Priti Patel breaks rules again after secret meeting with billionaire and British Airways



Home Secretary Priti Patel was branded a serial offender last night over a secret “lobbying” meeting she brokered between a billionaire Tory donor and British Airways.

In an alleged breach of the ministerial code Ms Patel arranged high level talks at Heathrow Airport’s Hilton Garden Inn without a Home Office official present – as rules dictate.

The hotel is part of a chain owned by Ms Patel’s friend Surinder Arora.

Only weeks earlier he declared he needed “all the help we can get from government” after Covid led to a 90% fall in bookings. And he has ambitions of building and running a third Heathrow runway.

Tonight Labour called for a probe by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case into the Home Secretary’s conduct.

It is almost exactly the same behaviour by Ms Patel which forced her resignation as International Development Secretary in 2017 when she held unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials.

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Labour’s Angela Rayner said Priti Patel was a ‘serial offender’
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Labour 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 breaks the rules and she has serious questions to answer.

“She must be investigated by the Cabinet Secretary immediately.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was invited to the meeting and was there without anyone from his department.

A source said: “Priti has always done favours for her friends. But that’s not how things should be done in government. This meeting should not have happened without a civil servant there.”








Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was at the meeting
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Our revelation will put further pressure on PM Boris Johnson to dump Ms Patel in an imminent Cabinet reshuffle.

The meeting on Wednesday, August 11, was at the request of Mr Arora, whose group has 16 hotels, most at airport sites.

The tycoon, worth around £1.2billion, donated between £5-£6,000 to Philip Hammond when the former Chancellor was his local MP.

Lord Hammond is now chairman of the Arora advisory board. Also at the lunch were Surinder’s son and Arora strategy director, Sanjay, Arora chief financial officer Carlton Brown, and the chief executive of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths.

Mr Griffiths declined to comment on the meeting.








Surinder Arora Ray said he needed ‘all the help we can get’ from the Government
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BA chief executive Sean Doyle was also invited but was unable to go and sent his corporate affairs director Lisa Tremble instead.

She said: “It was an informal lunch. There wasn’t a set agenda. There was no hard lobbying and it was extremely wide ranging.”

Asked if a civil servant should have been present. Ms Tremble added: “That’s not a question for me.”

Sources say topics discussed included passenger locator forms for Covid contact tracing, airport and airline regulation – and the red, amber and green country labelling scheme which decides which passengers need to quarantine.





Dubai moved from red to amber six days before the meeting but there is no suggestion any of the lunch participants had anything to do with that.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Priti Patel previously broke the ministerial code by bullying her civil servants.

“The Home Secretary is so reckless about her duties it seems she takes part in meetings behind closed doors without an official present.

“As always with the Tories, the rules never apply to them.”







Talks were held at Heathrow Airport’s Hilton Garden Inn



Mr Kwarteng was present in his role of local MP, not as Business Secretary. Heathrow borders his Spelthorne constituency in Surrey.

The source added: “But he was still uncomfortable about the whole thing going ahead without officials present.”

Home Office insiders claim it was a private lunch and Ms Patel was not there in an official capacity.

But another source said: “That is nonsense. Ministers can’t just meet one airline. They must meet them all. And there should be someone on the payroll of their departments present.”

And Whitehall confirmed business was discussed over lunch.








In 2017 she was forced to resign as International Development Secretary for holding nauthorised meetings with Israeli officials
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A government spokesman said: “Arora is a major employer in the Secretary of State’s [Mr Kwarteng’s] constituency. The Secretary was conducting constituency business.”

Surinder Arora played down the significance of the meeting. 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.”

But in July Mr Arora told Sky News it would take time for his hotels to reach even 60% capacity, adding: “We need all government help we can get.”




Mr Arora made a bid to build and operate a third Heathrow runway – in competition with the airport itself.

The Court of Appeal ruled any expansion unlawful but both Heathrow and Arora are appealing this decision.

In 2019 Ms Patel declared the use of a box worth £2,980, provided by Arora Management Services, to watch Somerset play Surrey at the Oval cricket ground.

The ministerial code says: “Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests.”

And it adds: “A private secretary or official should be present for all discussions relating to government business.”





If ministers are caught unawares while on holiday or at a social function they must inform their departments immediately – and meetings are published quarterly.

Home Office insiders said the lunch was declared to Ms Patel’s private office. But that indicates it was regarded as involving government business.

Veteran constitutionalist David Rogers said. “This is a clear breach of the ministerial code firmly established since Margaret Thatcher’s day.

“Every Cabinet minister knows that a government official must be present when government business is discussed. And having been caught out before the Home Secretary should know that better than most.”

In 2017 Ms Patel was ordered back from an official trip in Africa.








A furious Theresa May summoned her to explain earlier meetings with Israeli officials and politicians
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A furious Theresa May summoned her to explain earlier meetings with Israeli officials and politicians – including then PM Benjamin Netanyahu – without Foreign Office staff present.

Ms Patel duly resigned, telling Mrs May in a letter: “I accept that in meeting with politicians and organisations during a private holiday in Israel my actions fell below the high standards expected of a Secretary of State. I offer a fulsome apology.”

The then-PM replied: “The UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right we work closely together. But that must be formally, through official channels. It is right you have decided to resign.”

Boris Johnson is understood to already be angry with Ms Patel over the number of migrants heading to the UK. And she is in a diplomatic war with France over her plans to push back migrants mid-Channel and her threat to pull the plug on £54million to help the French tackle crossings.

A spokesman for Ms 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.”





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