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UK Politics

Senior civil servant feared reporters hacked his phone


A senior civil servant embroiled in a political row with the Education Secretary Michael Gove contacted the police over fears that his phone had been hacked by journalists.

Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnership for Schools, also told security officials at the Department of Education of his concerns after a dispute over the scaling back of the Government's controversial school building program. Mr Byles said he had been followed by journalists and photographers and had received calls from reporters late into the night.

The allegations of hacking first emerged on Wednesday in the House of Commons.

Nick Raynsford, a former Labour minister, told MPs that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell was alerted to "evidence of illegal phone hacking, covert surveillance and hostile media briefing directed against a senior official in the Government service."He said the person responsible had been "close to the heart of government".

Sir Gus denied any knowledge of the hacking allegations but in a letter released last night from David Bell, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education, it emerged that concerns had been raised with the department's security officer.

Mr Byles then contacted the police and his mobile-phone provider – but both were "unable to identify" evidence of malpractice.

At the time of the alleged hacking and harassment, Mr Byles was involved in a dispute with Mr Gove over who was responsible for his department wrongly informing a number of schools that their building projects were safe, only to find that they had been scrapped after all. Mr Gove blamed Partnership for Schools.