Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Minister met Israeli PM without informing officials

Priti Patel Britain's Secretary of State for International Development arrives in Downing Street in London Minister met Israeli PM without informing officials
Melinda Barton | 07 November, 2017, 01:08

She also apologized for implying in quotes published last Friday that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was aware of the trip in advance.

Her meeting with Netanyahu included a discussion of Patel's "family background" including "her experience growing up in an area of the United Kingdom with a thriving Jewish community" and "her political journey".

The two leaders also discussed "the Israeli domestic political scene" as well as his "forthcoming visit to the UK" which took place last week.

"Once that reporting took place, the secretary of state provided the full details in an open and transparent way", the spokesman said.

Priti Patel admitted that her visit overseas 'did not accord with the usual procedures'.

The BBC was the first to report on Friday that Patel had undisclosed meetings.

She was accused of conducting her own "freelance foreign policy", and trying to win favour with donors in the country who could fund a potential future leadership campaign.

Alas the Foreign Office now appears to have explained themselves as Patel requested - and it turns that she was being somewhat economical with the truth.

On returning from her trip to Israel, which took place between 13 and 25 August, Patel commissioned DfID work on humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the United Kingdom, and on disability.

The International Development Secretary was accompanied to almost all of her meetings by honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group, Lord Polak.

In Patel's statement of apology she admits she met three senior Israeli politicians including Netanyahu, 10 representatives of Israeli organisations and startups with a focus on Africa."This summer I travelled to Israel, on a family holiday paid for myself".

"While away, I had the opportunity to meet a number of people and organisations".

But, in a fresh statement, she acknowledged the Foreign Office was only "aware of my visit while it was underway‚Äé". "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it", she said in an official statement published Monday.

"The Secretary of State regrets the lack of precision in the wording she used in these statements, and is taking this opportunity to clarify the position", Dfid said.

The statement said that Patel and Netanyahu had held an "introductory meeting" in which they had discussed Patel's family background as the daughter of Ugandan Indian migrants growing up in an area of the United Kingdom with a "thriving Jewish community".

The Secretary of State said she had seen for herself the work of Jewish charities in Israel, and said she was "struck by the achievements of the state of Israel".

"The code is not explicit in this area and one of the things which will follow from this is that the Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Secretary to look at how the code can be made clearer in this respect".

Labour's Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett has called on Mrs May to "investigate clear breach of [the] Ministerial code" after Ms Patel's apology. She said: "The stuff that is out there is it, as far as I am concerned".

But Labour said Ms Patel had also "been caught misleading the British public", in addition to carrying out government business with no officials present.