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Kings Science Academy (Bradford)

Volume 573: debated on Monday 6 January 2014

12. What steps his Department has taken in relation to the principal of Kings science academy in Bradford following the conclusions of his Department’s audit report. (901749)

Responsibility for a principal’s performance rests of course with the governing body of an academy, not the Department for Education. One thing I should say is that, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, there is an ongoing police investigation, which I have to be careful not to prejudice.

That is disappointing, because of course the head of a maintained school would have been on his bike long ago. May I ask the Secretary of State about a comment made by a spokesperson for Alan Lewis who said:

“At no time has Mr Lewis had responsibility for the financial management or governance of the academy”?

If, as I have been told, the report by the auditors recommended to the school by Mr Lewis was presented directly to him and amended as a result of his comments, does the Secretary of State agree that that provides evidence of involvement in both financial management and governance within the school?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question, and for the dogged and persistent way in which he has sought to ensure that we can improve the situation at Kings science academy. I would say that Mr Lewis was responsible for commissioning a report, to which the hon. Gentleman quite rightly draws attention, that has played a part in helping to ensure that Kings science academy moved from a difficult position to a better one, but I must stress that I do not want to say anything that might prejudice an ongoing police report.

I can understand why the Secretary of State wants to protect his flagship policy, but we have had mismanagement, nepotism and fabricated invoices. Mr Lewis is not just a benefactor; he is a landlord who will receive £12 million in rent in years to come from the school, as well as a vice-chair of the Conservative party and a major Tory donor. Is that anything to do with the fact that the Secretary of State has refused to take any action whatsoever against anyone since this scandal broke?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. It is important to place on the record the fact that Mr Lewis is receiving for the property an appropriately guaranteed market rent—less than he was receiving for it beforehand. It is important to stress that, and it is also important to state that as soon as my Department was made aware of allegations of the misappropriation of public money, it contacted Action Fraud and a police investigation is now ongoing as a direct result. I should also add that my Department was in touch with the economic crime unit of West Yorkshire police to ensure that appropriate steps had been taken; it was reassured that those appropriate steps had been taken. The law must follow its course. It is entirely right for the hon. Gentleman to raise questions in Parliament, but it would be entirely wrong for me to prejudge the police investigation.