Holiday Britons will take a little bit of home along

AS ALL seasoned holidaymakers know, sunshine is never guaranteed no matter how inviting an exotic destination might appear in a travel brochure.

But sun-seekers who fear their well-earned break might coincide with a rare heatwave at home can take comfort from the design of the new UK passport.

Unveiled yesterday, it contains dozens of images depicting "typical British weather" to remind holidaymakers that England's green and pleasant land is green for a reason.

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Judging by the passport's 28 pages, the outlook is predominantly cloudy. Only four of the pages show the sun in a cloudless sky.

The clouds appear alongside lightning, a compass, sundials, narrow boats and windmills in a series of images designed to enhance security.

The passport features pictures of some of the UK's most famous landmarks, including the White Cliffs of Dover, the Gower Peninsula in Wales, Ben Nevis in Scotland and the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Weather patterns, isobars and thermometers are depicted inside, along with intricate images of Blenheim Palace Gardens, a beach hut and the Dorset coast – all spread across two pages to make them harder to forge.

But the Yorkshire Dales and other beauty spots in the region are notable by their absence, and images of urban Britain are nowhere to be seen.

The chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), Sarah Rapson, said: "What we're not trying to do is represent every single aspect of Britain today.

"We've deliberately chosen scenic Britain, the images you're seeing are representative of that aspect of Britain.

"Through its combination of physical and electronic security features, the UK passport remains one of the most secure and trusted documents in the world, meeting rigorous international standards.

"The new design is part of our strategy to stay ahead of criminals who look to fraudulently alter or copy passports."

The makeover comes as part of a 400m 10-year contract with De La Rue, which will start producing the new passports in October.

The passport-holder's identity pages have been moved to the front of the book, in common with many European countries and the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Pakistan.

Photographs of the passport holder appear twice, with the main photo-page covered in a transparent film containing several layers of holograms.

Two birds, a tern and a fulmar, fly over a composite image of the White Cliffs of Dover merging into the outline of the UK on the same double-page spread.

Among other changes, the electronic chip, which holds personal details, will be hidden inside the passport cover, making it harder to replace or alter without causing obvious damage.

Security measures came under scrutiny earlier this year when the head of Interpol, Ronald Noble, said passport fraud by terrorists, traffickers and other criminals was the world's largest travel threat.

Mr Noble said there were half a billion international air arrivals in 2009 where travel documents were not compared against Interpol databases.

In February, fake British passports were used by the alleged killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency promised to investigate how passports bearing the names of six British-Israelis were linked to the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

The new passport will replace the e-passport, which was introduced in 2006. An adult passport will cost 77.50, the same as it does now, and a child passport 49.

The IPS said 25m e-passports were currently in use, of which 5.35m were issued during the last financial year.

History of permissions with a royal precedent

The first official UK passport was issued in 1915, but the custom of seeking permission to travel abroad goes back to the 14th century.

In 1378, a handwritten Royal Licence was issued to John Swan, vicar of St Paul's, Malmesbury, enabling him to go to Rome.

During the reign of King Henry V in the 15th century, notes promising "safe conduct" were issued to anyone wanting to travel abroad, asking permission for the holder to travel freely.

A signature from the monarch was no longer needed from 1794, when the Secretary of State began issuing travel documents, and a further change in 1880 meant permission was restricted to UK nationals only.

The first official passport, priced at six pence, was a one-page document folded into eight with a cardboard cover.