Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

Theresa May insists she has "full confidence" in her International Development Secretary, as pressure mounts for an inquiry.

However MPs were told Patel was already in the air flying to Africa for a ministerial visit.

Global development secretary Priti Patel has admitted foreign secretary Boris Johnson did not know about her trip to Israel until she was there - and revealed a slew of meetings not previously disclosed.

That sparked fury in the Foreign Office, as Britain has long opposed Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights where its Syrian refugee camps are, and her move was blocked.

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.

But The Sun can reveal that fresh questions emerged about 45-year-old Ms Patel's close links to leading Indian politicians, including the nation's controversial Premier, Narendra Modi.

Patel also said: "This summer I travelled to Israel, on a family holiday paid for by myself".

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Appearing on the BBC's Daily Politics show, Duncan Smith initially stood firm when asked if Patel had lied when she erroneously claimed that Boris Johnson knew about her secret meetings with Israeli officials.

The Balfour Declaration, she said, had been "indispensable" in the creation of a great nation, "a liberal democracy and hi-tech nation", and she believed there are many opportunities for Israel and Britain to extend and improve their partnership.

However Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, said that it was "not in any way forbidden" to speak to the Prime Minister of another country without telling the Foreign Secretary first.

In a clarification, on Monday she said that "this was not the case" and that he "did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it".

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 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". "It is hard to escape the conclusion that had she been a more expendable minister - Mark Garnier, for instance - or if the prime minister was in a position of strength, Patel would have faced a Cabinet Office inquiry at best, and her P45 at worst".

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