The Department of Education (DoE) has been told it has 35 days to comply with a Freedom of Information (FoI) request that concerned emails sent from private accounts by education secretary Michael Gove.
The DoE was given the ultimatum by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after an investigation following the discovery Gove had been using a Gmail account to discuss government matters with a team of special advisors.
“The Commissioner’s decision is that the information amounted to departmental business and so was subject to freedom of information laws, being held on behalf of the Department for Education,” an ICO spokesperson said in a statement.
The case came to light last September when journalists at the Financial Times had tried to use FoI requests to obtain details of the emails sent via private accounts.
Subsequently, Gove told a parliamentary select committee that the private accounts were not covered by FOI requests.
But the ICO has now told Gove he must comply with the request for information.
“The Department [of Education] is now required either to disclose the requested information (the subject line of the email and the date and time it was sent) or issue a refusal notice in accordance with the FOI Act giving reasons for withholding it,” it added.
“Adherence to good records management practice should be encouraged to promote data security, to preserve the integrity of the public record and to ensure effective compliance with access to information obligations,” he said.
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