Gove and Leon chef dreamed up school meals deal over mojitos in Marrakech

Education Secretary faces flak over revelation that he spent a family holiday with the man he later commissioned for dinners review

Michael Gove and his family spent a luxury holiday with the chef he later commissioned to carry out an official review into school dinners, it emerged last night.

The Education Secretary, his journalist wife, Sarah Vine, and their children spent the Easter holiday at a villa on the outskirts of Marrakech with Henry Dimbleby, the co-founder of healthy fast-food chain Leon, and his family.

During chats at the poolside, over cocktails in Marrakech's ancient medina and during dinner, Mr Dimbleby and Mr Gove discussed how to improve school meals for tens of thousands of children, and shortly after the holiday, the minister asked the chef if he would carry out an investigation into the issue.

When the review was launched earlier this month, Jamie Oliver, who was instrumental in setting up healthy eating standards in schools under the previous Labour government, said children needed urgent action to improve their meals, not long-running, costly reports.

Last night, the disclosure that Mr Gove holidayed with his new school-meals adviser fuelled the controversy, with Labour describing it as "shocking" that Mr Gove had not been upfront about his relationship with someone commissioned to carry out a government review.

Earlier this month, Mr Gove announced that Mr Dimbleby, the son of the broadcaster David Dimbleby, and his fellow Leon founder John Vincent would carry out a review into school food, reporting by 2013 with an "action plan" to improve meals. It triggered the fury of Mr Oliver, who said it was "not the time for more costly reports" into school dinners, and the inquiry would only "delay action". He added: "Now is the time for action, and that doesn't seem to be what we get from Mr Gove when it comes to school food and education."

At the time of the announcement, no mention was made of the Marrakech holiday, or the friendship of the two couples since the Easter break.

Last night, Mr Dimbleby said he and Mr Vincent had been passionate about improving school food for several years, and insisted that he had not been friends with Mr Gove before they stayed at the Marrakech villa as the guests of a mutual friend.

Yet the relationship will attract criticism because Leon will undoubtedly benefit from the publicity surrounding the review. Mr Dimbleby and Mr Vincent are being paid administrative costs and expenses. Since returning from their holiday, Mr Gove and Ms Vine have been to dinner at the east London home of Mr Dimbleby and his wife, Jemima.

During the week-long holiday, Ms Vine tweeted, after complaining that Marrakech was "wetter than Wales": "Luckily @Henry_Leon [Mr Dimbleby's Twitter name] is making cocktails, so phew." The next morning she tweeted: "Can I just say, if Henry Dimbleby offers you a cocktail, be ready."

The disclosure of the friendship will fuel concerns by critics over Mr Gove's stance on school food. Earlier this year, Mr Oliver criticised the Education Secretary for allowing academies and free schools to opt out of healthy-eating standards for school dinners Ω which the television chef had been instrumental in creating Ω allowing suppliers to reintroduce cheaper and less healthy food into schools.

Mr Dimbleby told The Independent on Sunday: "This is not a job that is going to make us money. It will take us away from Leon, and we are very nervous about that. The only reason to do it is to make a difference.

"Jamie's job is to keep up the pressure and he is brilliant at it. He is very supportive. Since this came out, he's been 100 per cent behind us and said these guys will do a good job. He has a thing about the very specific issue on regulation. I hope he carries on keeping the pressure up."

A Department for Education source said: "Michael Gove met Henry Dimbleby for the first time on holiday when they stayed at the same house as guests of a third party. Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent bring a wealth of practical experience in delivering good food on a budget and it is for this reason they were chosen to undertake this work."

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP and the party's spokesman on children's affairs, said that Mr Gove needed to publish all correspondence relating to this review, including from his personal email accounts.

She added: "I have no doubt that Henry and John will listen to the experts in the sector, but this revelation casts serious doubt on the impartiality of the review's findings Ω especially given that Michael Gove's policy so far has been to exempt vast swathes of schools from having to abide by the quality standards Labour put in place."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas