Key Gove adviser blocked civil servants' free school inquiries
Minister's ally put wall of secrecy around charity as MPs' questions were rebuffed.
Civil servants attempting to answer parliamentary questions about the Tories' free schools programme had their requests blocked by a key adviser to education secretary Michael Gove, leaked emails reveal.
Civil servants feared they would be "seen as … obstructing parliament" if they failed to respond to the MP's inquiry, the emails show.
The questions related to the New Schools Network, a charity set up to provide advice and guidance to the schools.
Labour MP Caroline Flint had asked Gove how many "expressions of interest" in setting up free schools the New Schools Network had received in her constituency, Don Valley, and in Doncaster. She also asked how many private schools had made either expressions of interest or formal proposals to become a free school.
Dominic Cummings, a confidant of Gove who was freelancing for the charity at the time, told a senior civil servant: "NSN is not giving out to you, the media or anybody else any figure on 'expressions of interest' for PQs, FOIs or anything else. Further, NSN has not, is not, and will never answer a single FOI request made to us concerning anything at all."
Read more ... (The Guardian - 20 September)