Michael Gove's job description changes as MPs scrutinise his role

PUBLISHED: 10:48 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:14 27 September 2019

Michael Gove's job description has changed. Picture: Ben Stanstall/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Gove's job description has changed. Picture: Ben Stanstall/AFP/Getty Images

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MPs have questioned Michael Gove's suitability to oversee electoral matters as head of the Cabinet Office after raising his part in the Vote Leave campaign.

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It follows reports that the government is now gathering personal data from the 'Get Ready for Brexit' campaign.

Ian Lucas, the MP for Wrexham, accused Gove of ducking responsibility for these matters as he noted that Gove's job description has been recently updated to remove references to electoral oversight.

MP Mary Creagh had earlier raised the findings of a Buzzfeed investigation which reported that personal data submitted to the 'Get Ready for Brexit' website was being collected by central government.

She asked whether this data was to be used in a future general election campaign.

Screenshots of the government webpage which shows how Michael Gove's job description has changed. The first screenshot dates from the last Archive.org grab on August 3; the second, from September 27. Picture: UK GovernmentScreenshots of the government webpage which shows how Michael Gove's job description has changed. The first screenshot dates from the last Archive.org grab on August 3; the second, from September 27. Picture: UK Government

Lucas had also asked Gove to confirm that, as the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the head of the Cabinet Office, he oversees all of its functions, including "data protection, elections, and the government digital service".

Gove simply said that this was the job of another Cabinet Office minister, Oliver Dowden.

But in a move that Creagh and Lucas say happened overnight, the government webpage which outlines Gove's responsibilities reflected numerous changes, including the removal of the item: "Oversight of all CO [Cabinet Office] policies".

In the light of the website change, Lucas has accused Gove of deliberately taking steps to "avoid responsibility for the role that he played in the Vote Leave campaign".

In a speech the following day in parliament he launched an attack on the minister, Boris Johnson, and senior adviser Dominic Cummings, all of whom were leading figures in the Vote Leave campaign.

The Vote Leave campaign was found by the Electoral Commission to have acted illegally, exceeding its spending limits by £100,000 by directing the cash to BeLeave.

In a speech calling Gove "mendacious", the MP for Wrexham outlined Gove's role in the campaign.

He also reminded the House of the fact that Cummings is still in contempt of parliament for refusing to show up at committees questioning the campaign's spending.

He said: "We also know that the secretary of state for the Cabinet Office, who was a co-convenor in the [Leave] campaign, is now incharge of electoral reform and also data protection in the Cabinet Office.

"Well, at least I thought that was the case," he went on. "Yesterday I asked him whether he had overall control of all the matters in his department.

"And he said that he wasn't in control of data protection and he wasn't in control of electoral matters, which is very odd because they are situated in his department.

"What was even more extraordinary is that when I checked the website today of the Cabinet Office, it had changed since yesterday.

"The secretary of state for the Cabinet Office has deliberately taken steps to avoid responsibility for the role that he played in the Vote Leave campaign.

"That is, to quote David Cameron, mendacious, and the secretary of state needs to come to this chamber urgently to explain his role in the Vote Leave campaign, and what was involved.

The Cabinet Office has clarified that job responsibilities were split with the incoming Johnson government, with Dowden taking over electoral matters. The office said it had only just got round to updating the website.

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