Ministers are seeking to make it harder for UK holidaymakers to make bogus food poisoning claims following complaints from travel industry bosses and Spanish hotels over a huge rise in false insurance claims. Ministers announce a crackdown on food poisoning: haven’t we heard that before?

The travel industry estimated holiday sickness claims had increased by 500% since 2013 – a rise not seen in other countries.

They warned that heavy pay-outs could lead to British tourists paying higher package holiday prices and being barred from some resorts. The government said it would reduce the cash incentives of bringing such cases against holiday firms.

Justice Secretary David Lidington said it wanted to limit the legal costs that travel firms had to pay out for holiday claims. “Our message to those who make false holiday sickness claims is clear – your actions are damaging and will not be tolerated,” Mr Lidington said. The government is closing a loophole that means legal costs are not currently capped on claims for foreign holidays. Travel trade organisation ABTA has called for the cap, saying last month the rise in bogus claims was “one of the biggest issues that has hit the travel industry for many years”.

The problem recently led Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to observe British digestive systems “had become the most delicate in the world”. When Boris is making jokes that are almost funny then you know things have got serious. The escalating problem of claims, according to one UK travel company boss, risked making British tourists the laughing stock of Europe because thousands of French, German, Danish etc. holidaymakers staying in the same hotels and dining in the same restaurants as British tourists, didn’t get as sick and as often as UK visitors. We are world-beaters again.

The dilemma for hotels and restaurants is of course that the cost of challenging these claims in the courts is so high yet the sums involved are relatively modest. So most hotels and their insurance firms have simply paid out. That ends up with higher premiums for everyone else.

UK holidaymakers who are found guilty of making a fraudulent claim face up to three years in jail, the Ministry of Justice said. We all know too well that the threat of prosecution isn’t the best deterrent not least because of the historical lack of appetite by insurers to escalate fraud cases.

Thomas Cook UK’s managing director Chris Mottershead said: “It has the potential of putting hoteliers out of business. They will stop British customers coming into their hotels” and he warned that if the problem continued, it could spell the end of the all-inclusive holiday for UK travellers. So every cloud has a silver lining?

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