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Home Office apologises for passport scandal

15 March 2012

The Home Office has written to Equity President Malcolm Sinclair apologising for the member of staff who ruled that "acting was not a proper job". The scandal was sparked when West End actor Michael Sheldon (pictured left), currently in Three Days in May at Trafalgar Studios, provided a passport reference for his daughter’s boyfriend. The application was turned down for two reasons, one of which was that acting did not appear on the list of “type of person that would be suitable” to provide a reference.

Malcom Sinclair wrote to Teresa May, Home Secretary, expressing concern at the passport office's view of acting.

Alan Brown, Deputy Director of Policy at the Passport Service, has now expressed his regret for what had happened. In a letter to Malcom he wrote: "I share fully your concern about the remark made on the status of acting as a suitable occupation for passport purposes. That is both inappropriate and inaccurate. Please accept my apologies for the offence this has caused." He pledged to update the passport application web site and review training for staff and ended his letter: "I hope that you will appreciate the actions that I am taking as a reflection of the seriousness we attach to this matter."

Such was the outrage at the passport office's apparent dismissal of acting that it was raised in Parliament. On 15 March Kelvin Hopkins, Labour MP for Luton North, asked for a debate on the value of acting. "Equity member Michael Sheldon recently provided a reference for a passport application for his daughter’s boyfriend, but the application was turned down because the passport office apparently said that acting was 'not a proper job'. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the massive contribution to our economy, and to the world of culture and entertainment, made by the many fine and great actors produced by Britain", he asked. Leader of the House Sir George Young responded: "Acting is a proper job, and many Members in the House prove that on a day-to-day basis. I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s concern to the attention of the Home Secretary, who will be at this Dispatch Box on Monday. I pay tribute to the acting profession, which is an important invisible earner of foreign exchange. This country leads the world in providing high-quality actors, and, indeed, some of them have been Members of this House"

Interviewed in The Stage before the Home Office apology arrived, Michael Sheldon said that he thought the rejection was "staggering and something I felt I had to challenge". He added: "Unless we are told otherwise, we must take it that the views of a clerk in the passport office represent those of the government. If it is the government's opinion that 'acting is not a proper job' then I think they should come out with it."

Equity has never heard of anything like this before and in his letter to Teresa May, Malcolm Sinclair expressed the feeling of outrage that actors have at this rejection. Malcolm said to The Stage: "For those of us who earn our living as actors, and who pay our taxes and whose contribution to the crea­tive industries make them second only to the financial services as generators of much-needed growth, to be told in no uncertain terms that what we do is "not a proper job" is simply unacceptable."

You can download a copy of the Home Office letter from this web site.

HOW THE MEDIA REPORTED THIS

TAX CREDITS FOR TV PRODUCTIONS CONFIRMED IN BUDGET
THE STAGE
Tax breaks for TV drama production are to be introduced, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced during his budget speech today.
http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/35630/tax-credits-for-tv-productions-confirmed-in#

EXCLUSIVE: OUTRAGE AS PASSPORT OFFICE SAYS ‘ACTING IS NOT A PROPER JOB’
THE STAGE
Equity president Malcolm Sinclair has written to home secretary Theresa May to complain after a West End performer’s reference for a passport application was rejected because “acting was not a proper job”.
http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/35412/exclusive-outrage-as-passport-office-sayshttp://www.thestage.co.uk/

ACTING 'NOT A PROPER JOB' SAYS PASSPORT OFFICE
DAILY TELEGRAPH
An investigation has been launched after passport office staff deemed that acting was ''not a proper job''.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9116749/Acting-not-a-proper-job-says-Passport-Office.html

SEVEN DAYS ON STAGE: RYLANCE, DJALILI AND BRAFF ARE IN, BUT GARETH GATES IS OUT
GUARDIAN
The West End welcomes Zach Braff and awaits Mark Rylance and Omid Djalili, but Pop Idol star won't be joining them as Hair tour is pulled; meanwhile, the passport office insults actors
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/mar/02/seven-days-stage-rylance-djalili-braff?newsfeed=true

ROW OVER ACTING 'NOT A PROPER JOB'
PRESS ASSOCIATION
An investigation has been launched after passport office staff deemed that acting was "not a proper job".
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5iePjiJYYmUCSGAkOEZJXW9Xx7Dog?docId=N0851961330612391630A
 
ROW OVER ACTING 'NOT A PROPER JOB'
BELFAST TELEGRAPH
An investigation has been launched after passport office staff deemed that acting was "not a proper job".
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/offbeat/row-over-acting-not-a-proper-job-16124861.html

ACTING NOT A PROPER JOB, SAY PASSPORT OFFICE
IMDB NEWS
An actor has been left outraged after passport office staff told him that he did not have "a proper job".
http://www.imdb.com/news/ni23827587/

UK PASSPORT OFFICE CLAIMS ACTING IS ‘NOT A PROPER JOB’
DAILY ACTOR
I’m sure all the actors reading this have at one time or another received some sort of disparaging remark about acting not being a “real job,” especially early in one’s career.  But to get the same guff from the people issuing passports… and in the UK, home of Shakespeare?  That’s rough.
http://www.dailyactor.com/2012/03/uk-passport-office-claims-acting-is-not-a-proper-job/

ACTING NOT A PROPER JOB SAY PASSPORT OFFICE
YOU TUBE
An actor has been left outraged after passport office staff told him that he did not have "a proper job".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga9vsjdaK2s

THE LIFE OF AN ACTOR IS TO PRETEND THAT I HAVE A RESPECTABLE JOB
THE NATIONAL
It was the architect and philosopher Frank Lloyd Wright who famously said: "A professional is someone who does his best work when he feels least like working." His words have been much on my mind after noticing a headline in The Stage, the actors' weekly trade paper in the UK: Outrage as passport office says 'acting is not a proper job'.
http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/the-life-of-an-actor-is-to-pretend-that-i-have-a-respectable-job


 

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