Patel faces calls to quit after meeting Israel PM on 'holiday'

by Garry Watts November 8, 2017, 0:15
Patel faces calls to quit after meeting Israel PM on 'holiday'

Kate Osamor, the shadow worldwide development secretary, told the Commons on Tuesday that it was "hard to think of a more black and white case of breaking the ministerial code of conduct".

The International Development Secretary is under mounting pressure to explain her actions after it was revealed she held a series of meetings with Israeli government ministers without informing Downing Street.

However, when reports of the meetings had first surfaced, Patel told the Guardian "Boris knew about the visit".

Such meetings could constitute a violation of Britain's ministerial protocol.

Ms Patel is now facing calls to resign following the revelations, which also revealed that she was accompanied by Lord Polak, the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group, but no British officials were present at the sessions.

The minister, who has been under fire for not disclosing the trip earlier this summer, said the visit was a "family holiday, paid for myself" and the meetings - with a range of politicians, businesses, tech startups and NGOs - were arranged while away. The secretary of state would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case.

When asked whether the PM had been made aware of anything else that was discussed that could constitute a change of policy, Number 10 replied: "What I am clear on is she set out the people she met and from looking at the list of people it is quite clear the different areas they cover".

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That she didn't report the meetings - which took place over two days - has sparked fears that Patel used her "holiday", in August, as a cover to surreptitiously discuss official United Kingdom government business with Israeli politicians and representatives of Israeli organisations. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it.

"I don't know what was in her mind when she said that".

"No I think exactly what has happened is she's had these meetings, I assume these were not meetings that were originally scheduled, and that having had these meetings she's then informed Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office of what took place in those meetings".

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was under way".

While Labour's Chris Bryant told Sky News: "She lied to the country when she suggested last week that she had told the Foreign Secretary before she went - and she hadn't". The Telegraph also reported that Patel had suggested to Netanyahu that the United Kingdom should give aid to the Israeli army.

The Opposition also demanded the PM order a formal investigation into whether Ms Patel broke the ministerial code - which she is so far refusing to do.


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