No inquiry over Priti Patel meetings during Israeli holiday
Labour said the meetings raised “a series of questions about the ethics of public service and the integrity of the Government”.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel is not being investigated over meetings she held with an Israeli politician and a charity, reportedly without telling the Foreign Office, Downing Street said.
Theresa May’s official spokesman said Ms Patel was in Israel on a private holiday “paid for by herself” and “no investigation” is being carried out into whether she broke ministerial rules.
She was backed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said the pair “work closely together” and that she was “quite right” to have the meetings.
But Labour said they raised “a series of questions about the ethics of public service and the integrity of the Government”.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said if Ms Patel made foreign policy commitments at the meetings she could have breached the ministerial code, which states that “ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and private interests, financial or otherwise”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters: “I think while she was there she took the opportunity to meet some people and organisations, but it was a private holiday and entirely paid for by the Secretary of State.”
“I’ve not been made aware of any concerns,” he added. “No investigation is taking place.”
Mr Johnson tweeted: “@Patel4witham is a good friend & we work closely together for GLOBAL BRITAIN. Quite right that she meets w/ people & organisations overseas”.
.@Patel4witham is a good friend & we work closely together for GLOBAL BRITAIN. Quite right that she meets w/ people & organisations overseas— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 3, 2017
It comes after Ms Patel was pictured meeting Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party, while on the holiday.
Mr Lapid tweeted a photo of the meeting on August 24 and described Ms Patel as a “true friend of Israel”.
According to the BBC, Ms Patel was accompanied by Tory peer Lord Polak, who is honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group.
The pair also visited Beit Issie Shapiro, an Israeli disability charity and campaign group, it was reported.
Great to meet with Priti Patel, UK Secretary of State for International Development, today. A true friend of Israel. pic.twitter.com/8q9qSeX7YZ— יאיר לפיד Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) August 24, 2017
Demanding an investigation into whether the code was breached in a letter to Mrs May, Mr Trickett said: “I am reminded of the case involving Liam Fox and Adam Werrity, where it was found that the latter was accompanying the former defence secretary to official defence meetings.
“You may recall that Mr Fox had to resign as a result of this ministerial code breach.
“The British public have many legitimate concerns about whether politicians live up to the high standards rightly demanded of them, as well as about influence of lobbyists over formation of policy.
“This will inevitably raise questions about the impunity with which Secretaries of State feel they can act in your Government. And the public may also question the strength of this Government if no action is taken.”
Liberal Democrat international development spokeswoman Baroness Sheehan said: “It is objectionable that Priti Patel chooses to use her position of influence to inappropriately foster her own political ambition, disregarding both common courtesy due to the Foreign Secretary and Government procedures.
“Priti Patel now must answer questions over whether she has broken the ministerial code of conduct. If she has, her position as Secretary of State is untenable.”