Denying Boris Johnson’s role in evacuation of animals from Kabul was ‘inaccurate’, says Foreign Office mandarin

Pen Farthing, founder of British charity Nowzad, an animal shelter, stands in front of a cage on the outskirts of Kabul.
Pen Farthing, founder of British charity Nowzad, an animal shelter, stands in front of a cage on the outskirts of Kabul
  • A diplomat told MPs that Boris Johnson had not intervened to evacuate Pen Farthing's rescue animals.
  • Emails show otherwise, forcing Sir Philip Barton to apologise for 'inadvertently inaccurate answers'.
  • Chris Bryant said it is 'difficult to have confidence that we are getting full answers'.

The top mandarin at the Foreign Office has admitted that MPs were given "inadvertently inaccurate answers" suggesting Boris Johnson had not had any involvement in the evacuation of rescue animals from Kabul. 

Sir Philip Barton, the head of the Diplomatic Service, has apologised to the Foreign Affairs Committee after Nigel Casey, head of the Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran directorate, had denied receiving any correspondence suggesting the prime minister had authorised the evacuation. 

In a committee hearing on Tuesday, Casey told MPs: "I checked all my emails on the subject and I couldn't find any which referred to any prime ministerial intervention on the subject of Nowzad. If you have something that shows otherwise, I'd be very interested to see it."

But just a day later, the committee published emails from civil servants referring to the prime minister personally authorising the evacuation of animals at the Nowzad shelter, run by Pen Farthing.

The email, which was sent by an official in Foreign Office minister Zac Goldsmith's office to the FCDO's "special cases" desk, read: "Nowzad, run by an ex-Royal Marine, has received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated."

In a letter dated 27 January, Barton wrote to Tom Tugendhat, chair of the committee, "to apologise for the inadvertently inaccurate answers given to these questions".

He added: "On the day the email was sent, Nigel was almost entirely focused, in his role as Gold in our crisis response, on the terrorist threat to the evacuation, which led to our changing our Travel Advice that evening to warn British nationals to move away from the airport.

"As Nigel said to the Committee on 25 January, he has no recollection of having seen emails in which staff attributed this decision to the Prime Minister. Nor do I."

However, in a statement issued alongside this letter, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee said it raised further questions.

Chris Bryant, who is also chairman of the Commons' Standards Committee, said: "The disaster of our withdrawal from Afghanistan requires the highest level of scrutiny. Parliament can only do this if there is transparency from Government.

"Since we published internal Foreign Office emails earlier this week, further emails have come to light that make it difficult to have confidence that we are getting full answers from the department."  

Prior to Casey's appearance in front of the committee, Barton reiterated in a letter to Tugendhat on January 17 that he had no reason to believe there was support from the prime minister or No 10 about the Nowzad evacuation, and that Casey had not received any correspondence.

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