International development secretary failed to disclose she gratified politicians, including PM Netanyahu, on household holiday
Priti Patel has apologised and been rebuked by Theresa May after acknowledging she dedicated a misleading account of a personal trip to Israel that included a previously undisclosed meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu.
The international development secretary recognise she had gratified the Israeli prime minister during a family vacation in August and given the false impression in an interview with the Guardian that the UK Foreign Office knew about it in advance .~ ATAGEND
No 10 issued a statement on Monday saying May met Patel earlier in the day and discussed with her a possible breach of the ministerial code.
A No 10 spokesman said:” The “ministers ” welcomes the secretary of state’s clarification about her trip-up to Israel and has accepted her apology for her handling of the matter. The prime minister fulfilled the secretary of state this morning to remind her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code .”
The rebuke, apology and expressions of regret are highly embarrassing and come as the Foreign office is engaged in a turf war with the Department for International Development( DfID) over future projects.
It will be followed by demands that there is an immediate investigation into how a cabinet minister- touted as a possible successor to May- failed to declare meetings with foreign politicians whilst on a private visit.
In Patel’s statement of apology she acknowledges she gratified three senior Israeli politicians including Netanyahu, 10 representatives of Israeli organisations and startups with a focus on Africa.” This summertime I travelled to Israel, on a family vacation pay money myself.
” In hindsight, I can see how my exuberance to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were put up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it ,” she added.
Her meeting with Netanyahu included a discussion of Patel’s” family background” including” her experience growing up in an area of the UK with a thriving Jewish community” and” her political journey “.
A BBC report on Friday morning claimed that official departmental business was discussed during visits on which Patel was accompanied by Lord Polak, the honorary chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel( CFI ), a lobbying organisation.
James Landale, the BBC’s diplomatic editor, said she was on a family holiday on 24 August when she satisfied Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s Yesh Atid party and a former ministers of finance in Netanyahu’s coalition government.
Following a request for an interview about the BBC’s claims, Patel then told the Guardian:” Boris[ Johnson] knew about the visit. The phase is that the Foreign office did know about this, Boris knew about[ the trip-up ]. It is not on, “its not” on at all.
” I went out there, I paid for it ,” she said.” And there is nothing else to this. It is quite extraordinary. It is for the Foreign Office “re going away” and explain themselves .”
But under the heading” clarification of statements to the Guardian newspaper “, Patel admitted that Johnson had not been informed in advance.” This quote may have given the impression that the secretary of state had informed the foreign secretary about the visit in advance. The secretary of state would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case. The foreign secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it ,” the statement said.
Patel also implied in her interview that she had attended only two meetings outlined by the BBC. She said:” The stuff that is out there is it, as far as I am concerned. I went on holiday and met with people and organisations. As far as I am concerned, the Foreign Office have known about this. It is not about who else I satisfied, I have friends out there .”
Her statement on Monday said this too devoted a false impression.
” This quote may be read as implying that the secretary of state was saying that the meetings that had so far been publicly reported were the only ones which took place on her visit ,” it read.” The secretary of state would like to take the opportunity to correct this impression: she is clear that other meetings also took place on her visit .”
A full listing presents she attended 12 separate events, including a meeting with Netanyahu in which” prospects for closer collaboration” were discussed.
Patel also gratified the director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Yuval Rotem, for discussions about” prospects of the collaborative partnership on forests run “; discussed” growing antisemitism” in British politics in separate meetings with public security pastor Gilad Erdan and Lapid; and visited a host of charities , non-governmental international organizations and businesses.
Meetings were arranged by Lord Polak and he attended them all apart from one, when Patel was introduced to the work of the Pears Programme For Global Innovation by its director, Aliza Inbal.
On returning from her journey to Israel, which took place between 13 and 25 August, Patel commissioned DfID work on humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK, and on disability.” The FCO[ Foreign office] are clear that UK interests were not damaged or affected by the meetings on this visit ,” DfID said.
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