UP TO 70 jobs could be created at a factory in Fareham after the Home Office announced a new company would take over the manufacturing of passports.
Franco-Dutch firm Gemalto, which has its headquarters in Amsterdam, emerged as the frontrunner in the race to be awarded the £490m passport contract but the company has not yet confirmed it is the winning bidder.
A spokesperson for Gemalto said: ‘As the process is still ongoing and the terms of engagement are confidential, we cannot make any further comment on it at this stage.’
It follows ministers coming under fire after reports emerged that the travel document would be manufactured in France but the Home Office defended the selection of a Franco-Dutch firm to make the new post-Brexit blue passport, saying the choice would save taxpayers about £120 million.
In December the government announced that the UK passport would change from the standard EU burgundy colour to a blue and gold design and has been billed as a return to the ‘iconic’ original appearance of the British passport, with the colour first used in 1921.
At the time the move was announced, Theresa May said the document was an ‘expression of our independence and sovereignty’.
But on Thursday the PM faced calls to explain to British workers why the passport appeared set to be made on the continent.
In a statement, 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.
‘It’s been the case since 2009 that we do not require passports to be manufactured in the UK.
‘A proportion of passports have been made overseas since then with up to 20% of blank passport books currently produced in Europe with no security or operational concerns.’
According to the department, the preferred bid will save the taxpayer approximately £120 million during the lifetime of the eleven-and-a-half year contract.
While the blank books may be manufactured overseas, passport holders’ personal details and pictures will be added in the UK.
Jobs are also to be created at the firm’s other factory in Heywood, Greater Manchester.
Current provider De La Rue said it was considering appealing against the decision.