Dominic Raab rejects calls to resign after delaying Afghanistan evacuations while he was on holiday

ITV News Politics Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on the events that led the Opposition to call for Dominic Raab's resignation

Dominic Raab has rejected calls to resign after it was reported that help for Afghan interpreters who supported British troops was delayed because Mr Raab was on holiday in Crete and unable to make a phone call.

According to the Daily Mail, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office officials suggested Mr Raab call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on Friday – two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul – only for him to be “unavailable” while on holiday.

The call to Mr Atmar was to request Afghans be allowed to get on flights without passports and visas so they could flee quickly.

The paper claimed Afghanistan's foreign ministry then refused to arrange a call with a junior minister, pushing it back to the next day, losing crucial time before the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Sunday.

While this was ongoing and chaotic scenes broke out at the capital's airport as hundreds of desperate Afghans stormed the tarmac and clung onto planes in an attempt to flee, the paper said Mr Raab was spotted at Crete's five-star Amirandes Hotel.

According to the Daily Mail, the foreign secretary insisted he did not spend "all day lounging on the beach" as matters deteriorated in the Afghan capital.

He said he took part in a series of meetings from his hotel and went outside to see his family "episodically".

Many Afghan translators who worked with British troops over the years are currently trapped in the capital and unable to reach the airport amid fears of being uncovered at Taliban checkpoints or sought out.

The Foreign Office said: “The Foreign Secretary was engaged on a range of other calls and this one was delegated to another minister”.

Labour, the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have called for Mr Raab to either resign or be sacked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Asked if he would quit as foreign secretary, Mr Raab told reporters in Downing Street: “No.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, wrote on Twitter: “Who wouldn’t make a phone call if they were told it could save somebody’s life?”

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told ITV News: "His position is untenable and he should go, it is unbelievable that as Kabul fell to the Taliban, as they advanced across the country when the Afghan foreign minister needed help, and hours and minutes mattered not days, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom didn't pick up the phone.

"It's unbelievable that as the crisis unfolded he tried to conduct these conversations from a beach."

Lisa Nandy: 'It's unbelievable that as the crisis unfolded Dominic Raab tried to conduct the situation from a beach'

Ms Nandy said Mr Raab "should have resigned already" but if he refuses to stand down, then the "PM has to grasp the scale of the anger about this and replace him with someone who is 100% committed to the job."

"There's a real threat to the UK from the possibility that Afghanistan can collapse again into a haven for terrorists. Yesterday the prime minister had virtually nothing to tell the House of Commons, about how the UK is going to rise to that threat, we need somebody in the job who's capable of getting a grip of the situation," she added.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “Tory ministers cannot wash their hands of responsibility for this foreign policy disaster.

“Dominic Raab has failed to perform his basic duties as Foreign Secretary, and he has put people’s lives at risk. His position is completely untenable and he must resign, or be sacked.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran said: “Dominic Raab must resign today. If he does not, the Prime Minister should finally show some leadership, and sack him.

“He has shamed Britain and is no longer fit to represent our country.”

Rafi, a former translator and British citizen, 35, said he was "shocked" by Mr Raab's alleged inaction.

He said: “If he didn’t make the call, I’m shocked. How could somebody do something like that in this chaotic situation?

“The interpreters and their families could be killed at any time; the government has bluntly lied to the entire world.

“I’m a British citizen; was he too busy to look after the families of British citizens in Afghanistan?

“He is failing to provide safety and protection to the families of those in Afghanistan who have served for the British government in the war against terror. If he was too busy during his holidays to help, shame on him.”

Dominic Raab calling the Afghan government on Friday would not have made the 'blindest bit of difference', says defence secretary Ben Wallace

However, government ministers have thrown their support behind Mr Raab.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said if he had been in the foreign secretary's position, he would not have made the call on Friday.

He said: "What was important on Friday was not a call from a rapidly disintegrating government with no power at all. What was important on Friday was keeping that airport open.

"That was the number one consideration, that's why we deployed troops."

He said civilian flights were "on the cusp of being cancelled and no amount of telephone calls to a fleeing government would've made a blindest bit of difference."

Asked if he was saying the advice Mr Raab was given was wrong, Mr Wallace said he could not speculate on the advice he was given.

Speaking about whether more interpreters could have got out of the country before the Taliban takeover, Mr Wallace said: "Up until April, we'd already got out 1,400, we nearly got out another 2,000 since April, so we have been doing this.

"I think the acute point of friction/danger was when civilian flights finished and we had to swap out to military flights."

'I have full faith in Dominic Raab. I think he's an excellent foreign secretary,' says Sajid Javid

Health Secretary Sajid Javid also defended his colleague, saying: "I have full faith in Dominic Raab. I think he's an excellent foreign secretary. I'm actually proud to have him representing our country overseas."

He also called the whole controversy "political games that have been started by the opposition".

He continued: "I just think that instead of playing games, people should focus on the issue at hand, which is what can we be doing as a country, as a government, to support those people in Afghanistan whether they are British nationals or Afghan refugees."

The decision of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is said to have also been away in Somerset, and Mr Raab to take holiday while the Taliban advanced came under scrutiny during a highly charged Commons debate on Wednesday as Parliament was recalled from its summer break for MPs and peers to debate the Afghanistan situation.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the pair as he told MPs: “You cannot co-ordinate an international response from the beach”.

When asked by the Tory benches what he would do differently, Sir Keir said: "I wouldn't stay on holiday whilst Kabul was falling".

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson unveiled a resettlement scheme to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan, promising to take up 20,000 people who are forced to leave their homes in the face of threats and persecution from the Taliban, but it has been criticised by some as not being enough.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is due to spoke with fellow G7 ministers on Thursday to discuss international co-operation before leaders of the group – which, as well as the UK, includes the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy – hold a virtual meeting next week. Mr Raab also held talks on Wednesday evening with his counterparts in India and the US – the second time he has spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week.

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