Schools minister accused of breaking MPs code over £7,200 donation | Communal room

Schools Minister Jonathan Gullis has been charged with a potential breach of the MPs’ Code for failing to declare donations for high school curriculum campaigns when advocating for selective education in the Commons.

In a letter to Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Labor said Gullis should have declared a donation of £7,200 to a campaign for high schools when he was advocating as a backbench MP for their expansion.

The Members’ register of interests shows that Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, who was appointed Schools Minister in September by Liz Truss, was given the money to pay for public relations advice for a campaign for new high schools.

The letter, from shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan, notes that after receiving the money, Gullis twice spoke in the Commons as a backbench MP. call for a new generation of high schools, not to mention the financial interest.

While there’s no suggestion money shaped the views of Gullis — a former teacher, he’s a longtime high school advocate — the Members’ Code of Conduct says they must “be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceedings of the House or its committees”.

It is understood that Gullis has already written to Stone to apologize for the oversight and to formally acknowledge the financial interest.

The £7,200, to pay for public relations advice for a Gullis campaign was setting up itself, was donated by Kent-based property developer Quinn Estates, whose chief executive, Mark Quinn, is a former Tory MP donor.

As schools minister, Gullis is in a position to play a leading role in deciding whether or not Truss’ government will lift the ban on new high schools in England, imposed in 1998 under Tony Blair.

While selective public education still exists in several English counties, with 163 grammar schools remaining, Prohibition has prevented the creation of entirely new grammars for the past 24 years, the only exception being the expansion of existing schools.

During the Tory leadership campaign, Truss said she would look into whether this should be overturned and has since tasked new education secretary Kit Malthouse with looking into how this might happen.

While Gullis and other grammar advocates say they help students from disadvantaged backgrounds and would help improve schools across England, education experts and research studies have shown they can in fact harm social mobility, in part because their students tend to come disproportionately from more privileged families.

Although the new grammars are a popular idea among Tory members and some MPs, there is little evidence of their appeal to voters more broadly, especially as around 80% of all children are said to be missing out.

Polls show that less than a third of Britons support a new generation of grammars, with even supporters of the system often accepting that it tends to cause less gifted students to fail.

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