LABOUR has demanded an investigation into International Development Secretary Priti Patel holding meetings in Israel with the country’s government without telling the Foreign Office in advance.
Downing Street also admitted yesterday that Ms Patel had discussed with Israel the idea of giving British foreign aid money to its army for “humanitarian” work in the illegally occupied Golan Heights.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett called on Theresa May to order a probe into four “serious breaches” of the ministerial code of conduct.
The Prime Minister gave Ms Patel a dressing-down on Monday, reminding her of her ministerial obligations over her decision to conduct 12 meetings during a “family holiday” in August, including one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The meetings were arranged by Conservative Friends of Israel honorary president Lord Polak, who attended 11 of them.
It has been suggested that Ms May’s apparent inability to sack Ms Patel — along with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson over his potentially damaging false claims about a British mother imprisoned in Iran — shows her weakness.
Labour sought to force Ms Patel to explain herself to MPs by tabling an urgent question in the Commons, but she was absent.
She was on a prearranged trip to Africa, said junior International Development Minister Alistair Burt.
Her Labour shadow Kate Osamor said Ms Patel’s non-attendance was “simply unacceptable” and she should resign.
She told MPs: “Rather than change the minister, the Prime Minister somehow decided last night that it is the ministerial code itself that needs changing.”
On returning from her Israel trip, Ms Patel commissioned Department for International Development work on disability and development partnerships between Israel and Britain.
She only made Ms May aware of the meetings on Friday after reports emerged more than two months later.
War on Want senior militarism and security campaigner Ryvka Barnard condemned Ms Patel’s idea of giving aid money to Israel’s army as “beyond outrageous.”
She added: “Priti Patel is clearly using her position to cosy up with Israel’s repressive regime.
“She should resign immediately and the government should take the steps necessary to end its complicity in violations of international law through its arms trade with Israel.”