Watchdog questions Gove over MP query

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MICHAEL Gove has been asked to reconsider his department’s decision not to answer an MP’s questions about the role of a vice chairman of the Conservative Party at a scandal-hit free school.

David Ward complained to the Commons Procedure Committee that Ministers were using a police investigation into alleged fraud at the Kings Science Academy, in Bradford, to evade questions about separate issues.

The committee has now written to the Education Secretary asking him to reconsider the decision to withhold information that Mr Ward had asked for.

The Bradford East Liberal Democrat MP had tabled a series of questions about discussions and communications between Alan Lewis and the Department for Education concerning governance and budgets at the school.

The questions came after the DfE said it wrongly believed Mr Lewis was the free school’s chairman of governors for 12 months from October 2011 but found they had been misinformed by the free school and that in fact no chairman had been in place.

Mr Lewis has previously denied being chairman of governors at the school or having responsibility for its financial management and governance.

The response from Ministers to Mr Ward’s questions was: “The ongoing police investigation means that it would not be appropriate to release details of any departmental discussions at this time.”

Mr Ward complained to the Procedures Committee his questions were completely separate to the alleged fraud at the school.

West Yorkshire Police launched an investigation into allegations that the school had submitted fabricated invoices to claim public money. The school’s principal Sajid Raza has been arrested and released on bail pending further enquiries.

When the allegations were first published in a DfE report the school issued a statement saying there had been no misappropriation of funds and all expenditure had been academy-related.