Education Secretary Michael Gove has been ordered to publish secret e-mails to spin doctors about his controversial decision to scrap plans to rebuild 13 Birmingham schools.
A freedom of information watchdog ordered Mr Gove to release the e-mails, which he sent using his wife’s e-mail account to advisers, an MP and a civil servant.
In one leaked e-mail, he discusses legal action taken by Black Country council Sandwell and other local authorities after he scrapped the school building programme, called Building Schools for the Future.
Mr Gove wrote: “BSF judicial review…..(AAAAAARGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!)”
The cancellation of the project caused particular anger in Sandwell, which was due to rebuild nine secondary schools at a cost of £125 million. In Birmingham it meant the cancellation of plans to refurbish or rebuild 13 schools.
But other e-mails have remained hidden, after Mr Gove turned down requests made under the Freedom of Information Act to publish them.
He argued that they were “political” rather than government business, and therefore he should be allowed to keep them private.
But Graham Smith, the Deputy Information Commissioner, has now issued a ruling rejecting that argument. Mr Smith said: “To accept the Department for Education’s interpretation would be to, in effect, create a blanket exemption for communications between ministers and special advisers.”
“In the Commissioner’s view the Department for Education’ has created an artificial distinction between ‘official’ information which is subject to the Act and ‘political’ information which is not.”
The DfE now has 35 days to comply with the request, or to take the decision to a tribunal.
Sandwell MP Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) said: “We already know that at least one of the e-mails mentioned Building Schools for the future.
“I want to know what Michael Gove was privately saying about the schools in a Labour authority like Sandwell.”
The one e-mail which has been leaked, dated December 29 2010, shows Mr Gove asking his advisers to help generate positive stories in the media.
For example, he asks them to find a head teacher to write an article backing the Government’s education reforms.