Security must be tightened up at all points during the printing supply chain of passports, warn personal identity specialists.

Following the theft of 3,000 passports from a delivery van in Manchester – worth an estimated £2.5 million – TSSI says that the measures adopted by the financial industry for moving cash should be adopted by sectors such as the printing industry and those who move valuable documents, such as credit cards and data disks.

In news reports, police said a non-armoured Citroen van was carrying 24 brown cardboard boxes of passports, although not all of the boxes were taken.

The stolen passports were destined for embassies abroad and were being taken from 3M Security Printing & Systems in Chadderton to RAF Northolt. A private company was carrying out the delivery on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

TSSI, which concentrates on document verification and identity systems, calls the theft the result of a basic security blunder, and recommends a close look at physical security.

Stewart Hefferman, chief operating officer, TSSI, said: “Passports are accepted as the standard worldwide for proof of identity. As such, blank passports have a value way beyond their material cost and should be secured at all points of the supply chain.

“Security is only as good as its weakest point. This is an example of a basic security blunder, yet the gut reaction to breaches such as this is to scrutinise the integrity of the documents themselves. But this fails to address the real issue. What is required is a back to basics approach to physical security.”