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tv   British House of Commons Special Session on Afghanistan  CSPAN  August 22, 2021 1:02pm-2:46pm EDT

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>>. i want to welcome members and summer circumstances. >> stand that all the service pers i know there news constituency
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-- those who lost their lives. i was strumming the house that the provisions --ovisions of tho longer in place. all contributions to proceedings will once again be made from within this chamber. i remind members that if they participate, they should be president throughout most, if not all of the -- and at least the opening speeches following the contribution and be here for the windup. if the house devised today, members should then to both lobbies, then to the chamber. doorkeepers will be on hand for members participating. i will shut the doors to be locked 10 minutes after the start. i would also like to say thank you to all of the staff of house who has met today, breaking
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their holidays to ensure this important debate go ahead. we now come to motion number one, related to the sittings of the house. >> to move. >> the question is on the papers, say i -- aye. we now come to motion number two on the business of the house. i wish to inform the house this motion, the amendment is in the name of the right-hand rule member of bryson houtman and willingboro and is as follows. line three, 5:00 p.m., i called to move the motion. >> i am obliged to the move the motion and to inform the manuscript amendment. >> i think the leader of the host. the original question is, the
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amendment has been accepted? we can all agree on that. i want to get on with the debate. so there we are. we have now come to motion number three in the name of the prime minister and will call the prime minister to move the motion. prime minister. >> mr. speaker, may i begin by thanking you and all of the parliamentary staff to meet this morning. before i turned to database -- today's debate, i hope to join you in setting our condolences to those skilled in the appalling shouting that shooting in plymouth. investigations are pending but i hope we learn every possible lesson. mr. speaker, members across the house share my concern about my situation in afghanistan. the issues it raises for our own
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security and the fears that many remaining in that country, women and children. the sacrifice in afghanistan is seared into our national consciousness. 150 thousand people serving there from across the length and breadth of the united kingdom including a number of members on all sides of the house, whose voices will be important today. it is absolutely right we should come together for this debate. >> prime minister, for someone who opposed the nationbuilding intervention, it now brings its responsibilities. in addition to getting on -- safely and in offering a generous welcome to the many refugees, will the prime minister assure that all necessary resources are given to
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those afghans and others who helped the british council and its word, including the promotion of women's rights. many are -- the arab scheme is at the moment -- the window of opportunity is narrow and no one to be left behind. >> can i remind people, you have got to be short. if you intervene more than twice, we -- [laughter] >> i can assure him that i will -- as i will be saying in moments, we will be supporting everything we can to support those who have helped the u.k. mission in afghanistan and investing everything we can to support the wider area around afghanistan and to do everything we can to overt humanitarian
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crisis. mr. speaker, it is almost 20 years since united states's -- united states suffered a catastrophic attack in which 67 british citizens also lost their lives at the hands of murderous terrorists groups incubated in afghanistan. in response, nato invoked article five of its treaty for the first and only time in its history. united kingdom, amongst others, joined america in going into afghanistan on a mission to -- al qaeda and to do whatever we could to stabilize afghanistan in spite of all the challenges we knew we were face that we would face. we succeeded in that court mission. i will give way to my honorable friend. >> would he agree we are actually ceding back the country to the very insurgency we went
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to the feet in the first place? the -- for the rest -- there are some new lessons to be learned and what happened in the last 20 years. would you now agree to an independent verbal inquiry into afghanistan? >> as i said in the house a few weeks ago, there was an extensive review about the afghan -- after the mission ended in 2014 and i believe most of the key questions have been got into. we in this house should be able to scrutinize events as they are unfolded. without saying, we have succeeded in that coordination and training camps of afghanistan were destroyed. al qaeda plots against this country were foiled because our serving men and women were there.
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no successful terrorist attacks against the west have been mounted from afghan soil for two decades. i will happily give way. >> can i take you back to his remarks in the house of july the eighth when you refer to the assessment he made? this has clearly been a catastrophic failure of our assessment of intelligence because of the speed. can the promised are set out for the house how we may ensure ourselves that in future years we can make sure there are no future terrorist attacks put together in afghanistan that take place here in the u.k.? >> it would be fair to say the events of afghanistan are folded in the collapse -- even the taliban themselves -- the u.k. government was -- [indiscernible]
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it was our plan of the very difficult with her u.k. nationals that has been under preparations for many months, mr. speaker. i can tell the house the decision to the emergency handling at the airport took place two weeks ago. if i could just make a little more progress, mr. speaker. >> i will certainly give way in a moment. alongside this court mission, we worked for a better future for the people of afghanistan. the heroism and work of our armed forces contributed to national elections as well as the promotion and protection of human rights and equality's in a way that many in afghanistan had not previously known. whereas years ago, no girls went
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to school and women were banned from government, 3.6 million girls have been in school this year alone and women hold over one quarter of the seats in afghan parliament. this is speaker, we must be honest and except the huge difficulties encountered at each turn. some of this progress is fragile. >> [indiscernible] >> you have been evacuating people in extraordinary circumstances, but what the consequences of the rapidity of collapse in kabul? many have not been able to access -- and should be coming to this country. may -- many of us have been experiencing chaos the last 24 hours communicating information through to those people out of
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the country. can the prime minister give us assurances on how we get that information through so breaking -- so that we can get people out? >> exactly right the question. dan blanchard is handing the evacuation. the situation has stabilized since the weekend, but it remains precarious. do u.k. officials on the ground are doing everything they can to expedite the movement of people of those who need to either come from the arab scheme or eligible persons to get from kabul to the airport. at the moment, it would be fair to say that how the men are allowing that evacuation -- the taliban are allowing that.
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the most important thing is that we get this done in an expeditious fashion as we can. i am grateful i am not just -- the u.k. forces who are out there helping stabilized airports, but also the u.s. forces as well. if i could just mark some progress, the combat phase of our mission ended in 2014. we brought the vast majority of our troops home and handed over responsibility of security to the afghans themselves. we continue to support their efforts, even if at that stage we should remember conflict was continuous and that in spite of the bravery of the afghan army -- we should never forget the 69,000 of those afghan army troops who have given their lives in this conflict -- significant parts of the country
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remain contested or are under taliban control. so when, after two decades, the americans prepared to take their
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that idea ended with a combat mission in 2014 i do not leave deploying tens of thousands of troops to fight in afghanistan is an option that would commend itself either to the british people or, mr. speaker, to this house. mr. speaker, we must deal with the position as it now is, accepting what we have achieved and what we have not achieved, and i will give way to the right honorable lady. >> i thank the prime minister forgiving way. you seemed to be making the
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argument earlier that you had anticipated something similar to what went on by having the rapid response force ready and waiting. why were the foreign secretaries on their holidays? prime minister johnson: mr. speaker, we must deal with the world as it is, accepting what we have achieved and what we have not achieved, -- and not achieved, and the u.k. will work with its national partners on a shared plan to support the people of afghanistan and for regional stability. there will be five parts to the approach. first, our immediate focus must be on helping those to whom we have direct obligation by evacuating u.k. nationals together with those afghans who have assisted our director over
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the past 20 years, and i know the whole house will join me in paying tribute to the bravery and commitment of our ambassador . i give way to the right honorable gentlemen. >> thank you, prime minister, forgiving way on that particular point. you will be aware there are 320 missionaries in afghanistan currently under sentence of there. of course there are tens of thousands of others. will the prime minister assure the house that every effort will be made to bring back to safe haven people whose lives are under threat as a result of the catastrophe and foreign policy that has gone on in that country? prime minister johnson: i thank the right honorable gentlemen for raising the case. literally every member i would
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imagine has received messages from people who know someone who needs to get out of afghanistan, and i can tell the right honorable gentlemen we are doing everything we can to help out that country, to whom we owe a debt of obligation, and on that point, i want to repeat my thanks not just to the ambassador but to the brigadier on the ground and his entire british team in kabul. i can tell the house we are so far making progress. we have so far secured the safe return of 306 u.k. nationals and 2052 afghan nationals as part of our resettlement program with a further 2000 afghan applications completed and many more being processed. u.k. officials are working round-the-clock to keep the exit door open in the most difficult
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circumstances and are actively seeking those who we believe are eligible but as yet unregistered. mr. brown: can the prime minister explained, then, how many people he things are eligible for relocation and are still to sign up? he says that the government are doing "everything we can" to get these people out, so what does "everything we can" mean? how are they identifying these people and where they are, especially if they are already in hiding in fear of their lives? prime minister johnson: that is life is it's so important that we maintain a presence at kabul airport, and that is why we have been getting the message out that we want people to come through. as i said earlier, it is important for everybody to understand that in the days we have ahead of us, which may be short, at the moment this is an environment in which the taliban are permitting this evacuation to take place.
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these are interpreters. they are locally engage staff and others who have risk their lives supporting our military efforts in seeking to secure new freedoms for their country. we are proud to bring these brave afghans to our shores, and we continued to appeal for more to come forward. mr. bryant: i'm grateful to the prime minister. the home announced this morning that the u.k. will be taking 20,000 refugees from afghanistan, but that only 5000 will be able to come this year. what are the 15,000 meant to do? hang around and wait until they've been executed? prime minister johnson: that is the 5000 on home -- we are spending 200 million pounds to bring a further 5000 on top -- i think it will be 10,000 altogether that we bring in under the ar ap and other programs. we will be increasing that number over the coming years, as i said, to 20,000, but the bulk
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of the efforts of this country will be directed and should be directed, mr. speaker, to supporting people in afghanistan and in the region, mr. speaker, in order to prevent a worse humanitarian crisis. may i tell the house that in that conviction, i am supported very strongly both by president macron of rance and chancellor merkel of germany. we are also, mr. speaker, doing everything possible to accelerate the visas for the -- mr. speaker: the honorable member for high and burn cannot be like a drum in the chamber, completely about everybody all the way through. i ask her to stand up and down
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please and not just hover. the prime minister i was telling the house that we are making sure that we bring back the 35 brilliant chevening scholars so that they can come and study in our great universities. we are deploying an additional 800 british troops to support this evacuation operation and i can assure the house that we will continue the operation for as long as conditions at the airport allow. ms. creasy: as of last week, it was still home office policy that we would send people back to kabul because we thought that it was safe. will the prime minister also confirm that it is not just about people coming out of afghanistan but about keeping people safe here, and that we will not send people back to this nightmare? prime minister johnson: she is entirely right. we will not be sending people back to afghanistan. nor, by the way, will we allow
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people to come from afghanistan to this country in an indiscriminate way. we want to be generous, but we must make sure that we look after our own security. over the coming weeks, we will redouble our efforts, working with others to protect the uk homeland and all our citizens and interests from any threat that may emanate from a taliban-controlled afghanistan, from terrorism to the narcotics trade. i give way to my honorable friend. ms. britt cliff: does my right honorable friend agree that we must do everything we can to support those who have supported us, like royal marine pen farthing and his nowzad charity's veterinary staff and their immediate families, who now need safe passage back to the uk? prime minister johnson: like many of us, i have been lobbied extensively about the excellent work done by mr pen farthing. i am well aware of his cause and all the wonderful things that he
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has done for animals in afghanistan. i can tell my honorable friend that we will do everything that we can to help mr pen farthing and others who face particular difficulties, as he does, but as i say, without in any way jeopardising our own national security. these are concerns shared across the international community, from the region itself to all of the nato alliance and, indeed, all five permanent members of the un security council. i will chair a virtual meeting of the g7 in the coming days. third, mr. speaker, we also have enemies. we also have an enduring commitment to all the afghan people, and now, more than ever, we must reaffirm that commitment. our interests must be focused on supporting the afghan people in the region itself, particularly those fleeing conflict or the threat of violence.
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we therefore call on the united nations to lead a new humanitarian effort in this region. i give way. ms. cooper: i thank the prime minister for giving way, and i welcome his commitment to support in the region, and also the government's commitment to a resettlement programme. the home secretary announced in 2019 that the uk would continue a resettlement scheme of 5,000 refugees a year after the syrian scheme closed. can the prime minister confirm that the announcement today of an afghan resettlement scheme is in addition to that existing 5,000 resettlement commitment, as opposed to simply being a refocusing or displacement of that existing 5,000-a-year resettlement programme? prime minister johnson: i am very grateful to the right honorable lady, because i think that she has asked a question that has formed in many people's minds about the 5,000. yes, indeed, the 5,000 extra in the resettlement scheme are additional to those already announced. we will support those people in coming to this country.
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international community delivering humanitarian projects in the region by doubling the amount of humanitarian and development assistance that we had previously committed to afghanistan this year with new funding -- with new funding -- wait for it, mr. speaker -- taking it up to 280 6 million pounds with immediate effect. we call on others to work together on a shared humanitarian effort, focusing on helping the most vulnerable in what will be formidably difficult circumstances. i give way to my right honorable friend. mr. vara: i am grateful to the
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prime minister for giving way; he is being very generous with his time. over the past 20 years, some 50 nato and partner nations have been involved in afghanistan. i welcome the measures that have been proposed by the uk and other countries such as the us, canada, france, germany and so on, but there are still many countries that have been involved in afghanistan in recent years which have still yet to step up to the plate and recognise their responsibility in helping these people at this desperate time. will the prime minister inform the house what is being done to encourage these other countries to take up their responsibility and help these people in afghanistan? prime minister johnson: my right honorable friend makes an excellent point, and that is why the uk has chaired the un security council, and asked with our french friends to put a motion together to get the world to focus on the humanitarian needs of afghanistan.
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we will do the same thing in nato, the g7 and other bodies in which we have a leadership role. we want all these countries to step up, as he rightly said, and focus on the most vulnerable in what will be formidably difficult circumstances. mr. speaker, i have given way, i
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ample time for debate until later this afternoon, and i think that many members will be i therefore intend, with your leave, mr speaker, to make some progress. fourthly, while we must focus on the region itself, we will also create safe and legal routes for those afghans most in need to come and settle here in the uk. in addition to those afghans with whom we have worked
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directly, i can announce today that we are committing to relocating another 5,000 afghans this year, with a new and bespoke resettlement scheme focusing on the most vulnerable, particularly women and children. we will keep this under review for future years, with the potential of accommodating up to 20,000 over the long term. taken together- the prime minister i have been very generous with interventions-i think you will agree, mr speaker-and i have made my position clear. taken together, we are committing almost half a billion pounds of humanitarian funding to support the afghan people. fifthly, we must also face the reality of a change of regime in
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afghanistan. as president of the g7, the uk will work to unite the international community behind a clear plan for dealing with this regime in a unified and concerted way. over the last three days, i have spoken with the nato and un secretaries-general and with president biden, chancellor merkel, president macron and prime minister khan. we are clear, and we have agreed, that it would be a mistake for any country to recognise any new regime in kabul prematurely or bilaterally. instead, those countries that care about afghanistan's future should work towards common conditions about the conduct of the new regime before deciding together whether to recognise it, and on what terms. we will judge this regime based on the choices it makes and by its actions rather than by its
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words-on its attitude to terrorism, crime and narcotics, as well as humanitarian access and the right of girls to receive an education. defending human rights will remain of the highest priority, and we will use every available political and diplomatic means to ensure that those human rights remain at the top of the international agenda. our united kingdom has a roll-call of honour that bears the names of 457 servicemen and women who gave their lives in some of the world's harshest terrain, and many others who bear injuries to this day, fighting in what had become the epicentre of global terrorism. even amid the heart-wrenching scenes we see today, i believe they should be proud of their achievements, and we should be deeply proud of them, because they conferred benefits that are lasting and ineradicable on millions of people in one of the poorest countries on earth, and they provided vital protection for two decades to this country and the rest of the world. they gave their all for our safety, and we owe it to them to give our all to prevent afghanistan from once again becoming a breeding ground for terrorism. no matter how grim the lessons of past, the future is not yet
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written. at this bleak turning point, we must help the people of afghanistan to choose the best of all their possible futures. in the un, the g7 and nato, with friends and partners around the world, that is the critical task on which this government are now urgently engaged and will be engaged in the days to come. mr. speaker: i suggest to back benchers that we will be starting with a seven-minute limit. i call the leader of the opposition. mr. starmer: i thank you, mr speaker, and the staff for recalling parliament for today's debate. before i come to the urgent issue at hand, let me join you, mr speaker, and the prime minister in condemning the appalling shootings in plymouth last week. we all send our condolences to the bereaved families. we must resolve to ensure that firearms do not get into the hands of dangerous people, and finally get to grips with the way that hate thrives on the internet. turning to afghanistan, it has been a disastrous week-an unfolding tragedy. twenty years ago, the taliban were largely in control of afghanistan.
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al-qaeda were using the country as a training ground and a base for terror, including plotting the horrific 9/11 attack. there were widespread human rights abuses, girls were denied an education, women could not work and being gay was punishable by death-all imposed without democracy. since then, a fragile democracy emerged. it was by no means perfect, but no international terrorist attacks have been mounted from afghanistan in that period. women have gained liberty and won office, schools and clinics have been built, and afghans have allowed themselves to dream of a better future. those achievements were born of sacrifice, sacrifice by the afghan people who bravely fought alongside their nato allies, and british sacrifice.
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more than 150,000 uk personnel have served in afghanistan. they include members from across this house, including the hon. -- honorable and gallant member for tonbridge and malling (tom , for barnsley central, for plymouth, more view, from norwich south, for aldershot, isle of wight, felton and bradley stoke, and for wells. they and the tens of thousands of others deployed in afghanistan served in difficult and challenging circumstances, and the labour party and-i am sure-everybody across this house thanks each and every one of them and of the 150,000. many returned with life-changing injuries and, tragically, 457 did not return at all.
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mr. gray later today, i will : attend the service at raf lyneham, outside royal wootton bassett, to commemorate the 10th anniversary, which falls today, of the last repatriation through bassett. will the right honorable gentlemen agree with me that the message to the people i will see today must be that those young lives were not wasted but played an absolutely essential role in deterring and destroying terrorism and carrying out so many other good works in afghanistan? mr. starmer: i wholeheartedly agree with that point and will address it in one moment. for many of those who returned from afghanistan and other places around the world, mental health has been an all-too-familiar issue raised by veterans time and again. the events of the past few days and weeks will have exacerbated the situation, reopening old wounds, and everybody across
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this house will have heard of examples of that, so we must improve mental health services for our veterans. on the point that has just been made, i wish to address directly all those who served in afghanistan and their families, especially the families of those who were lost. your sacrifice was not in vain. your sacrifice was not in vain. you brought stability, reduced the terrorist threat and enabled progress. we are all proud of what you did. your sacrifice deserves better than this, and so do the afghan people. there has been a major miscalculation of the resilience of the afghan forces and staggering complacency from our government about the taliban threat. the result is that the taliban are now back in control of afghanistan. the gains made through 20 years
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of sacrifice hang precariously. women and girls fear for their liberty. afghan civilians are holding on to the undercarriage of nato aircraft, literally clinging to departing hope. we face new threats to our security and an appalling humanitarian crisis. i will. mr. loudoun -- mr. loughton: for all the reasons that the right honorable gentleman mentioned, does he not agree that president biden is actually wrong when he talks about american sacrifices in a civil war? the taliban are not at war with a regime; they are at war with the civilised values of justice, equality and tolerance, which all of us hold dear, and against which it respects no international boundaries. mr. starmer: i would agree with that. mr. speaker, the desperate
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situation requires leadership and for the prime minister to snap out of his complacency. the most urgent task is the protection of our diplomatic staff still working heroically in kabul, and the evacuation of british nationals and afghans who have risked their lives. mr. speaker, let me be clear -- the labour party fully supports the deployment of troops to that end. we want it to succeed just as quickly and safely as possible. the defence secretary has said that some people who have worked with us will not get back -- unconscionable. the government -- in one moment, i will -- the government must outline a plan to work with our allies to do everything possible to ensure that that does not happen, guarantee that our troops have the resources they need to carry out their mission as effectively and safely as possible, and to work to provide stable security at the airport in kabul so that flights can
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depart and visas can be we all know how difficult that is. we all know how hard everybody is working on the ground and we fully support them. i raise an issue not by way of criticism, but just to get some reassurance. there are reports from non-governmental organisations that an evacuation plane left almost empty this morning because evacuees could not get to the airport to board that plane. as i say, we are not challenging the work on the ground-we know how difficult it is-but, if that is true, we would like to see that matter addressed at an appropriate moment. >> may i take him back to the statement that the president of the united states made the other day? does he not agree that that took on the terms of a sort of shameful excuse? given that thed
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blamed the afghan armed forces, who have lost nearly 70,000 troops in trying to defend afghanistan, and given that corruption had stripped away much of the pay, money and support of those forces, the american decision to withdraw aircraft cover was almost certainly going to lead us to this situation. does he not think that that is shameful? >> the us is, of course, an important ally, but to overlook the fighting of the afghan troops and forces, and the fact that they have been at the forefront of that fighting in recent years, is wrong. it is wrong for any of us to overlook that or the situation in which they now find themselves. the urgent task is, of course, the evacuation. equally urgent is the immediate refugee crisis. i will make some progress and then i will give way. many afghans have bravely sought to rebuild their country and they did so on a promise of democratic freedoms, the rule of law and liberty for the oppressed, including women and girls.
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they are our friends and that was our promise. they are now fearing for their lives. we do not turn our backs on friends at their time of need. we owe an obligation to the people of afghanistan. there should be a resettlement scheme for people to rebuild their lives here, with safe and legal routes. it must be a resettlement scheme that meets the scale of the enormous challenge, but what the government have announced this morning does not do that. it is vague and will support just 5,000 in the first year-a number without rationale. was that based on a risk assessment of those most at need, or was it plucked out of the air? the offer to others is in the long term, but for those desperately needing our help
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now, there is no long term, just day-to-day survival. >> does the right honorable 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? >> i will come on to the specifics of the system. yet again, the government seem ill-prepared and unwilling, just as they have been too slow to provide sanctuary to afghans who have served alongside britain. there have been too many reports of eligible afghans facing bureaucratic hurdles, and too many are being unfairly excluded.
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having known for months that the date of withdrawal was coming, the home office is not close to completing the process that it has already got up and running. the process was designed to help 7,000 people, yet home office figures this week showed that only 2,000 have been helped so far. >> the point that i wanted to make to the prime minister was about the situation facing afghan sikhs. i know from my constituency casework that there are afghan sikhs in the system who are waiting for clearance from the home office. i call on the government to process them as quickly as possible and not leave all those people in the system waiting any longer than they have to at the moment. they are terrified by the idea of being sent back home, and despite the reassurance given to
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my honorable friend, i do not see any movement from the home office to give them the legal status that they need. >> i am grateful for that intervention. members on both sides of the house have given examples of individuals and groups who are very obviously at risk in afghanistan and need to come out as quickly as possible. that is why the question arises as to what is behind the 5,000 number, and why others are having to wait so long. the scale of the refugee crisis requires an international response, but we must lead it, and lead with a resettlement programme that meets the scale of the challenge. the scheme must be generous and welcoming. if it is not, we know the consequences now. violent reprisals in afghanistan, people tragically fleeing into the arms of human traffickers, we know that that is what will happen, and more
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people risking and losing their lives on unsafe journeys, including across the english channel. we cannot betray our friends. we must lead. >> he speaks of people fleeing, but we have yet to assess whether anyone outside kabul is able to get to a place of safety. does he agree that a safe corridor needs to be opened to an international border so that those who are not near kabul can also get to safety via third countries? >> there is huge concern, as all members will know, about our line of sight beyond kabul at the moment. again, that calls into question where the 5,000 number comes from, because at the moment we are not even in a position to assess the position outside kabul. we cannot betray our friends. we must lead. >> were the government of this kingdom to be overthrown by a wicked and brutal regime, i
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venture that the right honorable and learned gentleman would want a leading role in the resistance. he would not be queuing at the airport, would he? [laughter] >> when i was director of public prosecutions, some of my prosecutors in afghanistan were at huge risk, working on counter-terrorism with other brave souls there, so i will not take that from the right honorable gentleman or from anybody else.
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>> once the immediate challenges are addressed, we face an uncertain and difficult future. the taliban are back in control and we cannot be naive about the consequences. we have lost our primary source of leverage in political discussions, and everything that we have achieved in the past 20 years is now under threat. i will make some progress and then give way. the prime minister is right to say that we cannot allow afghanistan to become a training ground for violent hate and terrorism, but that will be more difficult now that afghanistan has descended into chaos. if preventing al-qaeda camps is now the limit of our ambition, we are betraying 20 years of sacrifice by our armed forces and we are betraying the afghan people, who cannot be left to the cruelty of the taliban. >> my right honorable and learned friend speaks about the lack of ambition and urgency, and that summarises everything about the government's approach to this crisis and many others. is it not telling that when we had an afghan government whom we wanted to support, the uk government cut the amount of overseas aid that we sent, but now that the taliban are in charge, the government are talking about increasing the amount of overseas aid?
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>> i am grateful for that intervention. i will come to the question of aid in just a minute, because it is a very important point in the context of what has happened in recent weeks and months. i am going to make some progress and then i will give way. we have to use every tool that remains at our disposal to protect human rights in afghanistan. the government are right not to recognise the taliban as the official government, the prime minister has made that clear, but that must be part of a wider strategy, developed with our un security partners and our nato allies, to apply pressure on the taliban not only to stamp out a resurgence of terror groups, but to retain the liberties and human rights of afghans. we must work with afghans and neighbours to ensure that there is consistent pressure, and there must be a un-backed plan to ensure that our aid budget is used to support humanitarian causes in afghanistan, not to fund the taliban.
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this is a difficult task with no guarantee of success, so it should concern us all that the prime minister's judgment on afghanistan has been appalling. nobody believes that britain and our allies could have remained in afghanistan indefinitely, or that britain could have fought alone. nato leaders were put in a difficult position after president trump agreed with the taliban that all us forces would withdraw by may 2021. but that agreement was made in february 2020, 18 months ago. we have had 18 months to prepare and plan for the consequences of what followed, to plan and to prepare for the resettlement of
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refugees and those who have supported us, for supporting the afghan government in managing the withdrawal, and for securing international and regional pressure on the taliban and support for the afghan government. the very problems we are confronting today have been known problems for the last 18 months, and there has been a failure of preparation. the lack of planning is unforgivable, and the prime minister bears a heavy responsibility. he mutters today, but he was in a position to lead and he did not. britain holds a seat at the united nations security council. we are a key player in nato. we are chair of the g7. every one of those platforms could and should have been used to prepare for the withdrawal of forces, and to rally
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international support behind a plan to stabilise afghanistan through the process and keep us safe. i will give way in a minute. did the prime minister use those platforms in those 18 months to prepare? no, he did not. what did he do instead? we debated this, he cut the development budget, which was key to the strength and resilience of democracy in afghanistan. he makes a great deal today of the money he is putting in, but £292 million was spent in afghanistan in 2019, and £155 million in 2021. that is short-sighted, small-minded and a threat to security. i will give way in a moment, but i am going to go through this list.
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the right honorable gentleman failed to visit afghanistan as prime minister, meaning that his last trip as foreign secretary, in 2018 was not to learn or to push british interests, but to avoid a vote on heathrow. hundreds of thousands of british people have flown to afghanistan to serve; the prime minister flew to avoid public service. the list goes on. in march this year the prime minister published an integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. it was a huge review. he boasted that the review would "demonstrate to our allies, in europe and beyond, that they can always count on the uk when it really matters."
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the afghan government were an ally, yet the integrated review made just two passing references to afghanistan. the review did not even mention the taliban. it did not mention nato withdrawal or the consequences of the doha agreement. it did cut the size of the army, the very force that we are now relying on, and we criticised that at the time. eye off the ball, astonishingly careless. the question is, why was the prime minister so careless? why did he fail to lead? it comes down to complacency and poor judgment. i will give way in a moment; i am going to make this case. there was a calculation that withdrawal would lead to
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military stalemate in afghanistan and that that stalemate would accelerate political discussions. seeing this in july, members on both sides of this house warned the government, read hansard, that they may be underestimating the threat of the taliban. that was ignored, and the government's preparation for withdrawal was based on a miscalculation of the resilience of the afghan forces and a staggering complacency about the taliban threat. the prime minister is as guilty as anyone. this sunday he said, "we've known for a long time that this was the way things were going". [laughter] that was not what he told the house in july, when he stood there and assured members that "there is no military path to victory for the taliban", and went on to say, "i do not think that the taliban are capable of victory by military means".
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the british government were wrong and complacent, the prime minister was wrong and complacent and, when he was not rewriting history, the prime minister was displaying the same appalling judgment and complacency last week. the british ambassador's response to the taliban arriving at the gates of kabul was to personally process the paperwork for those who needed to flee. he is still there and we thank him and his staff. the prime minister's response to the taliban arriving at the gates of kabul was to go on holiday, no sense of the gravity of the situation, no leadership to drive international efforts on the evacuation. the foreign secretary shakes his
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head. what would i do differently? i would not stay on holiday while kabul was falling. there are numerous examples of leaders on both sides of the house who have come back immediately in a time of crisis. the foreign secretary is shouting now, but he was silent-- >> order. the prime minister was heard and i want to hear the leader of the opposition. i do not want people to shout. you may disagree, but you may also wish to catch my eye. do not ruin that chance. >> the foreign secretary shouts now, but he stayed on holiday while our mission in afghanistan was disintegrating. he did not even speak to ambassadors in the region as kabul fell to the taliban.
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let that sink in. let that sink in. you cannot co-ordinate an international response from the beach. this was a dereliction of duty by the prime minister and the foreign secretary, and a government totally unprepared for the scenario that they had 18 months to prepare for. it is one thing for people to lose trust in the prime minister at home, but when the trust in the word of our prime minister is questioned abroad, there are serious consequences for our safety and security at home. >> will the right honorable gentleman give way? >> in one moment. recent events in afghanistan shame the west and not just the scenes of chaos. what does our abandonment of the afghan people say to those brave people around the world living under regimes that pay scant regard to human rights but
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resisting those regimes in pursuit of democracy, equality and individual freedom? what does this retreat from freedom signal to those who are prepared to stand up for it? what does this surrender to extremism mean for those prepared to face it down? what does it mean for those nations who support an international rules, based system when we hand over power to those who recognise no rules at all? that is the challenge of our time. the british and afghan people will have to live with the consequences of the prime minister's failure. we have fought for 20 years to rid afghanistan of terror, terror that threatens our security here in britain and liberty in afghanistan. the taliban are back in control. the prime minister has no plan to handle the situation, just as he had no plan to prevent it.
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what we won through 20 years of sacrifice could all be lost. that is the cost of careless leadership. >> i had the opportunity to visit afghanistan twice, but i recognise that there are others across this house whose experience is more recent, more vivid, more practical, and longer and broader than mine. but when i was there, i was struck by the commitment and dedication of our armed forces serving there and of other british personnel. all were doing what they could to give hope to the people of afghanistan. people who, thanks to our presence, were able to enjoy freedoms they had been denied under the taliban. 20 years on, 457 british military personnel have died in
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afghanistan, and many more have suffered life-changing injuries. yes, many girls have been educated because of british aid, but it is not just that the freedoms once enjoyed will now be taken away. many, many afghans, not just those who worked with british forces, are now in fear of their lives. it is right that we should open up a refugee scheme, but we must make absolutely certain that it is accessible to all those who need it. of course, the nato presence was always going to end at some point in time, but the withdrawal, when it came, was due to be orderly, planned and on the basis of conditions. it has been none of those. what has been most shocking is the chaos and the speed of the takeover by the taliban. in july of this year, both president biden and my right honorable friend the prime
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minister indicated that they did not think that the taliban were ready or able to take over control of the country. was our intelligence really so poor? was our understanding of the afghan government so weak? was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate? did we really believe that, or did we just feel that we had to follow the united states and hope that, on a wing and a prayer, it would be all right on the night? the reality is that as long as a time limit and dates were given for withdrawal, all the taliban had to do was ensure that there were sufficient problems for the afghan government not to be able to have full control of the country, and then just sit and wait. >> does my right honorable friend agree that president biden decided unilaterally to withdraw without agreeing and negotiating a plan with either
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the afghan government or the nato allies, and that the response of the uk government in the circumstances has been fast, purposeful and extremely well guided to protect the interests of uk citizens? >> what president biden has done is to uphold a decision made by president trump. it was a unilateral decision of president trump to do a deal with the taliban that led to this withdrawal. what we have seen from the scenes in afghanistan is that it has not been all right on the night. there are many in afghanistan who not only fear that their lives will be irrevocably changed for the worse, but fear for their lives. numbered among them will be women, women who embraced freedom and the right to education, to work and to participate in the political process. my right honorable friend the prime minister was right to make the education of girls a key aim of his administration, but in afghanistan that will now be
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swept away. those girls who have been educated will have no opportunity to use that education. the taliban proclaims that women will be allowed to work and girls will be allowed to go to school, but this will be under islamic law or rather, under its interpretation of islamic law, and we have seen before what that means for the lives of women and girls. >> some of the women who have shown most courage are the 250 women who serve as judges under the attempt that was made to impose a decent, honest legal system on afghanistan. there is a particular fear that they are targets. the bar council and the law society have asked the
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government to take cognizance of the particular risks they run. will my right honorable friend support the call for them to be given priority in being brought to safety, since they put their lives on the line for their fellow women and for their whole country? >> makes an important point. as has been said, there are many groups in afghanistan who have put their lives on the line to support the afghan government, democracy and justice in afghanistan, and it is right that we should do everything we can to support them in their time of need. however, as we know, under the taliban regime the life of women and girls will sadly not be the same, they will not have the rights we believe they should have or the freedoms they should have. >> there are already reports from sources in kabul that the taliban is executing collaborators and homosexuals. does the right honorable lady agree that complacency is absolutely misplaced, and what does she suggest we do to protect those people who need to get out?
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>> the government are doing much to protect people in trying to ensure that people can access ways of leaving afghanistan. a point was made earlier about not just expecting people to get to kabul, and i hope that is something the government will be able to look into and take up. apart from the impact on the lives of women and girls, we see a potential humanitarian crisis, at least in some parts of afghanistan. we have cut our international aid budget, but i am pleased that the foreign secretary has told me that more funding will be made available to deal with this crisis. it is not just the impact on the people of afghanistan that must concern us, however. we must be deeply concerned about the possible impact here in the uk. the aim of our involvement in afghanistan was to ensure that it could not be used as a haven for terrorists who could train, plot, and encourage attacks in the uk.
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al-qaeda has not gone away. daesh may have lost ground in syria, but those terrorist groups remain and have spawned others. we will not defeat them until we have defeated the ideology that feeds their extremism. >> one of the most concerning things that is happening is that several thousand al-qaeda operatives have been freed from prisons in bagram, kabul and kandahar. is my right honorable friend concerned that those people will go back to their old ways, or do we hope that they will somehow go into retirement? it seems to me that we are going to restart with a new round of international terrorism. >> my honorable friend has anticipated exactly the point i was about to make. the taliban has said that it will not allow afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists again. yesterday, in the press
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conference, it said it would not allow anything to happen in afghanistan that would lead to attacks elsewhere across the world. however, we must look at its actions, not its words, and, as he has just pointed out, its action has been to release thousands of high-value taliban, al-qaeda and daesh fighters. its actions are completely different from its words, and it is essential that we recognise the probability that afghanistan will once again become a breeding ground for the terrorists who seek to destroy our way of life. >> the right honorable lady is making exactly the points that i hoped to hear from the prime minister and did not. the reasons that we went into afghanistan in 2001 remain valid today. if the actions taken in recent weeks render a military solution to that problem impossible, we have to have a non-military solution.
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what does she see that non-military solution as being? >> i will refer to that issue later. he is absolutely right that the question of a military solution has not been there for some time, because our combat mission ended some years ago, but we have been trying to provide support to enable a democratic government to take proper control of that country. i would be happy to talk to him sometime about my views. i think that we should possibly have reconsidered the idea of trying to impose a western example of democracy in a country that is geographically difficult and relies a lot on regional government when we were going down that route, but i will not go down that road any longer, despite his temptations.
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>> i am really concerned about the time for back benchers. i did suggest that it was seven minutes, and we are now heading to 10. i did not put a time limit on, but i will have to do so after this speech. >> i am very grateful for your generosity to me, mr. speaker. another important element of our work in afghanistan was stopping drugs coming into the united kingdom. sadly, that has not been as successful as we would have liked, but we supported a drug crime-specific criminal justice system in afghanistan, and i assume that will now come to a complete end. once again, that is another area where withdrawal is not just about afghanistan but has an impact on the streets of the uk. what must also be a key concern to us is the message that this decision sends around the world to those who would do the west harm, the message that it sends about our capabilities and, most importantly, about our willingness to defend our values. what does it say about us as a country, what does it say about nato? if we are entirely dependent on a unilateral decision taken by
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the united states? we all understand the importance of american support, but despite the comments from my right honorable friend the prime minister, i find it incomprehensible and worrying that the united kingdom was not able to bring together not a military solution but an alternative alliance of countries to continue to provide the support necessary to sustain a government in afghanistan. surely one outcome of this decision must be a reassessment of how nato operates. nato is the bedrock of european security, but russia will not be blind to the implications of this withdrawal decision and the manner in which it was taken. neither will china and others have failed to notice the implications. in recent years, the west has appeared to be less willing to defend its values. that cannot continue. if it does, it will embolden those who do not share those values and wish to impose their way of life on others.
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i am afraid that this has been a major setback for british foreign policy. we boast about global britain, but where is global britain on the streets of kabul? a successful foreign policy strategy will be judged by our deeds, not by our words. i finally just say this -- all our military personnel, all who served in afghanistan, should hold their heads high and be proud of what they achieved in that country over 20 years, of the change of life that they brought to the people of afghanistan and of the safety that they brought here to the uk. the politicians sent them there. the politicians decided to withdraw. the politicians must be responsible for the consequences. >> thank you, mr. speaker, for facilitating the recall of parliament. it is a pleasure to follow the
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right honorable member for maidenhead, and i hope the government will reflect very carefully on her words-particularly her remarks at the end of her contribution about the role of nato in the light of the american decision to pull out of afghanistan. these are very real issues about the capabilities within nato. if i may say so, it is about not just the capability of nato but how we make sure the united nations has all the tools at its disposal to do what we expect of it. we will have to return to these matters in this house when we come back from recess. i thank the government for the briefings we have had over the course of the last few days, and in particular i commend the defence secretary for making himself available and for how he has conducted himself. indeed, that is also true of
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ministers in the home office-i think particularly of the under-secretary of state, the honorable member for torbay and, from the foreign office, the minister for the middle east and north africa. when we are talking about human lives being lost, it is important that we in this house work together where it is possible but yes, of course, that we ask legitimate questions. there can be little doubt that the chaos and crisis that has been inflicted on the afghan people is the biggest foreign policy failure of modern times. the sheer scale of that political failure is matched only by the humanitarian emergency that it has now unleashed. as we gather here this morning, the future and fate of afghanistan has never been more uncertain. afghanistan, a country that has been through so much, is once again facing a period of darkness.
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over the course of the past week we have watched those tragic images from afar. the scenes of afghans seeking to jump on to moving planes to escape will haunt us for the rest of our lives. we have watched from afar, but we all have a deep sense of sorrow about just how closely the uk has been involved in what has unfolded. geographical distance does not for a second diminish the moral responsibility that we need to feel for the west's role in this crisis. washing our hands of this crisis will not make it go away, and it definitely will not wash away our responsibility to the afghan people. we all know that acting now will be too little, too late, but better little and late than nothing at all.
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today we have a choice -- we can either offer meaningless words of sympathy and stand idly by, or we can start to do the right thing. we can take responsibility and act. the home secretary has today talked about evacuating more contacts of the uk afghanistan operation from the existing resettlement scheme. let me be clear, there should be no ifs or buts. everyone who has worked with uk forces and who by definition has a vulnerability, must be moved to a position of safety. no one can be left behind. that is our moral and ethical responsibility. all those who work with us are our responsibility. we do not, we cannot, walk away from them.
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today i am asking the government to make that commitment. that action needs to begin with a co-ordinated domestic and international effort to offer safe passage, shelter and support to refugees fleeing this crisis is obvious. that action cannot wait. if we are to act, we must act with the same speed with which the situation in afghanistan has developed. i am sad that the scheme announced last night by the uk government, and today by the prime minister, does not go nearly far or fast enough. it can only be right that the number of refugees we welcome here reflects the share of the responsibility that the uk government have for this foreign policy disaster. this scheme falls way short of that responsibility. the scheme must be far more ambitious, generous, and swift
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to help the afghan citizens that it has abandoned and left at serious risk of persecution, and indeed death. the scale of the efforts must match the scale of the humanitarian emergency. >> considering that the government promised in 2016 to save 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from calais, is the right honorable gentleman concerned that the number who have actually been saved stands at around 380? if those promises can be broken, and among those children were many from afghanistan, is he concerned that the promises made today may be as unrobust as those of the past? >> i agree with the right honorable lady that it is important the house has the opportunity to reflect on this and consider what mechanisms we need to put in place to protect people in afghanistan.
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the harsh reality is that 3 million people have already been displaced, and 80% of those fleeing their homes are women and children. these people are now crying out for our help. >> my right honorable friend will be aware that yesterday the nobel laureate nadia murad said, i know what happens when the world loses sight of women and girls in crises. when it looks away, war is waged on women's bodies. sadly, she is correct. does my right honorable friend agree that, if we do not act now and go so much further than the government are proposing to protect women and girls, this political disaster will become a catastrophic moral failure? >> i agree with my honorable friend. i just reflected on the fact that 3 million people have already been displaced.
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we need to show a generosity of spirit that recognises the scale of the challenge we face, so that women do not face the loss of their human rights, so that women do not face persecution and, yes, so that women do not face even worse, including death. it is important to say that, if we are to support the afghan people, this crisis needs to mark a point of fundamental change in this government's approach to refugees. in the past few months alone, this government have introduced a hateful anti-refugee bill that would rip up international conventions and criminalise those coming from afghanistan in need of our refuge. the uk government have spent a sizeable part of their summer making political play of turning
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away migrants and refugees in small boats who are desperately making their way across the channel. >> given that glasgow is the only city and authority in scotland to be part of the resettlement scheme up until now, will the snp stick to their rhetoric and start putting forward other authority areas to be part of the resettlement scheme? >> my goodness, my goodness, my goodness. i do not think the honorable gentleman has been listening to anything we have been saying over the past few days. i will talk about this in more detail, because i have been asking for the resettlement scheme to work on the basis of the syrian scheme that we had in the last decade.
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i tell the house that the scottish government stand ready to work with the uk government. we are talking about people who are facing extreme risk, and that is what we get from the government benches. they should be careful, because people in the united kingdom, and perhaps people in afghanistan, are listening. perhaps a bit of dignity from the government benches would not go amiss. i want to make sure that every local authority in scotland has the opportunity to take refugees from afghanistan, and that is precisely the position of the government in scotland, but is
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has to come with the government in london and the devolved administrations working together. there has to be a summit of the four nations to discuss exactly how this will work. >> my local authority, east ayrshire council, has resettled syrian refugees. >> as has mine. >> my honorable friend is correct. my area of the highlands has refugees from syria, too, and they were made most welcome by the community. in view of the hostile environment that we are seeing once again from the conservative party, let us reflect on the fact that these are people who came here to receive sanctuary and who have gone on to make a contribution to our life. they were welcome, refugees are welcome and afghans are certainly welcome in every part of scotland.
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>> before the right honorable gentleman was rerouted by the honorable gentlemen, he was making a powerful point about those who come across the channel in boats, and the government's proposals for them. does he recognise that, according to organisations such as safe passage, 70% of the unaccompanied minors crossing the channel come from afghanistan, and to criminalise them is a criminal act in itself? >> i agree with the honorable gentleman. the government must reflect carefully on this over the course of the summer, and change their ways before we come back and debate these matters again. >> i will make some progress before giving way again. we have just had it demonstrated that the hostile attitude and
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approach to refugees truly exists and extends to those from afghanistan. since the most recent conflict began, in 2001, the home office has rejected asylum for 32,000 afghans, including 875 girls. the total number of afghans in the system stands at 3,117, so if we are to have any confidence that this is a turning point, this uk government need to rethink radically how they respond to the refugee crisis unfolding before our eyes. >> no one in this house can fail to be moved by the scenes from afghanistan we are seeing on our television screens, and i am delighted to hear that the scottish government stand ready to do their part. will the right honorable gentleman confirm how many refugees the scottish government are ready to resettle? >> i will discuss that a little
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later on. i have to say to government benches, these are serious issues. i welcome the honorable member's intervention, and i will give the real-life example of what happened with syria. scotland took 15% of the refugees who came from syria. 20%. we have done our bit, and we stand ready to do our bit again. i commit myself as leader of the snp here, and i commit my government to work with the government here in london, but they have to extend the hand of friendship to us. >> let us hope that refugees do not become a political football in this place.
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all of us, all of us care desperately about giving these people safe haven. we welcome them in the highlands, we welcome them everywhere, but does the right honorable gentleman agree that the proper finance to support our local authorities must be forthcoming from the uk government and the scottish government, because without it our councils will struggle? >> yes, i agree, and i thank the honorable gentleman for that intervention because i know that he will associate himself with me in saying that we will extend 100,000 welcomes to those who wish to come to the highlands of scotland. we have called for a four-nations summit to integrate our efforts across the united kingdom. i hope that the prime minister will respond positively and take the opportunity to meet the devolved administrations to discuss this. perhaps he will indicate now that he is happy to do that. the prime minister indicated assent.
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>> we have it on the record that the prime minister is happy to do that-that he is happy to have a four-nations summit. i am grateful. >> there has been much focus today on making sure we offer sanctuary for people from afghanistan, but last night i was speaking to my carmyle constituent mohammad asif, who is originally from afghanistan. he wants to make sure that we also offer humanitarian protection to those who are already seeking asylum in the city of glasgow. on the point made by the honorable gentlemen, yes, the city of glasgow has done its fair share to welcome refugees and we stand ready to do a lot more, but i have to say to him that 30 refugees per parliamentary constituency is a paltry number that he should be ashamed of. >> at the end of the day, it is important that we all do what we can. i commend glasgow city council and glasgow's mps and msps, but it is the people of glasgow who have done so much to welcome asylum seekers to their city. we believe that the resettlement scheme should emulate and exceed the syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme.
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it must also be enacted and deployed much more quickly than the syrian scheme. afghan refugees should not-and cannot-wait for up to five years for safety. they need safe passage and they need it now. the scheme should be open to afghans who supported uk government-funded programmes and who worked for the uk and other international organisations. it should have a minimum commitment to welcome at least 35,000 to 40,000 afghan refugees in the uk, in line with the population share of refugees welcomed from syria. three thousand of those syrian refugees have made scotland their new home. they have contributed to our economy and our communities.
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they were syrians. they are now part of scotland's story. they are our friends and neighbours. it is only right that we offer the same warmth and welcome to afghan refugees facing the same dangerous and desperate situation. the crisis has thrown into sharp focus the disaster of the overseas development cuts, which were rammed through before the summer recess. when the prime minister talks about the increase in spending in afghanistan, it still does not take us to the level of spending that was previously committed. the cuts to overseas aid were immoral and shameful before this humanitarian emergency. it is now a policy. >> you don't listen. >> do i not listen? i am afraid that the person who
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is not listening, maybe he is still on holiday, is the foreign secretary. you have not taken the spending back to the level where it was. >> no, you are not doubling it. >> we do not use "you", as the right honorable gentleman well knows, because i do not take responsibility, and he would not expect me to. >> you certainly do not want to take responsibility for a foreign secretary who cannot realise the facts of the matter. you have taken spending to below where it previously was. if you cannot accept that, you cannot even count. >> the right honorable gentleman keeps using "you". he must come through me. i am the chair. the foreign secretary is not the chair. >> indeed, mr. speaker. it is important that the cuts to overseas aid are reversed in their entirety. i know that the foreign secretary is trying to wind me up. when the rest of us were doing what we could in the past few
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days, he was lying on a sunbed, so i will not take any lectures from someone like him. people are facing the worst situation imaginable and we have a foreign secretary who sits laughing and joking on the government front bench. he should be ashamed of himself. he demonstrates that he has no dignity whatsoever. he can carry on saying that the amount has been doubled. >> on a point of order, mr. speaker. we have had 20 minutes of speech and we now have a private conversation between front benchers. should we not be debating the subject, sir? >> that is for me to decide and i have referred twice to both sides trying to antagonise each other, which is not a good idea. whichever front bench it is, they should not be responding. i am sure that mr. blackford is coming to the end of his speech.
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he did say that he would not take too long. >> mr. speaker, this is an important matter. aid spending in afghanistan is still below what it was meant to be and the foreign secretary does not have the decency to understand and accept that. it just shows that he is out of touch with what people want, in the house and across these islands. perhaps the foreign secretary will get a chance to intervene later on, but continuing to chunter from a sedentary position shows, really, that he has no dignity. he ought to have some self-respect. when it comes to aid, it is telling to reflect on the chasm between the amount invested in this conflict and the amount invested in development. since 2001, the uk government have spent around £27.7 billion on military operations in afghanistan. over the same period, they have
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spent approximately £3.8 billion in aid. that amounts to eight times as much spending on military action as on supporting communities or helping to rebuild the country. those figures alone should make this house seriously reflect on all the priorities, policies and political decisions that have ultimately resulted in this failure, and the failure rests on the shoulders of the prime minister and his foreign secretary. billions have been invested to support these failed military decisions, and it is the afghan people who are left paying the ultimate price. i have concentrated my remarks on the here and now because we understand that the immediate priority must be to do everything that we can to protect lives. but in time there must also be a chance to review how the uk's involvement in the region went so badly wrong.
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it is right to put on record today that there must be a future judge-led inquiry into the war in afghanistan. we owe that to the brave men and women in our military who were sent there, many of them not returning, many of them making the ultimate sacrifice. let me thank each and every one of those who have given so much to secure peace in afghanistan. as we exit afghanistan, it is our forces that have to go back to facilitate our departure, putting themselves on the frontline once again. it is little wonder that so many of our service personnel and their families are asking what their involvement in afghanistan was for. we have let afghanistan down by the nature of our departure, but we have also let down our
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military. we should salute each and every one of them. they are right to be angry at the political failure. we owe that inquiry, too, to the many professionals and volunteers who were led to believe that they were there to support the afghan people in building their nation, and we owe it to the future that such a massive foreign policy failure is never again repeated. it is clear that afghanistan did not go from relative stability to chaos overnight. the current situation is an acceleration of an existing state of affairs, of which the uk, the us and the afghan governments were seemingly unaware. the exit strategy was not properly planned, so it appears that the only people who were planning were the taliban. there remain so many massive questions for the prime minister and his government. hod th300,000 men of the afghan national defence and security forces seemingly vanish overnight?
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why was so much trust placed in an afghan government that disintegrated the moment that foreign troops left? why did the uk government not push for a united nations-led exit strategy, rather than silently sitting on the sidelines as the us made their decisions? although history may well cast the final verdict on many of these questions and decisions, we also need the answers and accountability that only a judge-led inquiry can ultimately bring. i began my remarks by saying that we are witnessing a humanitarian emergency from afar, but the sad reality is that this is by no means close
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to the first tragedy experienced by the afghan nation. the story of afghanistan is of a country and a people torn apart by tragedy time and time again. over the years, great powers and vast armies have come and gone. it is the afghan people who have always been left behind. there is, sadly, no evacuation and no escape for them from foreign policy failure. i am sure that many afghan citizens simply see a cycle endlessly repeating itself. as an international community, we have collectively wronged these poor people for the best part of a century. we asked the citizens of afghanistan to work with us. we watched as girls were able to receive an education, as women were able to excel in so many fields, so that a light could be lit, pointing a path to a brighter future for so many to benefit from freedom of opportunity. that light has been
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extinguished. the future for so many women and girls is dark and forbidding. we have let them down. it is time to do the right thing. for those deserving and in need of our aid and our support, now is the moment to act.
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i was right about that in they must have put my hand up to my chest because the photo that was
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taken shows me lying on my back my hand up to my chest. i do remember jason taking my hand and stroking it. in a being perplexed that he was reassuring me because i did not realize i was showing how upset i was. >> tonight you will also here from massachusetts democrat, tim mcgovern. january 6, views from the house, tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern on c-span,, or listen on the c-span radio app. >> >> it all starts with great internet. >> wow supports c-span as a public service along with his other television providers. giving you a front row seat


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