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UK Indian Minister Slammed for Unreported Meetings in Israel

According to a BBC report, Britain's senior-most Indian-origin minister Priti Patel, the secretary of state for international development, was accompanied by pro-Israeli Conservative party lobbyist Lord Polak during the meetings over two days in August when she was on holiday in the Jewish state.

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Updated:November 3, 2017, 8:54 PM IST
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UK Indian Minister Slammed for Unreported Meetings in Israel
File photo of Priti Patel, Britain's Secretary of State for International Development. (Photo: Reuters)
London: Britain's senior-most Indian-origin minister Priti Patel was under fire on Friday for allegedly failing to disclose her meetings with officials in Israel without informing the UK Foreign Office.

Patel, the secretary of state for international development, was accompanied by pro-Israeli Conservative party lobbyist Lord Polak during the meetings over two days in August when she was on holiday in the Jewish state, according to a BBC report.

Among her meetings included an interaction with Yair Lapid, the leader of one of Israel's main political parties Yesh Atid party, and visits to charity organisations. Ministers are required to tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas, but the BBC report claims that British diplomats in Israel were not informed about these meetings.

Patel, 45, has been backed by British Prime Minister Theresa May and UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

"She was in Israel on a private holiday that the Secretary of State paid for herself. There is no investigation taking place," a Downing Street spokesperson said. Describing Patel as a "good friend", Johnson tweeted that they work closely together for Global Britain and it was "quite right that she meets with people & organisations overseas".

However, the Opposition Labour party is calling for the government to examine whether the minister had breached the UK's ministerial code and rules on lobbying. "Priti Patel's actions show complete disregard for the ethics of public service, it also shows that the rules on lobbying are not tough enough," said Jon Trickett, the party's shadow Cabinet Office minister.

Lord Polak, honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel group, told the BBC that he just happened to be on holiday at the same time as Patel. "It was the summer holidays. I just joined her for a couple of days, some drinks, some dinner, that kind of thing," he said.

In reference to the meeting with political leader Lapid, he added, "He is just an old friend of mine, a personal friend. He is more a journalist than a politician. We just had coffee with him. It wasn't anything formal. It is all very innocent".

The peer said he had helped organise visits to Israeli firms and charities creating technologies that could be interesting to a minister for international development during the private visit.
(Get detailed and live results of each and every seat in the Lok Sabha elections and state Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim to know which candidate/party is leading or trailing and to know who has won and who has lost and by what margin. Our one-of-its-kind Election Analytics Centre lets you don a psephologist’s hat and turn into an election expert. Know interesting facts and trivia about the elections and see our informative graphics. Elections = News18)
| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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