Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

Priti Patel: Israel and Britain can extend and improve their partnership

Ms Patel admitted that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not know about the trip in advance.

Labour called for the International Development Secretary to resign for an apparent breach of the ministerial code.

She had previously said he "knew about the visit".

"The code is not explicit in this area and one of the things which will follow from this is that the Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Secretary to look at how the code can be made clearer in this respect".

Downing Street also disputed whether Ms Patel had broken the ministerial code, by holding no less than 12 official meetings while on "holiday" in Israel, arguing the code was "not explicit".

The resignation call came after Ms Patel apologised for the meetings, following a face-to-face rebuke from Ms May. "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it".

"Boris knew about the visit".

And it was also revealed she was summoned to Number 10 for a meeting with Theresa May this morning, where the Prime Minister reminded "her of the obligations which exist under the Ministerial Code".

"She is the cabinet minister in charge of Britain's aid budget but sees fit to go rogue in a foreign country with the assistance of lobbyists and that country's officials, but without the knowledge of the foreign office".

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Described by fellow MP Theresa Villiers as one of Israel's staunchest friends in Parliament, the Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, confirmed her determination to extend collaboration between Britain and Israel in her address to the Bicom/Jewish News conference last week.

But, in a fresh statement, she acknowledged the Foreign Office was only "aware of my visit while it was underway‎".

Ministers are supposed to tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas, but British diplomats in Israel were not informed in advance.

Patel also met the director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Yuval Rotem, for discussions about "prospects for partnership work"; discussed "growing antisemitism" in British politics in separate meetings with public security minister Gilad Erdan and Lapid; and visited a host of charities, non-governmental organisations and businesses.

And his frontbench colleague Kate Osamor said in a statement: "Today's statement is a desperate last-ditch attempt by Priti Patel to save her job".

After details of Ms. Patel's meetings in Israel were first reported recently, Ms. Patel told the Guardian newspaper Mr. Johnson knew about the trip.

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".

The statement said that Patel and Netanyahu had held an "introductory meeting" in which they had discussed Patel's family background as the daughter of Ugandan Indian migrants growing up in an area of the United Kingdom with a "thriving Jewish community".

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