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

08 November, 2017, 00:40 | Author: Evan Mason
  • Theresa May Announces A General Election

DOWNING Street demanded Priti Patel come clean about any more secret meetings with foreign politicians, as her Cabinet career hung by a thread.

Priti Patel, the worldwide development secretary, also said that the meeting and others with senior Israeli officials had been conducted without the knowledge of the British Foreign Office and apologised for failing to follow "usual procedures".

Priti Patel is facing fresh calls to resign after failing to turn up to answer questions from MPs about her secret Israel meetings.

Alistair Burt, a Foreign Office minister, admitted she did not meet "anyone representing Palestinian interests" - despite 12 meetings with Israeli groups.

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".

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. "There is no United Kingdom financial support for the Israeli army", a Downing Street spokesperson said after it emerged that in the wake of her visit in August, Patel had discussed potentially providing some of Britain's aid money to Israel's armed forces which run field hospitals in the Golan Heights area. The secretary of state would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case.

"I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be mis-read, and how meetings were set up and reported", Patel said in a statement.

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Patel met Yair Lapid, the leader of one of Israel's main political parties, and made visits to several organisations where official departmental business was reportedly discussed, the BBC said. "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it". The Foreign Office was aware of the visit while it was underway, but were not informed about it in advance.

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.

"The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to look at how the code can be made clearer and tightened", a Downing Street spokesperson said.

"This is another out-of-control minister in [British Prime Minister] Theresa May's weak government, but this time with implications for Britain's standing in the world as an honest broker and model for fairness in distributing aid".

She apologised for failing to follow the usual procedures that ministers inform Britain's Foreign Office before conducting official business overseas and said she regretted suggesting Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had been aware of her trip.

"The Prime Minister welcomes the Secretary of State's clarification about her trip to Israel and has accepted her apology for her handling of the matter", the spokesman said.

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