Priti Patel accused of breaching ministerial code yet again

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Labour has accused Priti Patel of being “reckless” and a “serial offender” in breaching the ministerial code. It comes after allegations the home secretary brokered a meeting between a billionaire Tory donor and British Airways.

No Home Office representation

The Sunday Mirror reported that Patel arranged a meeting on 11 August at Heathrow Airport’s Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel is part of a chain owned by Tory donor Surinder Arora.

Arora is founder and chairman of the Arora Group. He was at the meeting along with his son Sanjay, who is Arora Group’s strategy director. Along with them, Arora chief financial officer Carlton Brown, Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths, and BA corporate affairs director Lisa Tremble were also present.

BA chief executive Sean Doyle was reportedly invited but could not attend.

But the Sunday Mirror reported there was no official from the home office present, as rules would dictate there should be if government business was discussed.

Asian Business Awards 2007
Surinder Arora is pictured winning KPMG Entrepreneur of the Year at the Asian Business Awards 2007 (Cathal McNaughton/PA)

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Yet another breach

The ministerial code states:

A private secretary or official should be present for all discussions relating to Government business.

If a minister meets an external organisation or individual and finds themselves discussing official business without an official present – for example at a social occasion or on holiday – any significant content should be passed back to the department as soon as possible after the event.

A spokesperson for Patel 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’s understood that the home secretary considered it a private meeting and that the lunch was declared to her private office.

But the reports will raise eyebrows after Patel was forced to resign as international development secretary in 2017. This was after Patel held unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials.

‘Serial offender’, no accountability

Labour’s deputy leader Angela 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.

This secret lobbying lunch would break the rules three times over. She has serious questions to answer and must be investigated by the Cabinet Secretary immediately.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, 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.

Tory donor

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was also at the meeting without anyone from his department.

The Sunday Mirror reported that he attended in his role as a local MP, as Heathrow borders his Spelthorne constituency.

Arora has previously donated to former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond when Hammond was his local MP.

Despite his donation to Hammond, however, Arora claimed he ‘doesn’t do politics’. He told the Sunday Mirror:

I’ve known Kwarsi [sic] 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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