The Home Office has issued a tender for the design and production of the new British passports, worth £490m, with expiry of the current contract due in 2019.
The tender is for the design, print, assembly and personalisation of the UK passport and its variants, along with other secure travel documents and emergency travel documents on behalf of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). Closing date for applications is 24 April.
De La Rue’s Identity Solutions division currently holds the contract for passport printing, which was worth £400m when issued in 2009. At the time of award, its previous contractor 3M considered legal action over a potential conflict of interest with one of De La Rue’s board members.
A spokesman for 3M said the business is no longer in the security printing business any more and would not be applying for tender.
De La Rue, which declined to comment, has a long history of passport production and calls itself the world’s largest commercial passport manufacturer, supplying international ID to more than 40 countries. It printed 14 million passports in 2015/2016.
Six candidates are envisaged to apply for the tender, which is set to last for 10 years with potential for an 18-month extension. The estimated £490m value is based on current unit prices and excludes VAT.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK passport is routinely redesigned every five years to guard against counterfeiting. We are launching the procurement process now to ensure there is sufficient time to produce and design UK passports from 2019 when the current contract ends.
“The timing of any potential changes to the passport after the UK has left the European Union has not been set.”
It is rumoured that the new UK passport may return to its previous blue colour, as the current contract runs out the year Britain is set to exit the EU.
The Home Office issues over 6 million passports annually and is the only provider of passports to British citizens living anywhere globally.
Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford and a prominent supporter of Brexit, told the Press Association that the burgundy passport had been a source of “national humiliation”.
“The restoration of our own British passport is a clear statement to the world that Britain is back,” he said.