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Zac Goldsmith accused of ‘lie’ to Lords over denial that Boris Johnson authorised Afghan dog rescue

The Independent
The Independent
 2022-01-26

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Zac Goldsmith has been accused of lying to parliament in denying Boris Johnson authorised the rescue of cats and dogs from Afghanistan – after damning emails emerged .

The Foreign Office minister is in the spotlight after telling the House of Lords the prime minister was “entirely accurate” to deny he was behind the evacuation of animals from Pen Farthing’s charity.

Yet emails, sent from Lord Goldsmith’s office to the Foreign Office team overseeing the Kabul pull-out, have now appeared to undermine his claim, made on 7 December.

In one, an official stated the charity Nowzad has “received a lot of publicity”, before adding: “The PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated.”

George Foulkes, the Labour peer who asked about the controversy, told The Independent that Lord Goldsmith must explain himself – noting he said he had his own knowledge about what happened.

In the exchange, the minister said: “No 10 and, indeed, the prime minister have clearly and emphatically pushed back against any such suggestion today.

“The noble Lord shakes his head, but I can tell him from my own experience that his rebuttal is entirely accurate.”

Last August, allies of Mr Farthing, a former Royal Marine, lobbied Lord Goldsmith and the prime minister’s wife Carrie for help to get the animals out – as many Afghans were left stranded.

Lord Foulkes said: “I was surprised at the time that he claimed personal knowledge, although he is known to be friendly with Carrie Johnson .

“Clearly he was either misled or knew the truth and lied to the House. If, as I suspect – since he said he knew from his own experience – it was the latter, he has breached the ministerial code and should resign.”

The Independent has asked Lord Goldsmith to respond to the accusation that he misled the Lords, last month.

The minister 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.”

Mr Johnson is also facing fresh accusations of dishonesty – as he awaits Sue Gray’s ‘partygate’ report – after calling the accusation he was behind the animal rescue “

The government sponsored clearance for the charter flight, leading to protests that animals had been prioritised over people in the rescue effort.

The evidence, published by the Commons foreign affairs committee, shows Lord Goldsmith’s officials emailed colleagues working on a “special cases team”.

A second email – sent on the same day – repeated the point, stating “In light of the PM’s decision earlier today to evacuate the staff of the Nowzad animal charity, the [animal charity – name redacted] is asking for agreement to the entry of [details redacted] staff, all Afghan nationals.”

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