Were MPs misled? Embarrassed Gove pleads innocence as he is recalled to committee over 'bullying case'

Education Secretary denied knowledge of claim that cost the DfE £25,000 in an out-of-court settlement

Political Correspondent

Michael Gove has been recalled by the Commons education committee to answer further questions over what he knew of internal allegations of bullying and harassment by his advisers against senior civil servants and claims that officials in his department briefed against a former  minister.

The summons by the select committee is deeply embarrassing for the Education Secretary. He previously told the select committee MPs that he had no knowledge of a grievance case which last month cost his department £25,000 in an out-of-court settlement with a senior civil servant.

The  case was brought by woman with 27 years experience in Whitehall. She claimed bullying and intimidation were part of the day-to-day operation of the DfE’s communications division headed by a former Gove aide, James Frayne.

Allegations of misconduct and routine use of bad language were also levelled against Dominic Cummings, Mr Gove’s long-standing special adviser.

Details of the case was published by The Independent last week.

Although an internal investigation cleared both Mr Frayne and Mr Cummings, and no disciplinary  action was taken,  a report of the case said “the department handled the situation in a regrettable way”.

In January Mr Gove was asked by MPs on the education committee if  he was aware of the allegations made against his special advisers.

Despite the lengthy grievance process, the substantial settlement, and assurances to MPs from the DfE’s permanent secretary, Chris Wormald, that he shared  responsibility for “disciplinary” issues  with Mr Gove, the education secretary denied he had any knowledge or had seen documents relating to criticism of his advisers.

Mr Wormald has also been asked to re-appear before the committee.

Ian Mearns, the Labour MP and member of the education committee, commenting on the recall of Mr Gove, said : “The Education Secretary clearly has questions to answer. He says he was unaware of serious allegations of bullying and harassment regarding his close advisers. However the ministerial code is quite clear:  “the responsibility of the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the minister who made the appointment.”

Mr Mearns said the Mr Gove “needs to account for his adherence, or lack of it, to the ministerial code.”

Officials close to Mr Gove believed there was little chance he would  face accusations that he had misled parliament.

The Education Secretary recently wrote to the chair of the committee, Tory MP Graham Stuart, confirming his earlier answer that he knew nothing and had “never been made aware” of inappropriate behaviour by his special advisers.

However at meeting of the committee in Westminster at 9.15am today,  Mr Stuart was unable to attend due to illness, and four Tory MPs arrived late.  The vote to summons Mr Gove, involving Labour MPs  and one LibDem MP on the committee, was passed unanimously.

Another MP on the committee told The Independent that  Mr Gove would be expected to answer questions “on a range of issues, that so far, have been inadequately dealt with.”

MPs wanted Mr Gove to return to the committee next week, however no firm date has yet been set.

Among the other issues Mr Gove will face questions on is the allegation made by the former Tory education minister, Tim Loughton, that  he was briefed against by Mr Cummings.

Mr Loughton believes Mr Cummings was responsible for a highly personal attack on his character, made in a briefing given to The Spectator magazine, which called him “a lazy incompetent narcissist.”

Mr Gove said he had no knowledge of who had made the criticisms of Mr Loughton.

A series of parliamentary questions has been tabled by Mr Loughton, requesting that Mr Gove reveals how many formal complaints he has received about the conduct of his special advisers, how many grievance procedures have taken place inside the DfE over the last five years, and what the scale of pay-outs have been.

Suggested Topics
News
i100'Geography can be tough'
News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

Calypso Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis