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Cabinet secretary probes Trojan row

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has been asked by the Prime Minister to look into a public row between two of the Government's most senior ministers about policy on Islamist extremism, Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed.

David Cameron has asked for a report on the spat between Education Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May to be delivered to him "in short order", and Mr Osborne confirmed that Sir Jeremy - Downing Street's most senior civil servant - is taking part in the inquiry.

The Prime Minister was yesterday forced to answer questions on the row during a press conference with US president Barack Obama at the G7 summit in Brussels, when he said he was determined to "get to the bottom" of the issue, but insisted he would not allow it to distract his focus from international talks.

The pair's dispute spilled into the public domain, overshadowing the launch of the Government's legislative programme in the Queen's Speech, with the publication of a letter earlier this week in which Mrs May questioned the Department for Education's response to allegations that extremists had attempted to infiltrate schools in Birmingham.

Reports suggest that the pair have clashed over Mr Gove's insistence that radicalisation must be tackled at its roots by stepping up the Government's Prevent strategy to take on those spreading extreme messages in the community, which Mrs May is said to fear risks antagonising mainstream Muslims.

It was revealed yesterday that one of the schools inspected over claims of an alleged "Trojan Horse" takeover plot by hard-line Muslims, Golden Hillock in Birmingham, has been declared failing by Ofsted and placed in special measures - a judgment condemned by the Trust which operates the secondary academy, which said it would mount a legal challenge to the finding.

Mr Osborne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The Prime Minister has asked Downing Street - and that includes the Cabinet Secretary - to establish the facts of who said what to whom in the arguments we've seen over the last few days.

"We absolutely don't want a distraction from the central issue here, an issue which the Government is absolutely united on and which listeners to this programme I'm sure are concerned about, which is the infiltration of schools by Islamic extremists.

"That is what we have got to solve, that is the big issue here, and all of our efforts are focused on that."

Mr Osborne added: "We are going to receive these Ofsted reports. Unfortunately one of them leaked yesterday. If you look at that report, it's pretty clear that some serious things have gone wrong in some of these schools.

"We've also asked Peter Clarke, the former Metropolitan Police officer who's got enormous experience on issues of extremism and terrorism, to look at these things.

"That's the big issue. We want to make sure we protect our children."

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