Education Secretary Michael Gove is coming under increasing pressure to reveal the contents of private emails alleged to have been sent between himself and his advisers.
Tom Watson MP tweeted today that Gove should be open about what was discussed in email correspondence between his team of political and policy advisers: “Gove should publish the private emails between him, special adviser Mr Cummings and civil servant Ms Narozanski. This doesn’t smell right.”
TechEye approached Watson’s office for further comment but has not received a reply.
Pending the outcome of an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office, Watson has been sending written questions to the Department for Education concerning the retention of data in private emails.
This has included requesting information on what steps Gove is taking to ensure that data is retained from private emails and whether any requests have been made for help deleting private emails from departmental staff.
Tellingly, Watson has also requested information about legal costs for deleting any data which have been run up so far.
Clearly Watson – who has been a harsh critic of Rupert Murdoch and the News of the World hacking scandal – smells a rat.
But discerning whether private emails should be subject to FOI requests is a difficult question.
The views of the ICO, reiterated in mid December, are that private emails discussing departmental business should be made public. This is at odds with Cabinet Office guidance however, and unsurprisingly Gove has stuck by the line of adhering to Cabinet Office rules when under questioning.
The ICO told us that it is “looking into the allegations but we can’t speculate on possible outcomes at this stage.”