Tom Watson: The questions PM must answer over Israeli visit that sank Patel

Tom Watson

This is the letter sent by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson to Theresa May tonight following the resignation of international development secretary Priti Patel. 

Dear Prime Minister,

I am pleased to see that Priti Patel has resigned over undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials during her holiday in August. This was as clear a breach of the ministerial code, and of diplomatic protocol, as can be imagined, and the only surprise about her resignation is that it came so late.

However, I wonder if you could comment on reports that I have received which are difficult to reconcile with the Government’s account of events.

I have been informed that while she was in Israel, Ms Patel met officials from the British Consulate General Jerusalem, but that the fact of this meeting has not been made public.

If this were the case, then it would surely be impossible to sustain the claim that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not aware of Ms Patel’s presence in Israel. The existence of such a meeting or meetings would call into question the official account of Ms Patel’s behaviour, and the purpose of her visit.

I would therefore be grateful if you could answer the following questions.

  • Did Priti Patel meet UK consular officials while in Israel?
  • If so, what was the purpose of this meeting or meetings, and when and where did they take place?
  • Were any minutes taken?
  • Was Priti Patel acting with your authorisation in any of the meetings she held during her visit to Israel?
  • When were you made aware that Priti Patel had met officials from the British Consulate General Jerusalem during her visit to Israel?
  • When was the Foreign Secretary made aware that Priti Patel had met officials from the British Consulate General Jerusalem during her visit to Israel?
  • When did you become aware that Priti Patel was visiting Israel?
  • When did the FCO become aware that Priti Patel was visiting Israel?
  • Why was it not made public that Priti Patel had met British consular officials during her visit to Israel?
  • Did you, or did the FCO, request that information about Priti Patel meeting British consular officials be suppressed? If so, why? If not, why was it not published?

I would be grateful for speedy clarification of all of these questions. Given the public interest in this matter, I am releasing this letter to the media.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Watson

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