New UK Passport under fire for lack of women

It is a badge of identity which seeks to celebrate some of the best-known cultural figures and landmarks in British life.

Sunday, 8th November 2015, 5:00 am
New UK passport criticised

But an overhaul of the traditional passport has been attacked by critics who accuse the UK Government of sexism.

The revamped document, which will be rolled out to citizens later this year, is designed to trumpet the achievements of artists, writers, and scientists down the centuries. The row has overshadowed what was intended as a feelgood redesign of the passport to coincide with tougher security measures, which include advances in the use of UV and infrared light, inks and watermarks.

It is the accompanying illustrations, however, that have animated some members of the public.

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Equalities activists point that out of the nine historical figures, just two are women – architect Elisabeth Scott and mathematician Ada Lovelace – prompting allegations of sexism.

Labour’s shadow employment secretary Emily Thornberry said: “This is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women as well.”

She added: “We have had this fight about bank notes and now it’s about passports. I just feel as though we are here all over again.”

Asked about the selection process for the figures included in the new document, Mark Thomson, director general of the Passport Office, said he felt the choices offered a “good representative view” highlighting icons such as Scott alongside the likes of Shakespeare and Constable.

“Whenever we do these things there is always someone who wants their favourite rock band or icon in the book,” he added. “We’ve got 16 pages, a very finite space.”

There have also been criticisms raised in Scotland, as no Scots feature on the list chosen by the passport office.

Stewart Stevenson, the SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan coast, tweeted that the “new UK passport design seems to omit Scotland and Scots”.

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