Irvine in firing line on sex equality

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LORD Irvine of Lairg was last night put in the firing line again after a leak of a Cabinet minute blamed the controversial Lord Chancellor for wrecking the Government's plans for a Scottish Parliament comprising roughly equal numbers of male and female members.

Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, won the backing of Harriet Harman, and David Blunkett to change the Sex Discrimination Act to allow positive discrimination for women in the selection of Labour candidates for the Scottish Parliament. But Lord Irvine wrote to Tony Blair last week saying "I concluded that the meeting had decided in the light of the legal advice not to accept Donald's proposals".

The leaking of the minute will be seen as a revenge attack on Lord Irvine, by one of his many enemies. Lord Irvine, who has crossed swords before with Mr Dewar over Scottish devolution, has seen his support in the Cabinet plummet over his handling of the pounds 650,000 refurbishment to his state apartment in the House of Lords.