Education secretary made decision to give taxpayers' money to organisation that he had promoted as an adviser since 2007
• Rob Evans
• The Guardian, Friday 27 January 20
Michael Gove personally wrote to the trust confirming that the education department was awarding the money to it.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, awarded £2m of public money to an organisation that he promoted as an adviser for four years.
The education secretary personally made the decision to give taxpayers' money to an organisation to fund better security at Jewish schools. Gove has promoted the Community Security Trust (CST) as an adviser since 2007.
Documents obtained by the Guardian show that Gove personally wrote to the trust confirming that the education department was awarding the money to it. He issued a public statement saying that he had "secured the funding" to the trust.
Richard Benson, the trust's chief executive, replied to Gove twice thanking him for his "personal commitment" to providing the funding. Benson's letter lists Gove as a member of its advisory board, along with more than 50 others.
The minister has taken a strong stand against antisemitism. However, questions are being asked over whether he should have taken any role in awarding the money to the organisation.
David Miller, of the Spinwatch pressure group, which campaigns for greater transparency in politics, said: "It is blindingly obvious that he should have stood aside, as this is a potential conflict of interest. This is another example of transparency rules in the UK being ineffectual and in serious need of overhaul." Miller first drew attention to Gove's advisory work for the trust.
An education department spokesman said: "Officials were aware that the secretary of state was listed as a member of the Community Security Trust's advisory board.
The then permanent secretary was fully content that there was no conflict of interest in the secretary of state making the decision to award the grant."
The spokesman added that the advisory board "has around 55 to 60 members, drawn from a cross-section of society including members of parliament and peers, police, the armed forces, academia and religious and lay leaders of the Jewish community."
"The advisory board is not part of the governance structure of CST and its members have no responsibility for, and play no part in, the day-to-day management of the charity. The advisory board itself does not meet as a separate body."
Recently Gove has come in for criticism over his support for a new royal yacht to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee, while his plan to send a copy of the King James Bible to every school in the country has run into trouble because he has so far been unable to find a philanthropic sponsor for the idea.
Gove made a pledge to give money to improve security at Jewish schools during the 2010 general election campaign, when he was the shadow education minister.
After he gained office, he held a meeting with the trust to "discuss the allocation of the funding".
The department has refused a freedom of information request to make public documents relating to the meeting in July 2010, arguing that it was not in the public interest to do so.
Gove's closest aides are being investigated by a watchdog for allegedly abusing the open government act by conducting official business through private email accounts.
Later in 2010, Gove announced that the money had been awarded to fund extra security guards at 39 Jewish voluntary-aided faith schools in England.
Gove said it was wrong that parents had been paying around £1.6m out of their own pockets to fund the security to protect pupils against antisemitic and racist threats.
All the money is distributed by the trust to the schools which then employ the security guards.
As the trust's role is essentially administrative, none of the money is retained by the trust or pays for any of the trust's work.
The trust, set up in 1994 to physically protect British Jews, says that the number of antisemitic incidents in the country has increased over the past decade.
In its latest annual survey, it says that during 2010 there were 639 antisemitic incidents in the country, of which 58 targeted Jewish schools, schoolchildren or teachers.