THE Government must protect North-East jobs by choosing a British passport maker to provide post-Brexit travel permits, its boss has told The Northern Echo.

De La Rue is battling with two European rivals for a reported £490m contract to supply passports beyond 2019.

The Gateshead-based company has already made millions of UK travel documents, having supported the Passport Office for years, and says its expertise leaves it perfectly placed for further work.

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But it faces a fight with European competitors, believed to be from France and Germany, when the Government’s Home Office makes its decision early next year.

Campaigners have called for existing burgundy books to be scrapped in favour of a return to a dark blue passport, to reflect the country’s impending status outside the EU, and Martin Sutherland, De La Rue’s chief executive, previously told the Echo it would be keen to help with any changes.

Arguing the business’ case to retain its contract with the Government today (Tuesday, November 21), Mr Sutherland said such approval would secure scores of North-East jobs and pave the way for fresh investment in manufacturing equipment.

“We have submitted a bid and we are very hopeful that the Home Office will choose a British business and protect jobs in Gateshead, which is where we continue to produce passports,” he said.

“Should we win the contract, we would make quite a significant investment in terms of new equipment to go into Gateshead.”

Mr Sutherland was speaking after De La Rue, which employs hundreds of workers at its Gateshead factories and operates as an international currency maker with capacity to make millions of notes every day out of the North-East, revealed halfyear financial results for the period to September 30.

The firm, which previously refurbished a Gateshead banknote print line and has deals to produce plastic £5, £10 and £20 notes for the Bank of England at a sister Essex factory, saw revenue rise 29 per cent to £244.7m and adjusted operating profit increase 11 per cent to £26.6m.

The successes were helped by a strong performance in its currency business, which saw volumes of polymer, the substance used to make its plastic notes, rise 570 per cent to 400 tonnes.

“Gateshead is performing well, and these are a good set of results underpinned by our strong performance in currency,” Mr Sutherland told the Echo.

“A key growth area is polymer and the 400 tonnes in the first half is more than we did in the whole of the last year.

“We expect that to more than double in the whole year.”