Embattled UK cabinet minister 'summoned back to London from Africa'

Priti Patel is under pressure over a series of undisclosed meetings with Israeli political figures

Embattled UK cabinet minister 'summoned back to London from Africa'

UK's International Development Secretary Priti Patel. Picture by: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images

Embattled UK cabinet minister Priti Patel is flying back to London 'at the request of the Prime Minister', according to media reports.

The British government's international development secretary, who was in Africa on an official trip, is under pressure over a series of undisclosed meetings with Israeli political figures.

Ms Patel apologised earlier this week but details of two further meetings have now emerged.

It has put Theresa May under new pressure to sack the cabinet minister.

It is understood Ms Patel met Israel's public security minister Gilad Erdan in parliament on 7 September and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on 18 September.

Theresa May was reportedly told about the New York meeting on Monday but only learned about the meeting with Mr Erdan on Tuesday.

Posting on Twitter at the time of the meeting, Mr Erdan revealed he and Ms Patel discussed how "to advance UK-Israel development cooperation".

Ms Patel was already under scrutiny after she failed to inform either the UK's foreign office or Downing Street about 12 meetings she held with top officials during a 13-day "family holiday" to Israel in August.

Ministerial rules

When conducting official work overseas, British ministers are supposed to tell the foreign office.

Ms Patel's meetings included talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a meeting Mrs May had no knowledge of for more than two months.

Ms Patel missed a parliamentary grilling over the exposure of those meetings on Tuesday, when she caught a flight to Uganda for a government visit.

It was left to her junior minister Alistair Burt to explain how, on returning from her Israel trip, Ms Patel had proposed giving departmental cash to the Israeli army for aid programmes in the Golan Heights, which was ruled "not appropriate".

Ms Patel, who has been touted as a future Conservative leader, was ordered to Downing Street on Monday when Mrs May reminded her of ministerial rules.

She also issued an apology and a clarification of her previous comments to a newspaper, which had sparked accusations she was trying to cover-up details of her Israel visit.

Ms Patel's sacking or resignation would mark the second departure from Mrs May's cabinet within the space of a week, after Michael Fallon stood down amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards female journalists.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson is also under pressure after his comments about a British national imprisoned in Iran led to fears her sentence could be doubled.