Sir Alistair Graham said if the Home Secretary is shown to have broken the ministerial code by arranging high level talks at Heathrow Airport with the billionaire donor and the airline, Boris Johnson has no choice but to axe her
Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson should sack Priti Patel over a secret meeting she held between a billionaire Tory donor and British Airways, a former standards chief insisted.
Sir Alistair Graham said if the Home Secretary is shown to have broken the ministerial code, the PM has no choice but to axe her.
The Sunday Mirror revealed how Ms Patel arranged high level talks at Heathrow Airport’s Hilton Garden Inn on August 11 without a Home Office official present, a potential breach of rules.
Ms Patel quit as International Development Secretary in 2017 after unauthorised meetings with Israelis.
Tories scrambled to defend her over the latest talks, branded “secret lobbying” by Labour.
But former chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards in Public Life Sir Alistair said: “If the evidence shows she has broken the ministerial code for a second time even Boris Johnson cannot continue to keep her. She will have to go.”
Ms Patel met with Surinder Arora of the Arora Group, which owns the Hilton Garden Inn hotel.
Just weeks earlier he declared he needed “all the help we can get from government” after Covid led to a 90% fall in bookings. Mr Arora also has ambitions of building and running a third Heathrow runway.
Worth around £1.2billion, he donated between £5,000 and £6,000 to Philip Hammond when the former Tory Chancellor was his local MP.
Also at the meeting was BA corporate affairs director, Lisa Tremble and chief executive of Dubai Airports Carlton Brown.
Sources close to Ms Patel claim she viewed the meeting as a private matter and therefore logged the lunch with her private office.
A spokesman said: “Details of all the Home Secretary’s relevant external meetings will be published in the usual way in accordance with the ministerial code.”
Defending Ms Patel, one minister said: “She logged it with her private office afterwards in the usual way. Clearly these are old friends, we don’t dismiss all those we know and support as MPs when we become ministers.”
Ms Trimble insisted the meeting was “an informal lunch”. She said: “There was no hard lobbying.”
But sources said topics discussed included passenger locator forms for Covid, airport and airline regulation and the traffic lights system for foreign travel.
Mr Arora said he invited Ms Patel to “pop in and have lunch”. He added: “There wasn’t any agenda.”
The ministerial code says: “A private secretary or official should be present for all discussions relating to government business.”
Labour’s Angela Rayner said Ms Patel has “serious questions to answer”.
She added: “This secret lobbying lunch breaks the rules.”
The Cabinet Office has been contacted.