Pressure mounts on Priti Patel over lunch with Tory donor as Labour demand answers

By Ben Glaze

Priti Patel is under mounting pressure today over a meeting with a Tory donor.

The Home Secretary was fired from the Cabinet in 2017 after holding unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli government figures.

Now it has emerged she met Conservative donor Surinder Arora and executives from Dubai Airports and British Airways last month without any officials present.

Ministers should have officials present if government business is discussed, or if they are ambushed with government business on a social visit should disclose it promptly.

Labour accused her of being "reckless" and a "serial offender" in breaching the ministerial code.

But Boris Johnson, who overruled a Whitehall sleaze buster last year to keep Ms Patel in post despite bullying allegations, again stood by the embattled Cabinet Minister.

Asked today if she had done anything wrong, the PM claimed: "No – she's doing an excellent job as Home Secretary and will continue to do so."

Asked today if she had done anything wrong, the PM claimed: "No" (PA)

However, Ms Patel is tipped for the sack and could be ejected from the Home Office in a reshuffle which could take place this week.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds demanded Ms Patel to make a statement to Parliament over the affair.

In a letter, he wrote: “Given your dismissal from Government on the issue of undisclosed meetings in 2017, and your acceptance at the time that your 'actions fell below the high standards expected of a Secretary of State' together with the finding of the Prime Minister’s then independent adviser that you broke the Ministerial Code by bullying in 2020, there are serious concerns about your respect for the rules by which all ministers are bound.”

He added: "The Home Secretary is so reckless about her duties that it seems she takes part in meetings behind closed doors and without an official present."

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner urged Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to intervene.

She wrote to him saying: “It is difficult to do your job when ministers seem totally committed to disregarding the rules, but I must push you to make clear that the consequences are severe for those that undermine the transparency and decency in Government.”

The latest row came after the Sunday Mirror revealed Ms Patel attended a meeting on August 11 at Heathrow Airport's Hilton Garden Inn, which is part of a chain owned by Tory donor Surinder Arora.

Mr Arora was at the meeting along with his son and Arora strategy director, Sanjay; Arora chief financial officer Carlton Brown; the chief executive of Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths; and BA corporate affairs director Lisa Tremble.

The paper reported there was no Home Office official present – despite rules saying there should be if Government business was discussed.
Ms Rayner said: “The Home Secretary is a serial offender with no regard for the ministerial code.

“It's time the Prime Minister took away her get out of jail free card."

A spokesman for the Home Secretary said: "Details of all the Home Secretary's relevant external meetings will be published in the usual way in accordance with the Ministerial Code."

It is understood Ms Patel considered it a private meeting and the lunch was declared to her private office.

Mr Arora told the Sunday Mirror: "I've known Kwasi and Priti for years. I said, 'Pop in and have lunch and see my new hotel'.

"I don't do politics. I don't support anyone. There wasn't any agenda."


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