Priti Patel: A timeline of how the scandal developed from a family ‘holiday’ to a near-certain sacking

In just five days, Theresa May has shifted from insisting ‘no investigation’ is necessary – to preparing to fire her International Development Secretary

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 08 November 2017 14:17
Comments
Priti Patel - on the way out?
Priti Patel - on the way out?

13 AugustPriti Patel, the International Development Secretary, flies to Israel with her family for 13-day visit which she later describes as a “holiday”, paid for by herself.

3 November – The BBC reveals she held a number of meetings at which official departmental business was discussed, including with the leader of one of Israel’s main political parties.

The BBC also reports that Ms Patel was accompanied by Lord Polak, president of Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), which has close links with wealthy Tory donors.

The revelation triggers accusation that she has broken ministerial rules, by failing to tell the Foreign Office about government business conducted overseas.

However, Theresa May’s official spokesman denies any controversy, insisting Ms Patel had simply taken “the opportunity to meet some people and some organisations”.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned by the allegations, he replies: “There is no investigation taking place.”

Later, Ms Patel insists the allegation that she kept the Foreign Office in the dark is false, telling a reporter, “Boris [Johnson] knew about the visit.”

6 November – The Cabinet minister issues a lengthy statement accepting the visit “did not accord with the usual procedures”. She adds: “I am sorry for this and I apologise for it.”

She reveals she undertook no fewer than 12 meetings while in Israel, including with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, the country’s security minister and the foreign ministry’s chief diplomat.

The statement admits the Foreign Office was “not informed” about the meetings, contrary to her earlier claim.

Ms Patel is given a face-to-face reprimand by the Prime Minister, and reminded about her “responsibilities under the ministerial code”.

But Ms May’s spokesman denies her actions are a “resigning matter”, saying: “The important point here is that no UK interests were damaged.”

He disputes that the ministerial code has been broken, arguing it is “not explicit in this area”. The Cabinet Secretary is asked to make it “clearer”.

Asked if the Prime Minister had not known, for more than two months, that her minister had met Mr Netanyahu, a foreign head of state, the spokesman replies: “That is correct.”

7 November – The BBC reports that Ms Patel – unknown to No 10 – discussed funnelling foreign aid cash for Syrian refugees through the Israeli Defence Force.

The Foreign Office says it rejected the plan, because it involved humanitarian operations in the Golan Heights, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.

During an “urgent question’ in the Commons, Tory MPs fail to support Ms Patel, but the minister is absent, having flown to Africa on a pre-arranged visit.

Later, it is revealed she held two further meetings after her “holiday” in September, with Israel’s security minister and the chief diplomat, the former on the House of Commons terrace.

It is reported that Lord Polak, who is also chairman of a lobbying group, attended Ms Patel’s earlier meetings with members of the Israeli government.

8 November – Downing Street orders Ms Patel to cancel meetings and return home immediately from Kenya, amid a growing belief that she will be sacked.

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper reports that she also visited an Israeli military field hospital in the occupied Golan Heights.

No 10 denies it instructed Ms Patel not to publicise the September meeting with diplomat Yuval Rotem to avoid embarrassing the Foreign Office, but accepts it knew about it.

However, The Independent is told she still faces dismissal because she did not disclose the Commons meeting with security minister Gilad Erdan to the Prime Minister.

No 10 also denies that Ms May knew in August about the meeting with Mr Netanyahu, and the plan for UK aid to be passed through the Israeli army.

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