The Department for Transport (DfT) is to be investigated by the Information Commissioner following allegations that it destroyed sensitive documents relating to the controversial expansion of Heathrow.
It is a criminal offence to delete or conceal records to prevent them from being disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. But apparent gaps in email exchanges between the department and the airport operator BAA indicated that some messages may have been deleted from the record between September and November 2007.
One message missing from copies given to the Conservative MP Justine Greening – who has used the Freedom of Information Act to demand copies of emails about the expansion scheme – was the reply to an email referring to potentially damaging information. It had asked: "Can we play down?" Ms Greening, who has campaigned against the airport's £9bn expansion, said: "Having worked through the documents, it struck me there were quite a lot of email conversations that just seemed to finish in mid-air. I just want to get to the bottom of whether or not emails have been withheld."
A spokesman for the department said: "We are aware of a possible investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office, but have not received any formal notice."