UK's Priti Patel sorry for secret meetings with Israeli officials
08 November, 2017, 09:39 | Author: Kim Reid
The worldwide development secretary was forced to apologise on Monday after she held 12 undisclosed meetings while on holiday in August.
Patel insisted that she had gone to Israel on a "family holiday" but her trip, which was organised by Lord Polak honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel, was described by critics as an attempt to win favour with wealthy pro-Israeli Conservative donors who could fund a potential future leadership campaign.
"I don't know what was in her mind when she said that".
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 Foreign Office was aware of the visit while it was underway, but were not informed about it in advance.
Ms Patel said: "This summer I travelled to Israel, on a family holiday paid for myself".
When asked whether the PM had been made aware of anything else that was discussed that could constitute a change of policy, Number 10 replied: "What I am clear on is she set out the people she met and from looking at the list of people it is quite clear the different areas they cover".
Patel said she "regrets the lack of precision in the wording she used in these statements and is taking the opportunity to clarify the position".
In a statement, the minister went on to apologise for setting up and reporting the meetings "in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures". "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it".
Labour's shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said there had been a "clear breach" of the ministerial code, while shadow worldwide development secretary Kate Osamor called for an investigation, describing Patel's apology as "a desperate last-ditch attempt.to save her job".
"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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Furious allies of Theresa May also accused Ms Patel of going on the Middle East trip to build clandestine support for a Tory leadership bid.
On Tuesday No.10 confirmed Patel had suggested the United Kingdom send aid money to the Israeli army in the Golan Heights.
"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".
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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