2006 to 2016, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, warned the British government – exclusively in the Mail yesterday – to approach the deal with caution after accusing Gemalto of ‘irresponsible’ behaviour by failing to notify his country about flaws in ID cards.
He said that in February last year a vulnerability in the chips of their cards was discovered, but that they did not find out until August, when they were told by a Czech research group rather than Gemalto.
De La Rue has held the contract, now valued at £490million, for producing British passports since 2009 and makes around eight million a year.
Up to 200 jobs are at risk at its factory in Gateshead. But the Home Office says the outsourcing move would save up to £120million over 11-and-a-half years. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘I welcome the Government’s decision to give more time for this and I hope the outcome of that will be that the contract goes to De La Rue.’
Former international development secretary Priti Patel said of the petition: ‘I am delighted to see the support it has received from the British public who clearly agree that the decision making associated with this contract has been woeful.’
Last night the Mail’s petition soared past 320,000. Conservative peer Lord Naseby said: ‘I think the Daily Mail and its readers have done the nation a great service.’
He said more than 300,000 had signed up on their ‘on their own accord’ and millions more ‘think the same way’. Labour MP John Mann said: ‘Thank you to all the readers who have spoken out.
‘It should be British jobs for British workers. It is totally absurd that our passports would be made abroad. What next? Someone will suggest the Russians should be making them for us.’
A Gemalto spokesman said it had ‘actively worked and supported the Estonian authorities to develop and implement a remedy to the said threat to the Estonian e-ID card’. He pointed out the threat ‘never materialised, not even for a single card’ and added that ‘all e-passports provided by Gemalto around the world are immune to this vulnerability’.
The Mail also delivered its petition to the Home Office’s headquarters in London, addressing it to Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
If you want to sign our petition please click here www.dailymail.co.uk/passports.