Last week, I visited staff at the De La Rue factory in my constituency who currently work on the passport contract. They provide secure, quality-assured passports with great pride. Can the Minister tell the House and my constituents what assessment has been made of the security implications of the production of UK passports by a non-UK company, or their production outside the UK? What assessment has she made of the deliverability and reliability of Gemalto’s bid, which I understand was over £100 million less than other bids, in the light of the Government’s experience of Carillion’s failure? Why was it felt appropriate for the Prime Minister to open the new headquarters of Thales—the French security and defence company that has recently taken over Gemalto, one of the bidders for the passport contract—during the procurement process? The Government must provide clarity about whether the bid was discussed at all during the visit.
In responding to press inquiries about the contract, the Home Office has drip-fed information and referred consistently to price and best value. However, does the Minister agree that best value is about more than money? It is about having a secure and reliable passport system that works for the UK. There must be questions about how Gemalto can make a contract worth £390 million work. In fact, I understand that the bid from De La Rue was significantly less than the previous price, and that it operates a gain-share agreement whereby any excess profits are returned to the Home Office.