LETTER: Labour's lead on public schools

Sir: As Fred Mulley's PPS at the Department of Education when the highly effective Yes Minister memorandum on the withdrawal of charitable status from the public schools was written ("Lesson number one for Blunkett", 2 January), and as the journal ist who decided to place it in the public domain some years later, I do not believe it is fair to blame Sir William Pile, then permanent secretary of the Department of Education and Science, for Labour's failure to do anything about the public schools.

Certainly, after the memorandum was written, Sir William, along with the permanent secretaries of the Treasury and the Home Office, suggested that a secret cabinet committee be set up to consider the matter; but the fact that this committee was set up was the responsibility of the Prime Minister, and the fact that it took no action for four years was that of its ministerial members - among them Merlyn Rees, who was Home Secretary from 1975 to 1979.

Labour's infirmity of purpose over the public schools has always reflected the views of its leaderships.

Yours sincerely CHRISTOPHER PRICE Settle North Yorkshire 2 January