Boris Johnson accused of lying as email suggests he approved Kabul evacuation of Pen Farthing dogs

The prime minister is under pressure once again, reports Correspondent Rebecca Barry

Boris Johnson has been again accused of lying after an email suggested he had personally intervened during the evacuation of Kabul to help animals escape Afghanistan - something he previously insisted did not happen.

An email submitted to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said the PM "authorised" for "staff and animals" at a former Royal Marine's charity "to be evacuated" from Afghanistan.

The government was accused of putting pets before people after the animals were eventually evacuated, following campaigning from ex-Marine Pen Farthing, but hundreds of people were left stranded.

At the time Mr Johnson, in August 2021, insisted he'd had "no influence on that particular case. Nor would that be right".

And again in December said the claims were "complete nonsense".

But written evidence submitted by a Foreign Office official showing an email from Foreign Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith's office appears to directly contradict that claim.

It said: "[Animal charity - name redacted] are a [details redacted] animal charity operating in Kabul and seeking to evacuation their [details redacted] members of staff (no animals).

"Equivalent charity 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, [animal charity - name redacted] are hoping to be treated in the same capacity (granted LOTR)."

The PM was repeatedly accused of lying by social media users responding to a tweet revealing the email.

But Lord Goldsmith has stringently denied any discussions took place between him and the PM regarding the charity.

He tweeted: "I did not authorise & do not support anything that would have put animals' lives ahead of peoples'.

"My position, which I made clear publicly, was that the UK should prioritise evacuating people. I never discussed the NOWZAD charity or their efforts to evacuate animals with the PM."

The government had initially rejected Pen Farthing's pleas to allow the dogs to be evacuated from Kabul, after the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace saying "no one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue".

But Mr Farthing was soon able to charter a plane and evacuate his staff and animals, amid reports that Mr Johnson's wife Carrie had urged the PM to help.

Number 10 attempted to distance Mr Johnson from involvement in the decision on evacuating the Nowzad animals.

The email submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Credit: Foreign Affairs Committee

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "It remains the case that the PM didn't instruct officials to take any particular course of action."

Downing Street later issued a further statement, insisting Mr Johnson had "no role in authorising individual evacuations from Afghanistan during Op Pitting, including Nowzad staff and animals".

"At no point did the Prime Minister instruct staff to take any particular course of action on Nowzad."

The charity later released a statement of its own, although it did not appear to shed any light on whether the PM did intervene.

It said: "As a charity, we had no oversight of any communication between any Government departments relating to who authorised the call forward of the Nowzad staff.

"We found out at the same time as everyone else, when (Defence Secretary) Ben Wallace tweeted our approval at 1.30am on August 25.

"Sadly, it was too late to ensure the evacuation flight that our supporters had fundraised for, would be able to transport our staff to safety."

Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey said: "Once again, the Prime Minister has been caught out lying about what he has been doing and deciding.

"He should never have given priority to flying animals out of Afghanistan while Afghans who worked for our armed forces were left behind.

"In this case people were fleeing in terror as the Taliban took over Kabul and British Forces were putting their lives at risk, the Prime Minister was once again prioritising the wrong things and making the wrong calls.

"We need to know why the PM overruled the Defence Secretary with this decision."

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran called for Mr Johnson to "immediately make a public statement to correct the record and for once tell the truth".