19 AUGUST 1972, Page 18

Benville Lodge, Evershot, Dorset Sir: I can cap your recollection

of Mr Baldwin's habit of closing his mind to the reception of what he might suspect to be disagreeable information.

While on Lord Swinton's staff I heard him, on several occasions, recount a somewhat similar story.

After a Cabinet meeting Lord Swinton complained to a colleague that `S.B.' (as he called the Prime Minister) had expressed complete ignorance of a subject of great importance on which he (Lord Swinton) had addressed him, in private, at great length. The colleague asked him what Mr Baldwin had been doing while Lord Swinton was talking.

"Oh," replied Lord Swinton, "he was walking round the room, taking books out of the shelves, smelling the backs, and then putting them back."

"Then," said the colleague, "you may be perfectly certain that S.B. was not listening to a word that you said!"

Hugh Farmer Wasing Old Rectory, nr Aldermaston. Reading, Berks.