Labour’s Yvette Cooper calls on the home secretary to explain why she released a letter criticising Michael Gove, which resulted in the resignation of one of her advisers.
Theresa May’s department made the unusual move of releasing a letter on the day of the Queen’s speech which publicly questioned how Mr Gove’s department handled allegations of extremism in some Birmingham schools.
The letter was widely reported in the media and posted on the Home Office’s own website. It has subsequently been removed, although it is still available online.
Is it true that the Department for Education was warned in 2010? If so, why did nobody act? – Theresa May, Home Secretary
The letter asks many questions about the Birmingham school allegations, which have been dubbed the “Trojan Horse” claims.
In it she writes:
“Is it true that Birmingham City Council was warned about these allegations in 2008?
“Is it true that the Department for Education was warned in 2010? If so, why did nobody act?”
Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, told the BBC that the publication of the letter may have been a breach of the ministerial code.
She said she had never before seen a ministerial dispute on “something so important that has implications for national security”.
“I think Theresa May needs to come out publicly and answer what she did to publish this letter,” Ms Cooper told the programme.
“We have so far heard nothing from the home secretary, even though it looks pretty clear that she has breached the ministerial code by writing and then authorising the publication of this letter.
“The prime minister is responsible for enforcing the ministerial code, he needs to act and make sure that happens at the same time as making sure they also address these more important issues about what’s happening in schools and communities.”
I think Theresa May needs to come out publicly and answer what she did to publish this letter – Yvette Cooper, Labour MP
However the Foreign Secretary William Hague has defended the prime minister’s actions and said he had dealt with the row in a “very firm and clear way” and that Mr Cameron was “making sure there is team discipline in the government”.
Speaking on the same programme, he said: “The government will be very robust, very clear about anything that puts children in our schools at risk of extremism, at risk to their safety or to their learning.”
Mr Gove was forced to apologise on Saturday “in acknowledgment of his role”, while Theresa May lost her special advisor Fiona Cunningham, who resigned over the affair.
Earlier in the day Mr Gove had denied that his row with Mrs May about extremism claims in schools had damaged the government.
Ofsted has inspected 21 schools in Birmingham since the publication of a letter, believed to have been a hoax, referring to an alleged plot by Muslim hardliners to take over governing bodies – a five point plan the author calls “Operation Trojan Horse”.
Ofsted is set to publish its reports on Birmingham schools at the centre of claims about an Islamist takeover plot on Monday and Mr Gove will make a statement in the Commons.