Friday, 23 March 2018

De la Rue? Gemalto? Blue passport? Who cares?


Yesterday evening I was called in precipitously to BBC Broadcasting House to be interviewed live on BBC TV News 24 Hours about the De La Rue/Gemalto controversy.

Martin Lloyd being interviewed by Ben Brown on BBC TV News 24 Hours.
The problem was that De la Rue had submitted a bid for the tender to print the next British (and blue) passport and had been outbid by a Franco-Dutch company called Gemalto. The latter had succeeded by the simple procedure of offering to do it for less money than the other bidders. De la Rue are incensed that the British passport should be manufactured abroad and I was called in to opine about it. Which I did.

I timidly suggest that this is how the business of tendering actually works. The bidder who can satisfy the requirements of the customer at the lowest price will win the contract; as would appear to be the case here. It is a little hypocritical of De la Rue to complain, given that when they won the contract to print the British blue passport in 1921, they did it by undercutting the current supplier, Harrisons & Co. Ironically, once they had the job they found that they could not fulfil it unless they ordered a Chambon roll (an expensive piece of printing equipment) from? Guess which country? Yes, France.

And this morning, BBC Tees. local radio, had me on just after their MP had been complaining that the British passport should be made here, in the De la Rue factory in his Gateshead constituency. A British passport should be made in Britain. I pointed out that De la Rue made passports for over forty foreign countries. Did he now want those countries to withdraw their custom from Gateshead and make their own passports?



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