Priti Patel set to be sacked after being ordered back to UK

Priti Patel set to be sacked after being ordered back to UK

The International Development Secretary to meet Theresa May after holding unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians

Priti Patel with Stuart Polak at the Jewish News-BICOM policy conference.  Photo credit: Marc Morris Photography
Priti Patel with Stuart Polak at the Jewish News-BICOM policy conference. Photo credit: Marc Morris Photography

Priti Patel is facing almost certain dismissal after being ordered back to Britain following the disclosure of further unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians.

The International Development Secretary was forced to cut short an official visit to Africa after being summoned by Theresa May to Downing Street to explain herself.

Ms Patel has already apologised to the Prime Minister on Monday after failing to disclose a series of 12 meetings with senior Israeli figures during a family holiday in the country in August.

It has since emerged that she then held two additional meetings, one in the UK and one in the United States, following her return from vacation.

In a further development the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported that during her stay in the country she visited an Israeli military field hospital in the occupied Golan Heights.

Britain, like other members of the international community, has never recognised Israeli control of the heights which were seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

There was no immediate comment from the Department for International Development (DiFD) on the report.

Sources said Ms Patel was on a flight back to the UK having arrived in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday for the start of a three-day visit to Africa with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

Dr Fox and the rest of the delegation were reported to have continued on to their first official engagement in Uganda without her.

Her return follows the disclosure that she met Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Parliament on September 7, and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on September 18.

It is understood that Downing Street was told about the New York breakfast with Mr Rotem when Ms Patel revealed the details of her trip to Israel, but No 10 only learnt on Tuesday about the meeting with Mr Erdan.

No British officials were present and, like her meetings in Israel, she did not report them to the Foreign Office or Government in the usual way.

She was accompanied at all the meetings bar one in Israel by the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group, Lord Polak.

Labour has already demanded an investigation by the Prime Minister’s standards adviser into Ms Patel‘s meetings with the Israeli government, claiming they involved four “serious breaches” of the ministerial code.

Before the extra meetings were revealed, Downing Street insisted Mrs May continued to have confidence in Ms Patel after giving her a dressing down over her trip to Israel.

Number 10 confirmed that Ms Patel had discussed the possibility of UK aid being used to support medical assistance for refugees from the Syrian civil war arriving in the Golan Heights.

However the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was unable to say whether she had explained when she met Mrs May that the scheme would have involved supplying funding to the Israeli army.

On returning from Israel, Ms Patel commissioned work by DfID on disability, humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK.

Ms Patel only made Mrs May aware of the meetings on Friday, more than two months after they took place, when reports began to emerge of talks she held with a politician and a disability charity.

The minister apologised and admitted a “lack of precision” for suggesting last week that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about the trip, and that only two meetings had taken place.

Mrs May also took steps to tighten the ministerial code, asking Whitehall’s top civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to look at how it can be clarified.

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