Michael Gove attacked for 'cavalier' school list errors

image captionMr Gove has repeatedly apologised for the mistake

Education Secretary Michael Gove has been attacked for the "cavalier" way he released a list of axed school building schemes, which contained 25 errors.

Ex-Labour minister Douglas Alexander told BBC Question Time there was "cold fury" among both Labour and Tory MPs at the way the list had been released.

Lib Dem minister Michael Moore said it had been a "major mistake" but Mr Gove had apologised "with grace".

A second Tory MP has expressed concerns about a school in his constituency.

Lobbying PM

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson has written to Mr Gove urging him to review the Isle of Sheppey Academy's case quickly - it is among schools where planned building work has been put on hold.

Earlier Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said he was considering lobbying Downing Street over the effect on schools in his constituency.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I am meeting with all my heads on Friday and all my councillors and we'll take - if we have to - the message to David Cameron."

Mr Gove apologised in the Commons on Wednesday and to council leaders on Thursday about mistakes on a list relating to the scrapping of the multi-billion pound Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in England.

On Monday he announced that more than 700 projects would not go ahead, saying the scheme had been plagued by "massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy".

But when the Department for Education published a list of 1,500 projects which were either going ahead, being axed or being reviewed - mistakes were made.

In Sandwell, in the West Midlands, nine schools were on the approved list on Monday but by Tuesday they had found out the plans would not go ahead.

'Not bothering'

On BBC One's Question Time, Mr Alexander - now shadow international development secretary - said the decision to axe the scheme was "a pre-meditated assault on the life chances and opportunities of children in some of the poorest communities in England".

"It wasn't that Michael Gove made one mistake, he's published four different lists, every one of which has contained errors.

"There was cold fury, not just on the Labour benches, but on the Tory benches as well about how cavalier Michael had been in providing the information that really matters to communities right across England."

Nicola Sturgeon, health secretary in Scotland - where education policy is devolved - said the mistake was "very serious" for Mr Gove - as giving inaccurate information to Parliament was a "serious offence".

And she added: "The Tories are so desperate to prove how macho and axe wielding they are when it comes to public spending that they are not bothering - as seems to be the case with Michael Gove - to check they have got the details right."

But the Conservative peer Lord Forsyth said Mr Gove's "department had made a mess of drawing up the list" which made his case for devolving more power from central government.

He said Mr Gove had clear ideas about how to "reverse the decline in some of the opportunities for people from the poorest backgrounds in education".

Asked about Tory backbench anger about the plans, he said: "I have no way of judging the extent to which there is backbench trouble. All members of parliament will do what they can for their constituencies and they will argue their case with vigour, I'm sure."

And Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said Mr Gove had apologised adding: "I think he did that with grace. I think he did it appropriately and he's determined that that doesn't happen again.

"Nobody would wish that had happened. It was a major mistake, it has been acknowledged as such. The apology has been given, it will continue to be given to the appropriate people and I think it's a sign of the man that he's willing to do that."

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