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Passport decision unites Brexit sparring partners in opposition

Peers challenge the awarding of the contract pointing out that French passports are printed in France on grounds of national security.

A prominent Brexiteer and a vocal Remainer joined forces in the House of Lords to challenge the Government over the new post-Brexit blue passport being made in France.

Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth and Labour former minister Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, more used to sparring with each other over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, found common cause over the awarding of the contract to Franco-Dutch firm Gemalto rather than De La Rue’s Gateshead plant.

The peers used the making of regulations on passport fees to tackle the Government over the controversy.

Both pointed out that French passports were printed in France on grounds of national security.

However, Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford argued their queries were not linked to the order and it was not an opportunity to “stand up and ask random questions”.

At one point the chief whip told Lord Forsyth to “sit down”, while the two peers threatened to take the unusual step of forcing a vote.

Raising the passport controversy, Lord Foulkes suggested “it must be a great embarrassment” for the Government.

Baroness Williams said: “The question he asks has nothing to do with the order.

“This is not an opportunity for Lords to stand up and ask random questions.”

But pressing the minister, Lord Forsyth said: “What would the increase in fees be if our new passports were printed in the United Kingdom on the grounds of security and not in France where French passports are printed in France on grounds of national security?”

Told to sit down by the chief whip, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Lord Forsyth said: “As a member here we are being asked to approve these regulations and we are entitled to ask a question about it.

“I am asking a question about what the increase in fees would be if on national security grounds, which we would be entitled to do under the EU directive, these passports were printed in Britain?”

Lady Williams said: “We will have plenty of opportunity to discuss where the passports are printed, this was simply about fees.”

Lord Foulkes said: “For once I agree with Lord Forsyth. The Government of France insist that French passports are produced only in France for reasons of security.”

Lady Williams said: “I fully expect in due course that both Lords will try and secure a debate on this very matter.”

Lord Taylor said: “We seem to have got ourselves into a pretty pass about something the minister is not required to answer today.”

He also said a number of peers wanted to be in Westminster Hall for a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the terror attack, which left five people dead, including Pc Keith Palmer.

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