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Travel agents accused of shilling for ID cards

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Lobby group NO2ID has told the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) to stop acting as a propagandist for the government's doomed ID card project.

Sean Tipton, senior spokesman for ABTA, has been quoted in various publications banging the drum for the card that no one wants. Tipton claimed the card would encourage people to book cross-channel ferries because it would provide an easier and cheaper form of ID than a passport.

Guy Herbert, general secretary of NO2ID, said ABTA was embarrassing its members.

In an open letter to chief exec of ABTA Mark Tanzer, Herbert said the organisation seemed to believe the card was some sort of replacement for the old visitor's passport rather than a bureaucratic and expensive burden on the citizen.

Herbert explained:

Anyone registering for an ID card will be fingerprinted (at their own additional expense) and placed on an official database for life. They will acquire onerous duties to inform the authorities of changes in their personal circumstances, will face severe financial penalties for failures to comply with the associated bureaucracy, and be signing a blank check for future charges... What will your members’ customers think of a travel agent who urges them to do something like that in order to get on a ferry?

I hope that ABTA is aware that, as part of ‘voluntary’ enrolment, from 2011 the IPS plans to require passport applicants to join the ID database (or they won’t get a passport). You ought to be, since the impact of that on the travel industry can only be entirely negative.

The letter concluded by saying the card scheme was already bad for the traveller and would soon be bad for the travel industry too.

We rang ABTA for a response and was told the association stands by its remarks and had no further comment to make. It said no members had complained. ®

Bootnote

The government while not exactly sticking up for ABTA, did take issue with No2ID. “It is wrong to suggest there is an additional expense for undergoing biometric enrolment. The entire process, from application to card delivery, is included in the £30 charge.

He also insisted that the cost of an ID card "compares favourably with the £77.50 cost of a passport.”

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