Coffee House

Michael Gove accepts his private emails can be searched

28 September 2012

3:56 PM

28 September 2012

3:56 PM

Michael Gove is withdrawing his appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling that his private emails were searchable under the Freedom of Information Act, I understand.

The Education Secretary has decided to do this because the Cabinet Office has concluded that anything that constitutes ‘information’ falls within the scope of the act which removes Gove’s ground for appeal. In other words, if two ministers, or a minister and a special adviser, email or text each other from their personal accounts or phones and that conversation involves any discussion of government business—however, fleeting or peripheral—then those texts are FOI able. I’m informed that new Cabinet Office guidance to this effect will be issued in the near future.

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This will, almost certainly, lead to a slew of new FOI requests. I suspect every journalist and blogger would like to see the texts between David Cameron and Nick Clegg about the coalition which both men have spoken about so much. I do wonder, though, if further limiting the private space in which ministers can think will lead to better government.

There will be efforts to retrospectively apply this to the last government. There are more than a few people who would like to see whether anyone in Downing Street used their private email accounts to discuss the Iraq WMD dossier or cash for honours.

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Show comments
  • Mr Arthur Cook

    Is the email service at the DfE so poor that Mr Gove must use a Gmail account? If this is the case why isn’t it MrMichaelGove@gmail.com. Why does he need to use Mrs Blurt?
    An investigation by journalists acting in the public interest and using the press freedoms that Mr Gove himself robustly defended at Leveson found:
    The FT claims:

    Gove staff destroyed government emailsBy Chris Cook, Education Correspondent
    Staff in Michael Gove’s office systematically destroyed official government correspondence, the Financial Times has learned, leading to further questions about compliance with the Freedom of Information Act by the education secretary and his special advisers.

  • Futumj

    You think all those emails haven’t be deleted already? LULZ

  • Kenny

    The Balen Report?

  • Noa

    I am ready to invest in a venture company out there which sells ink made from lemon juice and self igniting paper.

  • http://www.coffeehousewall.co.uk/ Coffeehousewall

    We do not have good Government we have bad Government, or rather we have a bad democratic Government but a good increasingly totalitarian Government.

    • Ostrich (occasionally)

      “a good increasingly totalitarian Government.”

      Oxymoron, surely?

      • http://www.coffeehousewall.co.uk/ Coffeehousewall

        Hi Ostrich, I meant that it is good at becoming totalitarian, while it is bad at being democratic.

  • Curnonsky

    How much will any politician who is willing to submit to such intrusive snooping on his own emails care for the privacy of the rest of us?

    • thucy_dides

      We have long since stopped caring about the discomfort of politicians such as Mr Gove.
      Remember the Leveson enquiry
      The education secretary said he was “concerned about any prior restraint and
      on their [journalists’] exercising of freedom of speech.”

      He said existing laws should be used to judge individuals and
      institutions.

      Lord Justice Leveson said he did “not need to be told about the importance of
      free speech”.

      “But I am concerned that the effect of what you say might be that you are in
      fact taking the view that behaviour which everybody so far in this inquiry has
      said is unacceptable, albeit not necessarily criminal, has to be accepted
      because of the right of freedom of speech,” he said.

    • thucy_dides

      We have long since stopped caring about the discomfort of politicians such as Mr Gove.
      Remember the Leveson enquiry
      The education secretary said he was “concerned about any prior restraint and
      on their [journalists’] exercising of freedom of speech.”

      He said existing laws should be used to judge individuals and
      institutions.

      Lord Justice Leveson said he did “not need to be told about the importance of
      free speech”.

      “But I am concerned that the effect of what you say might be that you are in
      fact taking the view that behaviour which everybody so far in this inquiry has
      said is unacceptable, albeit not necessarily criminal, has to be accepted
      because of the right of freedom of speech,” he said.

    • martinvickers

      Well, the answer is fairly simple – don’t use private email to attempt to avoid scrutiny of public office.

  • Paul Baron

    Yep, there’s plenty of ‘safe space’ if you look at sections 34-36 of the FOI Act properly

  • Hamid Sirhan

    Worth noting that requests will still be subject to restrictions e.g. where it might infringe on right to private comms with MP or where national security is at risk.

    • http://twitter.com/dangroveruk Dan Grover

      I have no idea why this comment has received 4 down-thumbs.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Beard with no moustache – not a good look these days.

        • http://twitter.com/dangroveruk Dan Grover

          Actually, I can’t argue with that.

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