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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Letwin apologises for school remark
Oliver Letwin
Letwin said he did not intend offence
Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin has apologised to a London school after saying he would rather "beg" than send his children there.

Mr Letwin has written to the school - believed to be Lilian Baylis School in Kennington - to express "regret".

Staff and pupils were upset over the comments made at a fringe event at the party conference in Blackpool.

He told delegates last week he would give his "right arm" to send his twins to a fee-paying school in London.


"If necessary I would go out on the streets and beg rather than send them to the school where I live," he said.

Mr Letwin said he would consider sending his children to state schools in his Dorset constituency, but the remarks sparked criticism from the London school's head, Gary Phillips.

And the shadow home secretary told Sky's Sunday with Adam Boulton: "I regret that a particular school was identified by the London press.

"I have written to apologise to them because I would not want to cause any offence I did think it caused them.

It is very upsetting for both children and parents
Gary Phillips
Lilian Baylis head
"But I have to say that I am still - and the whole Conservative Party is still - passionate about [shadow education minister] Damian Green's policy, which is what I was explaining, for better school passports," he explained.

"What that does is to give parents choice which at the moment is available only to those of us lucky enough to have money."

Staff and pupils at Lilian Baylis school had been upset by Mr Letwin's comments.

This week, the Conservative Party promised a voucher scheme for education whereby funding would follow a child.

This, it said, would enable parents to spend the amount of money the government spends on each state school pupil at a school of their choice.

The party says this money could not be used towards a place at a private school, but could, for example go into a school being set up by parents or a charitable foundation.

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