Michael Gove under fire for Department of Education's stonewalling of Parliament in response to MPs' questions

Education Secretary and his department face possible legal action to force better accountability

Michael Gove has been formally asked to explain his department’s “exceptionally poor performance” in stonewalling questions from MPs, amid renewed accusations of a lack of accountability at the heart of the Government’s Education team.

The chairman of the House of Commons’ Procedures Committee, Charles Walker, said he was “well aware of the exceptionally poor performance” of Mr Gove’s team in providing answers to parliamentary questions, and remained “unconvinced” that they were making sufficient efforts in tackling the problem, which has led to increasing claims of a diminished accountability.

With the Information Commissioner’s Office not ruling out legal action to force the Department for Education to improve its record in answering Freedom of Information requests, a senior Whitehall official close to David Cameron told The Independent that Mr Gove’s department was in danger of “resembling an information black hole”.

The new demands for the Education Secretary to explain delays in answering MPs’ queries follows an official censure from the committee earlier this year, demanding that Mr Gove “secure improvements” over his accountability to the Commons.

Alex Cunningham, an MP on the Education Select Committee, recently told the Commons that the Education Secretary had “one of the poorest records in the House” in answering questions. He said Mr Gove had been “officially chastised for his poor failures” but this produced little effect.

Mr Cunningham accused education ministers of working “as a team” and “collaborating” on the same responses that promised a reply “as soon as possible”.

The Labour MP wrote to Mr Walker stating that formal questions on a range of education policies were being ignored by Mr Gove and other ministers.

The Procedures Committee, which monitors the internal practices and public business of the Commons, was asked to help “extract” answers from DfE ministers.

The DfE was recently asked about areas including teaching recruits, vocational qualifications, training of 17-year-olds, free schools, qualifications for head teachers, specialist education, members of the armed forces recruited in teaching, and schools leadership.

Education ministers David Laws, Elizabeth Truss and Matthew Hancock, all replied to the written questions sent from the shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg. However, all of Mr Twigg’s replies received the same answer: “I shall let the Hon Member have a reply as soon as possible.”

Mr Cunningham told the Commons that he had tabled his questions a month ago and it had been three weeks since he received similar unfulfilled pledges in the ministers’ replies. He described the behaviour of the ministers as “unacceptable”. Written questions should be answered within one week, according to guidelines.

Senior civil servants working in the DfE told The Independent that comprehensive answers to parliamentary questions were regularly drafted and sent back to the relevant ministers.

A DfE spokeswoman said “extensive measures” were now being taken to address the performance in answering PQs; the DfE’s parliamentary team had been increased and more experienced senior staff was now involved in the process. Among other measures aimed at improving the record was a new IT system and revised guidance and training for staff who answered PQs.

 

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
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 General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories
Ashya King: We need to stop being cowardly about death

We need to stop being cowardly about death

Ashya King's story has made us confront the idea of terminal illness, in an age when we've lost the ability to discuss how we face our final days
They talk the talk, but do our leaders have the stomach to face up to the Russians?

They talk the talk, but do our leaders have the stomach to face up to the Russians?

Nato has a commitment to defend the Baltic states, unlike Ukraine. But those in charge seem less than committed, says Rupert Cornwell
Heaven on wheels: Meet the skateboarding padre

Heaven on wheels: Meet the skateboarding padre

Skateboards are no longer just for kids, the oldies are getting in on the act too
Can breakdance divert the young men of Tunisia from the killing fields of Iraq and Syria?

Can breakdance save the Arab Spring generation?

Sarfraz Manzoor gets down with the B-boys (and girls) of north Africa
Face of an angel, but has Cara Delevingne the talent to act?

Face of an angel, but has Cara Delevingne the talent to act?

A film based on the Meredith Kercher murder is a challenging first role for the supermodel