Patel faces calls to quit after meeting Israel PM on ‘holiday’

May to tighten ministerial code following International Development Secretary’s ‘secret’ talks

International Development Secretary Priti Patel arrives at Downing Street.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel in Downing Street 
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

International Development Secretary Priti Patel is facing calls to quit after failing to disclose 12 separate meetings with senior Israeli figures including PM Benjamin Netanyahu during what she claims was a family holiday.

Senior Conservatives believe Patel should be “toast”, says The Daily Telegraph. Patel's “startling admissions” raise doubts about whether she can continue in her role - with Labour also demanding that she resign, the Daily Mail says.

Ministers, by convention, should tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas. 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 UK government business with Israeli politicians and representatives of Israeli organisations. The BBC says that following the trip, Patel suggested that some of Britain’s aid budget go to the Israeli army.

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Theresa May met Patel yesterday to “remind her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code”, but accepted the minister’s apology for holding meetings in a way that “did not accord with the usual procedures”, says the Telegraph. Patel blamed her “enthusiasm to engage” for her failure to tell the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about her high-level encounters, the Daily Mail adds.

May is calling for a tightening of the ministerial code of conduct, the BBC reports. But one Conservative MP told the Mail that the PM’s muted response indicates that May’s authority among her top team is “completely shot”.

According to the BBC, the revelation of the meetings left the British Consulate in Jerusalem feeling “blindsided” and “slightly bruised”.

The Netanyahu meeting included “prospects for closer collaboration between Israel and the UK on development and humanitarian issues”, Israel-based newspaper Haaretz reports, noting that no minutes were kept.

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