Minister and DTI admit sex discrimination

Patricia Hewitt, the former trade and industry secretary, has admitted breaking the Sex Discrimination Act when she overruled advisers and appointed a woman to an influential job instead of a better-qualified male candidate.

Hewitt, now the health secretary, and the Department of Trade and Industry were taken to the High Court by Malcolm Hanney, after he was turned down for a £9,000-a-year position on the South West Regional Development Agency.

In August, before a court hearing, the DTI  admitted sexual discrimination. On September 27 the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court ruled that the Secretary of State should pay Mr Hanney’s legal costs of £17,967. It described the DTI’s action as “unlawful sex discrimination”.

Hanney, who used the Freedom of Information Act to access the notes taken at his interview which showed he was by far the strongest candidate, said that he had brought the case on principle and was not looking for compensation.

A spokesman for the DTI told the Times: “The DTI fully accepts the commissioner’s findings that we misunderstood certain provisions in the code. The permanent secretary has written to apologise to Mr Hanney. The department will pick up costs. Processes have changed to ensure this does not happen again.”

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