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New blue UK passports change affects price and lost its pride

Rayhan Ahmed Topader:

The passport manufacturer De La Rue is set to announce it will challenge the government over its decision to manufacture new blue British passports in France. The company will formally launch an appeal against the decision to award the £490m contract to the French-Dutch firm Gemalto on the grounds that it believes it had the best offer on quality and security, though not on price, according to the Financial Times. Gemalto has not yet been formally announced as the winning bidder, but the 10-day standstill period in the tender process the mandatory time between the contract being awarded and when it is formally signed with the successful supplier is believed to expire soon. The Home Office has previously said changing the contractor would save UK taxpayers £120m but the decision has been met with a storm of criticism from Brexit-backing MPs, as well as Labour and trade unions. Confirming that it was starting the process of challenging the Home Office, which awards the contract, De La Rue said in a statement: Based on our knowledge of the market, it’s our view that ours was the highest quality and technically most secure bid. While accepting that its tender represented a significant discount on the current price, the company said: We can accept that we weren’t the cheapest. Ministers said the tender process was a “rigorous, fair and open competition” and the new passport would be a high-quality and secure product at the best value for money for our customers and the taxpayer. Answering an urgent question in the Commons last month, the immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: The reality is that in a fair procurement process, we had to look at quality, security and price, and this was the contract that provided the best value on all counts. De La Rue’s chief executive, Martin Sutherland, has previously expressed outrage at the decision to award the contract to the rival firm, telling the BBC that Theresa May should “come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon”. Ken Clarke said: “Over the last few months, we have heard ministers happy to come on the media and talk about the new blue passport and the fact that it is an icon of British identity. But now this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France.The former international development secretary Priti Patel, a prominent Brexiter, said at the time of the reports that it was a humiliation that the passports would be made abroad, calling the decision simply astonishing Sir Bill Cash, the chairman of the Commons European scrutiny committee, said it was symbolically completely wrong.The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has also called for a rethink. Ministers have to understand that the cheapest is not necessarily the best,” she told the House of Commons last month. Trade unions have expressed concern about the awarding of the contract and the explanation of procurement rules. Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, said the government should not “attempt to hide behind EU procurement rules”, while the GMB union said ministers were “hiding behind bureaucracy instead of standing up for the security of this country and the security of the UK manufacturing sector”. The blue and gold passports will be issued from October 2019, when the £490m passport contract begins, to British nationals renewing or applying for a new passport. After the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, burgundy passports will continue to be issued but with no reference to the bloc. UK passports could lose up to nine months’ validity after rule change. British citizens renewing their passports will now face losing any remaining months left. Travellers who renew their passports face losing up to nine months’ validity due to a little-publicised change to rules brought in by the Home Office Up until last week, when British citizens renewed their passports, time remaining on the existing document was added to the new one up to a maximum of nine months. But passport applicants have been told this no longer applies and any remaining months will be lost if an attempt is made to renew the document early. The change was uncovered by the consumer affairs website Money Saving Expert after members of the public got in touch. The Home Office has been contacted for comment. It comes in the same week that the government released contingency advice for travelling to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Passports are valid for 10 years and currently cost £75.50 to renew online or £85 by post, with the fee increasing in March above the rate of inflation. The change in rules with regard to carrying over validity could lead to applicants renewing their passports as late as possible to eke out the validity. However, many countries do not allow visitors with less than six months on the passport. When Britain leaves the EU, Britons travelling to the continent will need at least three months’ validity on their passport. Martin Lewis, the founder of Money Saving Expert, said: This change affects price, because in effect passports will now only last nine and a half years. But it also runs the risk of more people being sent home, ruining holidays and putting many people in a worrying situation. Also, because of the timing which effectively means this shortening will take place over the Brexit period, it’s likely we’ll see an even bigger build-up of demand before next summer, when there are already long waiting times. The government published advice for travelling to the EU on a UK passport in the event of a no-deal Brexit, in which it recommended renewing a passport if it is to be older than nine years and six months after 29 March 2019. A Home Office spokesman said: To meet international guidelines relating to maximum passport validity, Her Majesty’s Passport Office no longer carries over any validity from a previous passport. This will ensure that people travelling abroad will be compliant with border entry requirements around the world.                               Writer and Columnist                              raihan567@yahoo.com