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Labour in sex bias case

The first legal challenge has been launched against Labour's policy of reserving half of all its winnable parliamentary seats for women, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Peter Jepson, a 44-year-old Ph D student and part-time law lecturer, has lodged a sex discrimination claim with a London industrial tribunal. Labour's solicitors, Gregory, Rowcliffe and Milners, last night said the case will be "strenuously defended".

The move is likely to reopen deep Labour divisions over the policy, which was strongly opposed by Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley, the former leader and deputy leader.

Mr Jepson, who holds a master's degree in labour law and is studying race discrimination for his thesis, said: "It is very important that this whole issue is going to be tested."

While favouring more "positive action" to help women into Parliament, he claims his exclusion from the candidates list for the newly created Regent's Park and Kensington constituency is illegal under the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.

Mr Jepson is expected to represent himself in the case.