Labour has accused the Home Secretary of being “reckless” and a “serial offender” in breaching the ministerial code after allegations involving a meeting between a billionaire Tory donor and British Airways.
The Sunday Mirror reports today that Priti Patel arranged a meeting on 11 August at Heathrow Airport’s Hilton Garden Inn, which is part of a chain owned by Tory donor Surinder Arora.
Arora – who is founder and chairman of the Arora Group – 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.
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.
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 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 that the Home Secretary considered it a private meeting and that the lunch was declared to her private office.
Resignation in 2017
The reports will raise eyebrows after Patel was forced to resign as International Development Secretary in 2017 after unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials.
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.”
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 previously donated to former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond when he was his local MP. He told The Sunday Mirror: “I’ve known Kwarsi 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.”
On Sunday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said his Cabinet colleague was doing “really well”.
Amid criticism of the Home Secretary’s performance, Javid said on Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “It’s a really tough job, and she’s doing really well.
“There’s so many things that she has already done with the legislation that’s been put forward, but I also know as Home Secretary, you’ll also do a huge amount that never gets into the public eye because it’s not something you can ever talk about publicly.
“And, I think it’s obvious to me, having done that job, that she’s carrying out that part of the work here, the stuff that’s never in the public, incredibly well.”