Theresa May was unaware of a secret meeting International Development Secretary Priti Patel held with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for more than two months – but retains full confidence in her, Downing Street said.

Ms Patel only made the Prime Minister aware of the meeting, and 11 others she held while on holiday in Israel in August, after reports began to emerge of talks she held with a politician and a disability charity.

Labour has called for a full investigation into whether Ms Patel broke the ministerial code and accused her of “misleading the British public”.

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Ms Patel appears to have avoided the sack over the trip, despite admitting she had shown a “lack of precision” on Friday when she suggested that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about it in advance and that only two meetings had taken place.

She was forced to reveal yesterday that Mr Johnson was not told in advance and that she had held 12 meetings, which were arranged by the honorary president of the lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Polak.

Asked when Mrs May knew about Ms Patel’s meeting with Mr Netanyahu, the PM’s spokesman said: “There was reporting of this, as you know, on Friday morning and once that reporting took place the Secretary of State provided full details in an open and transparent way of everyone she’d met.”

Ms Patel apologised yesterday to the PM, who “reminded her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code”.

“The important point here is that no UK interests were damaged or affected by the meetings which took place and the Secretary of State has apologised,” the spokesman said. “The code is not explicit in this area and one of the things which will follow from this is that the PM has asked the Cabinet Secretary to look at how the code can be made clearer in this respect.”

On returning from her August 13 to 25 trip, Ms Patel commissioned Department for International Development (Dfid) work on humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK, and on disability.

Ms Patel and Mr Netanyahu, who held talks with Mrs May in London last week before she found out about the meeting, discussed “prospects for closer collaboration”.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said there had been a “clear breach” of the ministerial code while shadow international development secretary Kate Osamor called for an investigation.

Ms Osamor said: “Today’s statement is a desperate last-ditch attempt by Priti Patel to save her job.

“It has now emerged that, contrary to her statement, the Foreign Secretary was never told in advance about her meetings in Israel - which we have only now discovered included meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with the Foreign Ministry.

“Not only does it look like she might have breached the ministerial code, she has now been caught misleading the British public. If she doesn’t now resign, then Theresa May must immediately refer the issue to the Cabinet Office for a full investigation.”

Apologising for her conduct, Ms Patel said: “This summer I travelled to Israel.

“While away, I had the opportunity to meet a number of people and organisations. I am publishing a list of who I met. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was under way.

“In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up in a way which did not accord with procedures.”