Dozens of Labour MPs gathered today (March 28) to show solidarity with De La Rue workers who face an uncertain future as the government prepares to award a £490m contract to produce the UK’s blue passports to a French competitor.
Using the passport photo-booth set up by Unite the Union at Parliament, MPs – including shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Laura Pidcock, Caroline Harris, and Liz Twist among others – took their passport picture to send to the Prime Minister to urge her to rethink her decision.
Trade union representatives from De La Rue travelled from Gateshead to join the MPs and brief them on the impact the government’s decision will have on jobs and the local economy.
Around 200 jobs are at risk but the union fears others will follow unless work is found for the plants which have produced the UK passport without a hitch for the past decade.
Unite has urged MPs not to be taken in by claims that the contract winner Gemalto will create significant numbers of UK jobs. The sites the company has in the UK are not expected to take on passport work, with the printing of the new blue document to be done in France.
At PMQs today (March 28), Labour MP Liz Twist, whose constituency Blaydon covers the De La Rue factory, demanded that the Prime Minister delay the final decision on the contract until after the Easter recess so that MPs can further debate the government’s decision-making.
Today’s meeting between MPs and De La Rue reps comes as passport fees yesterday (March 28) were hiked significantly – up 21 per cent for postal applications. Unite has argued that the passport fees hike – taken together with the fact that awarding the contract to Gemalto saves only about 60p per passport — does not compute with the government’s purported emphasis on ‘value for the taxpayer.’
“Theresa May has serious questions to answer about why a company 26 percent owned by the French state has won an important contract, putting 200 jobs immediately in danger and possibly many more,” said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
“This is not about whether our passports are red or blue. It is about defending UK jobs, industry and communities.”
Join Unite and the Daily Mirror’s campaign to keep British passport production in Britain by signing our petition here.