Tom Watson casts doubt on government version of Priti Patel scandal

Downing Street instructed Priti Patel not to disclose additional meetings she held with Israeli ministers for fear of embarrassing the Foreign Office, it has emerged.

Before the extra meetings were revealed, Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister continued to have confidence in Patel, who is now in Africa with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, after giving her a dressing down on Monday over her trip to Israel.

May, in her response, said: "Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have chose to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated".

"As you know from our discussions, I accept that in meeting with organisations and politicians during a private holiday in Israel, my actions fell below the high standards that are expected of a Secretary of State", she said.

"I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the Government for what has happened and offer my resignation", she added.

Asked whether Patel should be dismissed, the new defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: "The prime minister makes her own decision on actually who is serving in her cabinet, and they're only the prime minister's decisions".

The Times also reported that Patel held an undocumented meeting at the home of Hilda Worth, a Tory donor and deputy chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, during her trip to Israel. "I am sorry for this and I apologise for it".

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Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted about a meeting he had with Patel in the British parliament on September 7, describing it as "wonderful".

Under British protocol, a cabinet minister would normally organise meetings through the foreign office and be accompanied by officials, and visits with Israelis would typically be balanced with meetings with Palestinians.

He told James O'Brien that there were some odd questions about the whole story: "The idea that Number 10 was unaware of some of the ideas that Priti Patel was discussing to do with sharing British aid with Israel was nonsense, because I had been told about it early last week, long before the story broke, and Number 10 had signed off on it".

Mr Burt faced calls of "Where is she?" from the opposition benches when he rose to respond on Ms Patel's behalf.

Patel's meetings with Israeli officials, which May's office said they were not aware of, and a reported visit to an Israeli army field hospital in the Golan Heights, have increased the pressure on the prime minister, who depends on a Northern Irish party in parliament to pass legislation.

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.

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

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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