UK Politics

Gove and May row: Whitehall chief to investigate

Theresa May and Michael Gove Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May and Michael Gove have traded views over policy on extremism

Britain's most senior civil servant will investigate the high-profile row between two senior cabinet ministers over tackling extremism in schools.

Education Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May clashed after an alleged Islamist plot to take over some schools in Birmingham.

David Cameron has instructed Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to look into the row between the ministers.

It came after the prime minister vowed to "sort out" the dispute.

'Signed up'

Mr Gove was said by aides to believe Mrs May was too soft on extremism - Mrs May hit back by criticising his department's handling of the Birmingham allegations.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Brussels, Mr Cameron said: "I think it's very important that you recognise that we have got to deal not only with violent extremism but also the sink of extremism, of tolerating extremist views from which violence can grow.

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "I will get to the bottom of who said what"

"The whole government is signed up to that agenda and is driving through changes to deliver that agenda.

"As for these issues for the last day or so, I will get to the bottom of who has said what and what has happened and I will sort it all out - once I have finished these important meetings I am having here."

Mr Gove and Mrs May clashed at a recent meeting of the Extremism Task Force - a committee of cabinet ministers set up by Mr Cameron in the wake of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Letter released

Allies of Mr Gove, who has long argued for the need to confront Islamist ideology, briefed the Times newspaper about his frustrations that the Home Office was being too soft on extremism.

The home secretary hit back by releasing a letter she had written to Mr Gove accusing his department of losing control of the education system - and of failing to act when concerns about the Birmingham schools were brought to its attention in 2010.

The briefing war escalated, with a Home Office source telling the media: "The Department for Education is responsible for schools, the Home Office is not.

"They have got a problem and they are trying to make it someone else's problem."

Mr Gove denied he was at war with Mrs May, saying he thought the home secretary was "doing a fantastic job".

Asked if he thought she was too soft on Islamic fundamentalism, as his aides appeared to suggest, he said: "No, absolutely not."

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