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Keir Starmer says Boris Johnson was ‘incapable of international leadership’ over Afghanistan – UK politics live

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In the Commons Labour’s Hilary Benn says poorer areas always take in more asylum seekers than richer areas. Is that fair? And if not, what will the PM do about it?

Johnson says he hopes all areas will “step up to the plate”.

As the Guardian reported last week, there are eight times as many refugees and asylum seekers living in Labour-run parts of Britain as in Conservative areas (broadly, but not exactly, the same point Benn was making).

Updated

Johnson repeats his claim that every MP who has emailed the Foreign Office about Afghans wanting to come to the UK will get a reply “by close of play today”.

The Observer revealed just over a week ago that thousands of those emails had gone unread.

Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader at Westminster, says that if Johnson wants to show the UK will offer a warm welcome to refugees, it should withdraw the borders bill.

Johnson does not accept that. He says the government has offered a safe and legal route for thousands of Afghans to come to the UK.

Asked what will be done to stop the Taliban flooding the streets of the UK with heroin, Johnson says the export of heroin from Afghanistan has been increasing in recent years. He says the UK will insist to the Taliban that Afghanistan should not become a narco state, but he says it is for the National Crime Agency to fight crime in this country.

Theresa May, the former prime minister, asked Johnson if he accepted that the fall of Kabul increased the terrorist threat to the UK. Johnson said he did not yet have any specific information to show that that was the case. He said the government would spend what was necessary on counter terrorism.

This is from the Telegraph’s Lucy Fisher.

Lucy Fisher
(@LOS_Fisher)

Theresa May says: “As a result of Nato forces withdrawing from Afghanistan, the terrorist threat has increased.”

She calls for counter terror to be given “necessary support” to keep UK safe.

PM says: “We have no direct info as yet of any increase to the threat yet.”

September 6, 2021

Updated

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminister, says normally a cabinet minister gets sent out to cover for the PM. But this afternoon Boris Johnson is here to cover for Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary.

He asks why the Foreign Office ignored so many emails sent by MPs about Afghans hoping to escape to the UK. The Foreign Office said it got more emails than during Covid, he says. But he says there was a difference; people did not know Covid was going to happen, but they could predict this.

Johnson says every email sent by an MP will be answered.

UPDATE: In response to a question from Blackford about how many Afghans eligible for relocation to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme were still in the country, Johnson replied:


As for the question of how many Arap candidates are remaining I can tell him that the total number is 311, of which 192 responded to the calls that were put out and, I repeat, we will do absolutely everything we can to ensure that those people get the safe passage that they deserve.

Updated

In his response to Starmer, Johnson said the Labour leader was wrong to brand the evacuation a failure. He said the military evacuated twice as many people as they originally expected.

He also accused Starmer of not attending the first of the three Commons statements he has given to MPs on Afghanistan.

Updated

Starmer says Johnson was ‘incapable of international leadership’ over Afghanistan

Sir Keir Starmer is responding to Johnson on behalf of Labour.

He says those involved in Operation Pitting (the evacuation) were “the best of us” and he thanks them.

But they were let down by lack of leadership, he says. The government’s assumption that the Taliban had no path to victory was “complacent and wrong”.

The government’s strategic defence review published earlier this year did not even mention the Taliban or Nato’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, he says.

He says many Afghans eligible for help under the Afghan relocation and assistance policy (Arap) scheme were not able to get out, even though they applied in good time. He goes on:


We have a prime minister incapable of international leadership, just when we need it most.

Political leadership was “missing in action”, he says.


History will tell the tale of Operation Pitting as one of immense bravery. We are proud of all those who contributed, their story made even more remarkable by the fact whilst they were saving lives our political leadership was missing in action.

Updated

Johnson says Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

If anyone says Britain achieved nothing in Afghanistan, people should tell them that the armed forces, and their allies enabled 3.6 million girls to go to school in the country, he says. They also protected the UK from al-Qaida, and organised the biggest humanitarian airlift in recent history, he says.

Updated

Johnson says the government will let up to 20,000 Afghans relocate in the UK.

As well as people who worked for the military, the scheme will also cover others at risk from the Taliban, including people who campaigned for democracy and human rights, or who are at risk because of their gender or sexuality or religion, he says.

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