As I wrote yesterday here, we have a number of credible people in Parliament on the theme of the terrible Afghanistan issue. Here are some of the statements made by a few of the sensible and credible people and tragically some of the responses from the Government. My blog yesterday referred to comments and responses from three people, Caroline Nokes, Tom Tugenhadt and Tobias Ellwood. At the beginning of yesterdays debate which can be found here in Hansard the second person who cut into the inadequate statement by Boris Johnson was Tobias Ellwood.
Tobias: Does the Prime Minister agree that we are ceding back the country to the very insurgency that we went in to defeat in the first place, and that the reputation of the west for support for democracies around the world has suffered? There are so many lessons to be learned from what happened over the last 20 years. Will he now agree to a formal independent inquiry into conduct in Afghanistan?
This seems to be a very credible call but sadly the response was not at all credible
Prime Minister: As I said in the House just a few weeks ago, there was an extensive defence review about the Afghan mission after the combat mission ended in 2014, and I believe that most of the key questions have already been extensively gone into. It is important that we in this House should today be able to scrutinise events as they unfold.
The second comment came from another Conservative MP which was Mark Harper from the Forest of Dean and the response from the Prime Minister was once again not very credible
Mark Harper: May I take the Prime Minister back to his remarks in the House on 8 July, when he referred to the assessment that he had made? There has clearly been a catastrophic failure of our intelligence, or our assessment of the intelligence, because of the speed with which this has caught us unawares. Can he set out for the House how we may assure ourselves that in future years no terrorist attacks put together in Afghanistan take place here in the United Kingdom?
Prime Minister: I think it would be fair to say that the events in Afghanistan have unfolded faster, and the collapse has been faster, than I think even the Taliban themselves predicted. What is not true is to say that the UK Government were unprepared or did not foresee this, because it was certainly part of our planning. The very difficult logistical operation for the withdrawal of UK nationals has been under preparation for many months, and I can tell the House that the decision to commission the emergency handling centre at the airport—the commissioning of that centre—took place two weeks ago.
Later on in the debate Tom Tugenhadt made a significant statement which included these few words as part of it
Tom Tugenhadt: What we have done in these last few days is demonstrate that it is not armies that win wars. Armies can get tactical victories and operational victories that can hold the line; they can just about make room for peace—make room for people like us to talk, to compromise, to listen. It is nations that make war; nations endure; nations mobilise and muster; nations determine and have patience. Here we have demonstrated, sadly, that we—the west, the United Kingdom—do not.
Then later on there were many more words from Tobias Ellwood and then from Caroline Nokes who stated in a longer piece these two sections
Caroline Nokes: I start by commending my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the scheme that he is putting in place to ensure that we can prioritise women and girls and bring them to safety. He and I do not always see eye to eye, but this scheme absolutely is the bespoke one that I have been calling for over the last few days. But time is of the essence and detail is missing, and that is my big worry. How are we going to bring those people to safety in the time that we have to do it? For 18 months, I lived the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, and I know the complexities and the difficulties with, on occasion, pettifogging bureaucracy. I know how hard it is to get the referrals and make sure that people have the right vulnerabilities identified, and how difficult it is to work on the ground when people are in camps, all in one place.
We have to do more and we have to do it quickly. The scheme that the Government are putting in place is a good start, but it is just a start. This needs to be the fastest resettlement that we have seen since Uganda or the Kindertransport, so that we can continue to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that we have a proud history of being a safe haven for resettlement.
So we now have very little time for the Government to prove its competence. Another person who spoke on several occasions was the MP for Brighton Pavilion where I live. Her first statement took place during the speech from Keir Starmer. This statement was very clear and it is one of the very critical issues that our current Government must now respond to by changing their attitude towards asylum seekers from Afghanistan and indeed from many other nations. This is a good match to the views from Caroline Nokes
Caroline Lucas: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that as well as marking the need for a much bolder and more ambitious resettlement programme, this disaster must mark a turning point for our failed asylum system, in particular by getting rid of the so-called hostile environment and the Nationality and Borders Bill, under which a women fleeing the Taliban with her children on a boat across the channel would be criminalised? Does he agree that that Bill must now be revised?
Let us see some more of the speeches in the next few days and sadly all of them show that there was very little competence in the way the Government has acted so far. Will things change?