... but Marines stay men-only

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The Independent Online
The Royal Marines are to retain their men-only policy for frontline troops for the time being after an industrial tribunal upheld their right to turn down a job application from a woman chef.

But the tribunal asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the legitimacy of British law which allows the armed forces to reject women for some postings on the grounds that they may undermine "combat effectiveness".

Angela Sirdar, a former army cook, was turned down because catering staff in the marines are expected to operate as commandos and the marines argue that a woman could not fulfil that role. Ms Sirdar, 31, contended that the inter-operability principle was a fiction and that there were many marines who were not required to act as combat soldiers. The Equal Opportunities Commission, which backed her case, produced a male chef as a witness who was 20 stone in weight, who had failed eight physical examinations and who had been in the marines for 20 years.

However, the tribunal ruled against Ms Sirdar saying that cooks were indeed expected to retain a primary function as frontline troops. Only members of marine bands are exempted.

The European Court will be expected to decide on whether the "get-out" clause in British law, which allows the armed forces to reject women, should be repealed. The tribunal will then re-examine whether it was lawful to apply the principle of inter-operability to all chefs.

From today, a code of practice on pay issued by the Equal Opportunities Commission will be admissible as evidence in any proceedings under the Sex Discrimination Act. The code sets out methods which employers could use to review pay systems to ensure they are lawful and sets out means of identifying potential discrimination.