Patten offers education chief a libel settlement (CORRECTED)

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JOHN PATTEN, the Secretary of State for Education, has offered to settle out of court a libel action brought by Tim Brighouse, Birmingham's chief education officer, whom Mr Patten last year called 'a nutter'.

Professor Brighouse began proceedings after Mr Patten used the term at last year's Tory party conference. Lawyers are thought to have advised him that he might expect to receive up to pounds 100,000 in damages.

The Department for Education has declined to foot the bill for any damages, because Mr Patten was on party and not ministerial business at the time.

Negotiations about the amount to be paid are in progress. Pressure on Mr Patten to agree an out-of-court settlement has been growing after a nationwide campaign to raise funds for Mr Brighouse's legal costs.

About pounds 25,000 has so far been raised with contributions from 1,700 people including many teachers in Oxford and Birmingham. More than 400 people attended a rally in Oxford town hall last Thursday and contributed a further pounds 1,000. Mr Brighouse was formerly Oxfordshire's chief education officer. A further meeting is planned in Birmingham at the end of next month.

Last October Mr Patten told a meeting at his party's conference: 'Birmingham has put this nutter in as their chief education officer. I fear for Birmingham children with this madman let loose wandering round the streets frightening the children.'

Mr Patten, who is MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, later apologised.


Secretary of State for Education, has never asked it for any advice or financial assistance in the libel action brought against him by Tim Brighouse.