Priti Patel: Israel and Britain can extend and improve their partnership

PRITIPATEL

Kate Osamor, the shadow global 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".

British secretary of state for global development Priti Patel has apologised for holding several secret meetings with Israeli officials during a family holiday in August, in which she discussed a number of issues, including India.

However, when reports of the meetings had first surfaced, Patel told the Guardian "Boris knew about the visit". "It is hard to escape the conclusion that had she been a more expendable minister - Mark Garnier, for instance - or if the prime minister was in a position of strength, Patel would have faced a Cabinet Office inquiry at best, and her P45 at worst".

Patel's meetings in Israel between August 13 and 25 were arranged by the honorary president of the lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Polak, who also attended all but one.

But it emerged on Tuesday morning that Ms Patel discussed changing Government policy and handing taxpayers' money to humanitarian projects linked to the Israeli army in the highly disputed area of the Golan Heights held by Israel. Patel said: "This summer I travelled to Israel, on a family holiday paid for myself". [Patel] would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case.

In her clarification, Patel was forced to admit that she did not just meet with "people and organisations". "The Foreign Secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it".

"In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures". I am sorry for this and I apologise for it.


Ministers, by convention, should tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas.

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

Patel met with Netanyahu to discuss "the Israeli domestic political scene", she said, and to plan his United Kingdom visit, which took place last week.

On returning from her trip, Patel commissioned Dfid work on disability and humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK. The Foreign Office, it said, was "clear that United Kingdom interests were not damaged or affected by the meetings on this visit".

On Tuesday No.10 confirmed Patel had suggested the United Kingdom send aid money to the Israeli army in the Golan Heights.

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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