"Too often today, people are ready to tell us, 'this is not possible; that is not possible'. I say, whatever the true interest of our country calls for, is always possible!"
- Enoch Powell.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
BRITISH PASSPORTS TO BE MADE ABROAD
BRITISH passports are to be printed in Malta by a firm being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office which could be French-owned within weeks.
The new firm is charging taxpayers £100million more than a rival Greater Manchester-based company, which has made our passports for the past 40 years. The change, agreed by Labour but backed by the Government, could cost 100 UK jobs.
Anger was mounting last night, with one MP demanding the £400million passport contract be offered out to tender again.
The troubled UK firm De La Rue which won the contract, is now the subject of a possible takeover bid by French-owned firm Oberthur. Shares in De La Rue, which makes banknotes for the Bank of England and 150 other countries, tumbled by a third last year after its production problems were revealed, leading its chief executive to resign, but rocketed by over 25 per cent last week with news of a takeover. Meanwhile, bosses at 3M Security Printing in Oldham, the firm that has printed British passports for decades, have told the Government they can make them over the next 10 years for £100million less than De La Rue.
“It is not a sum to be sniffed at,” said Labour MP Michael Meacher, MP for Oldham West and Royston.
“It is not far short of one per cent of the entire spending cuts that the Government hopes to make in this fiscal year.”
Mr Meacher also fears that apart from the security risks of allowing another country to print British passports, De La Rue may not be able to fulfil the deal.
“De La Rue’s chief executive resigned in June following production issues at its banknote plant, which involved its employees falsifying documents. The Serious Fraud Office is investigating. An inquiry also took place in 2007 and the company faced accusations of fraud in Kenya and price-fixing in the U.S"
It is believed one in every five of the six million new passports needed each year will be printed by De La Rue in Malta.
Union bosses are furious. “It is unthinkable that our passports and other identification systems could be produced outside of the UK,” said Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite.
It has since emerged that Gill Rider, 54, a leading member of the Cabinet Office and one of Gordon Brown’s senior mandarins, was a non-executive director of De La Rue on £43,000 a year when bidding for the deal began. De La Rue declined to comment last night.