Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

  • Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

The global 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.

Patel's apology statement included a list of people she met, along with a brief summary of the discussions.

Lord Ricketts, former head of the Diplomatic Service, told BBC Radio 4's World Tonight programme: "I can't think of a precedent where a senior minister visits a country, has an extensive programme like this without the Foreign Office, the foreign secretary or even the ambassador in the country knowing about it".

A senior British minister on Monday admitted that she held a previously undisclosed meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while on holiday in Israel in August.

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

May was only made aware Patel had met Netanyahu last Friday - the day after the Israeli prime minister had held talks with the prime minister in Downing Street.

Opposition MPs called for her to resign if she breached the ministerial code of conduct, but a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that she had accepted Patel's apology and considered the matter closed. The Foreign Office was aware of the visit while it was underway, but were not informed about it in advance. [Patel] would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case.

Downing Street has also been forced to deny that her meetings in the country had led to any change of political stance on the region.

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. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it", Patel said in her apology statement.

Mr Burt insisted: "She is doing her job as development secretary which is what she is doing today - and that is what those meetings disclose".

Priti Patel discussed giving United Kingdom aid money to humanitarian projects in a disputed region of Israel, Number 10 has admitted.

The PM's official spokesman said of Ms Patel: "Nobody is pretending she handled this situation well, least of all the Secretary of State". May yesterday summoned Patel to No 10 to "remind her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code".

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