The Information Commissioner’s Office has raised concerns about education minister Michael Gove use of his personal email address to conduct government business, after the Financial Times highlighted issues relating to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
A request was made to the Department for Education to disclose certain emails under the FOI Act, but it was unable to retrieve them. According to the Financial Times, which says it has acquired the emails, this was because they were sent from Gove’s personal email account.
The paper quotes internal DfE emails which imply that senior officials used their GMail accounts as a matter of course.
It is not illegal for ministers to use their personal emails for government business, and all ministerial emails relating to government business are subject to the FOI Act regardless of what kind of account they are sent from. However, using a personal account would presumably make them harder for FOI compliance officers to find.
“The Information Commissioner has written to the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education to raise concerns about the Department’s handling of Freedom of Information requests," the ICO said in a statement. "It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”