Priti Patel discussed giving United Kingdom aid to Israel, Downing Street admits

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08 November, 2017

The worldwide development secretary, Priti Patel, held undisclosed meetings in Israel without telling the Foreign Office while accompanied by an influential pro-Israeli Conservative lobbyist, it has been reported.

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". The Telegraph also reported that Patel had suggested to Netanyahu that the United Kingdom should give aid to the Israeli army.

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

Ministers, by convention, should tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas. The situation is made worse by the fact that rather than informing Downing Street of her trip, both Patel and Johnson kept it entirely secret until it was unearthed by the media last week.

During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she discussed her family background that included her parents fleeing Uganda in the 1970s and settling in Britain.

"The prime minister met the secretary of state this morning to remind her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code".

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesperson highlighted that the United Kingdom provides no financial support to Israeli forces and that there would be no change in policy, reported The Guardian.

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A spokesperson for May's office said on Monday: "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".

May is calling for a tightening of the ministerial code of conduct, the BBC reports.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said Ms Patel should face a probe led by the standards advisor, after she was reprimanded personally by the PM.

"There hasn't been any change in policy resulting from that". I am publishing a list of who I met. While away I had the opportunity to meet a number of people and organisations.

The meetings were arranged by the Conservative peer, and Conservative Friends of Israel honorary president, Lord Polak, who attended the majority of them.

Britain's commitment to Israel's security remained "unwavering", Ms Patel said, but added that there was "more than just a security challenge" in the Middle East, but also a development challenge, noting the volatile population shifts in the region and the vast numbers of refugees, the greatest such numbers since the end of the Second World War.

Patel said: "In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be mis-read, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures".


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