Wallace says PM never asked him to clear way out of Kabul for Nowzad animals

Defence Secretary says Pen Farthing and his animals did not ‘jump the queue’ to flee the country after the Taliban takeover.

Amy Gibbons
Tuesday 25 January 2022 17:20
Former Royal Marine Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing (Nowzad/PA)
Former Royal Marine Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing (Nowzad/PA)

The Defence Secretary has insisted the Prime Minister did not ask him to clear the way out of Afghanistan for Paul “Pen” Farthing’s animals “at any stage”.

It follows claims in December that Boris Johnson’s former parliamentary aide wrote to Mr Farthing confirming his staff and animals could be evacuated from the country after the Taliban takeover, despite the PM insisting allegations he intervened were “complete nonsense”.

Appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) on Tuesday, Ben Wallace said: “No-one lobbied me… The Prime Minister didn’t ring up. At no stage, at any stage, did the Prime Minister ask me to make a way for those pets. Not at all. Never.”

Former Royal Marine Mr Farthing, who ran the Nowzad shelter, launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out of Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul using a plane funded through donations.

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

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

And Raphael Marshall, who worked for the Foreign Office at the time, claimed that the animals were evacuated following a direct instruction from Mr Johnson.

The Defence Secretary told the FAC during Tuesday’s session: “I took the decision that as long as people weren’t jumping the queue and at the end of that process, if a plane came in, not using our assets, not using the RAF, then it would be given clearance. It was a simple matter of getting it through.”

He added: “I wasn’t going to let it interrupt military operations, I wasn’t going let it interrupt the people. And I certainly was not going to let them turn up and jump the queue – and those awful waiting scenes we saw where people were desperate.

“But when all that was done, we opened a gate at the very end and they were allowed through and they got on their own plane and they left and I think they were almost the very last people out. So you cannot say in any way they jumped a queue. But you cannot say we hindered them unfairly.”

Downing Street previously said that the allegations that the Prime Minister ordered the rescue of animals from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover were “entirely untrue”.

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