Lords seek rethink on UK passport contract

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Members of the House of Lords have called on the government to reconsider awarding a contract to print new blue UK passports to a Franco-Dutch firm.

Conservative peer Lord Naseby said it would have a major adverse effect on "the whole of British industry, and the British people as they face Brexit".

The burgundy passport, in use since 1988, will revert to its original blue and gold colour from October 2019.

Gemalto has won the contract ahead of the current UK producer De La Rue.

Lord Naseby said that he wanted an assurance that "nothing will be signed or sealed until the whole matter's been reviewed".

However, fellow Conservative Lord Courtown said that as a member of the European Union, the UK had to abide by procurement rules.

He denied that there were any security issue in awarding the £490m contract to Gemalto, adding that some 20% of blank passports were already manufactured overseas and would continue to be personalised in the UK.

Lord Courtown said that the decision would save the UK £120m over the course of the contract.

But Lord Forsyth, a Conservative former cabinet minister, said the government was taking an "extraordinary position" while Labour peer Lord Foulkes said the matter should be reviewed "in the name of not just security, but of national pride".

De La Rue, which has printed the burgundy version of the British passport since 2009, said that it been "undercut on price" by Gemalto.

The company's chief executive, Martin Sutherland, said that he would appeal against the decision.

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