Cabinet ministers held meetings with academy sponsors

Two cabinet ministers, Alan Johnson and Patricia Hewitt, have become embroiled in a row about Tony Blair’s £5 billion city academies programme after it emerged that they held meetings with academy sponsors.

They held the meetings in their constituencies at the same time as their departments were involved in policy decisions that could affect the potential sponsors. Several junior ministers also had similar dealings with academy sponsors. Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the standards committee, is to be asked to investigate. The ministerial code of conduct stipulates that ministers must separate their local constituency work from their official government business.

The role of Richard Caborn, the sports minister, in the city academies programme has emerged in a letter released to The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act. The letter, dated April 21, 2004, followed a meeting involving Caborn, Meg Munn, a junior minister for women, and Jonathan Crossley- Holland, director for education at Sheffield city council. Crossley-Holland told Sir Bruce Liddington, head of the academies division at the education department, that Caborn, the local MP, was “contacting a range of sponsors personally know(n) to him including Bernie Eccleston(e) and David Sainsbury”.

Ministers in new funding row over schools (Sunday Times, 16 July 2006)