The Foreign Office’s top mandarin has apologised for misleading MPs in the row over the evacuation of animals from Afghanistan.
Sir Philip Barton, the Foreign Office’s permanent under-secretary, had told the Foreign Affairs Committee that Nigel Casey, the Prime Minister’s special representative for Afghanistan, had not received any correspondence referring to any intervention by Boris Johnson in the evacuation from the country of animals from the Nowzad charity.
But in emails revealed by Newsnight, Mr Casey was seen to have asked an official “to seek clear guidance for us from No 10 as soon as possible on what they would like us to do” in the case.
Sir Philip had already written to Tom Tugendhat, the committee’s chairman, to apologise after previously revealed emails showed Mr Casey had received correspondence.
He said he had given “inadvertently inaccurate answers”.
But he said that “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”.
Sir Philip previously came under fire for remaining on holiday after Kabul fell in August.
The admission is the latest controversy in the saga surrounding the evacuation of animals looked after by the Nowzad charity – set up by former marine Pen Farthing – from Kabul last year.
Allegations ‘total rhubarb’
Mr Johnson has said any allegations he personally intervened to get the animals out of the country were “total rhubarb”.
Mr Farthing later told Channel 4 News: “I can say with my hand on my heart with absolute honesty, I have no idea who in Government approved our flight. The first time I found out, it was exactly the same time as everybody else was when Ben Wallace tweeted at 1:30 in the morning UK time that he had approved for our aircraft to land in Kabul.
“If Boris Johnson [had] intervened, why did I almost not make it out of Kabul? Surely if I was prioritised, if pets were prioritised over people, how come we left after Operation Pitting?
“The British military did not help me get those dogs and cats onto that flight. They had left. They had gone, no British troops whatsoever facilitated my entry into Kabul airport.”