Among the French civil service there is no debate about ‘the lowest tender’ only absolute conviction that French passports are printed in France.
And this afternoon a chorus of voices in Britain backed the French model – agreeing that passports WERE a matter of national security.
Fury was sparked after it emerged the British passport, which will return to its old dark-blue colour after Brexit, will be manufactured abroad AND IMPORTED when the current contract with UK-based De La Rue ends.
Brexiteers argue the snub, in favour of Franco-Dutch Gemalto, is a symbolic disaster, while De La Rue’s chief executive said it also threatened security.
Chief Executive Martin Sutherland said many other countries, including France, manufactured their own passports on their own soil for reasons of safety.
Cheaper contracts could result in cheaper, more vulnerable passports, which are more at risk of counterfeiting allowing dangerous individuals to move in and out of the country unmonitored.
He said the decision to grant the contract to Gemalto was an example of penny-pinching at its worst – with British security paying the price.
Mr Sutherland said no expense should be spared when manufacturing passports due to the threat of counterfeiting and the resulting security issues that would present.
He blasted: “Many other countries in the EU don’t tender the passport contract. They see it as a matter of national security and they just give the contract to the Local supplier.
“We in the UK don’t see it that way, we think it would be better just to give it to the cheapest bidder.
“A passport is a very complicated, technical document, it has to be difficult to counterfeit and I wonder if just buying cheap is in the best national interest.”
He also said it was “disappointing and surprising” that “this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France”.
In response, the Home Office said: “The preferred bidder has been selected following a rigorous, fair and open competition and all bidders were notified of the outcome last night.
“The chosen company demonstrated that they will be best able to meet the needs of our passport service with a high quality and secure product at the best value for money for our customers and the taxpayer.”
Downing Street, too, responded to the warning, insisting the “fair and open” passport procurement process would be allowed to run its course, with Gemalto still to be officially confirmed.
A spokesman said: “We are still in the process of running a fair and open competition to ensure that the new contract delivers a high-quality product which offers the best value for money for the taxpayer.
“Our passports are routinely redesigned every five years and the terms of that have been transparent.”
The spokesman said he had “noted” what De La Rue’s chief executive had said. However when asked if that meant the Prime Minister could personally intervene, he said: “No, what it simply means is they have made comments this morning but I, at the moment, am restricted from commenting in detail on that.
“We are in the process of running a fair and open competition and that process is formally continuing.”
The process was “at the end stage” with a final outcome expected in weeks.
Source : EXPRESS