Search

Campaign for women gets a boost

PUBLISHED: 15:26 02 April 2008 | UPDATED: 08:54 13 July 2010

A campaign being fought by a North Walsham woman to scrap ancient rules forbidding women from becoming freemen of Norwich has received a boost after the government said the rules appeared to breach human rights legislation.

A campaign being fought by a North Walsham woman to scrap ancient rules forbidding women from becoming freemen of Norwich has received a boost after the government said the rules appeared to breach human rights legislation.

Sue Howes is fighting for a change in rules dating back to the 14th century so that she can inherit the title of freeman from her father Ron Marrison, 79, on his death.

Norwich City Council has previously said it is willing to change the rules, but that this was not legally possible.

But local government minister Parmjit Dhanda has said the ban may breach the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and suggested the council may be obliged to interpret the rules in a “non-discriminatory manner”.

In a letter to North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who has taken up Mrs Howes' case, he wrote: “It occurred to us that the Human Rights Act 1998 may be relevant to Norwich, though the issues are not clear cut and the council would of course need to take its own advice.”

And he said that since freemen of the city were eligible for pensions and grants from the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity, these might be covered by the ECHR. “As a public authority, Norwich City Council cannot act in a manner which is contrary to the convention unless required to do so by virtue of primary legislation.

“The admission rules being merely customary, the council may be under an obligation to interpret them in a non-discriminatory manner.”

Mr Dhanda also said the government was backing a new private member's bill in the House of Lords which would allow authorities to scrap any bans on women becoming freemen.

Mrs Howes, 52, said: “This is really positive. I know we are now moving forward. I think the city council has got no alternative but to do away with the ruling and to do away with discrimination against women.”

She paid tribute to Mr Lamb, saying: “If he hadn't taken this on board we could not have gone forward.”

Mr Lamb, who has passed the minister's letter to city council chief executive Laura McGillivray, said: “This is a massive breakthrough and I think the end is in sight. You can't have rules that discriminate against women in this day and age.”

Although women, including Labour peer and former city council leader Barnoness Hollis, have been awarded the honorary freedom of Norwich, this is not strictly the same as becoming a freeman and does not bring with it the same privileges.

A city council spokesman said: “As far as the Human Rights Act is concerned, we have previously sought advice on this and it does not enable us to admit women as freemen, something the government's letter acknowledges. We have been lobbying for some considerable time for this to happen and we would encourage the government to support the private members' bill as that would address the issue.”

Other popular content

Yesterday, 14:13

A drink driver who was caught on the first day of the annual festive crackdown almost five times the limit has been jailed.

Yesterday, 14:28

A £190,000 revamp of a Cromer park has moved a step closer with a planning application now registered with the district council.

Yesterday, 16:44

Campaigners have described transport links at a north Norfolk railway station as “dreadful, frustrating, and appalling” as new figures reveal it gained 10,000 passengers over the past year.

Yesterday, 10:30

The owners of a newly-reopened north Norfolk fishmongers have said they hope to be in business in “50 years and beyond”.

Most Read

Yesterday, 14:13

A drink driver who was caught on the first day of the annual festive crackdown almost five times the limit has been jailed.

Read more
Norwich Magistrates Court
Yesterday, 14:28

A £190,000 revamp of a Cromer park has moved a step closer with a planning application now registered with the district council.

Read more
North Norfolk District Council
Yesterday, 16:44

Campaigners have described transport links at a north Norfolk railway station as “dreadful, frustrating, and appalling” as new figures reveal it gained 10,000 passengers over the past year.

Read more
Norman Lamb
Yesterday, 10:30

The owners of a newly-reopened north Norfolk fishmongers have said they hope to be in business in “50 years and beyond”.

Read more
Cromer
Yesterday, 09:47

Residents in north Norfolk are pressing ahead with plans to buy a village’s only pub for the community - but need to raise about £250,000 in just six months.

Read more
North Norfolk District Council

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 6°C

min temp: 2°C

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

Image
Read the North Norfolk News e-edition today
E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

North Norfolk News weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy