Sketch: Boris Johnson pledges to tackle Afghanistan email backlog 'by close of play'

If Boris Johnson’s email inbox wasn’t already full before Monday’s appearance at Westminster, it will be now.

The Prime Minister insisted in response to questions about constituents who have relatives trapped in Afghanistan that all emails sent to the UK Government by MPs will be answered by the end of the day.

Politician after politician stood up to tell harrowing tales of people in their area who are desperate to get family and friends out of the country.

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But it was SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford who seemed to rattle the Prime Minister, telling him there was “barely an MP in this house” who had not submitted information to the Foreign Office about UK and Afghan nationals desperate to escape the Taliban and branding the government’s failure to answer these queries “a disgrace”.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons. Picture: PA
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Thousands of people were airlifted to safety as the Taliban took Kabul, but hundreds of British nationals remain in the country.

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"I can tell them that by close of play today, every single one of the emails from colleagues around this house will be answered,” Mr Johnson said, in response to a roar of disagreement from around the chamber. “Thousands and thousands have already been done.”

Mr Johnson, announcing an extra £5 million fund for military charities and lauding the success of Operation Pitting – committed to do “everything possible” for those left behind.

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford responds after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an update on the latest situation in Afghanistan to MPs in the House of Commons. Picture: PA

"Anyone who we've made commitments and who is currently in Afghanistan – we are working urgently with our friends in the region to secure safe passage,” he said.

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However, Mr Blackford had another axe to grind, when he accused the PM of rewarding “incompetence” in the form of Dominic Raab, who has come under fire for being on holiday in Crete as Kabul fell.

"Normally, we have a Cabinet minister sent to the house to cover for the Prime Minister, but today, we have before us the Prime Minister, desperately trying to cover for a foreign secretary, who should have been sacked weeks ago,” Mr Blackford said. The SNP MP added that he hoped the foreign secretary would be moved on in the next Cabinet reshuffle.

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Mr Raab made a separate update to the House just minutes after the Prime Ministerial statement on the issue, announcing £30m in aid for countries which neighbour Afghanistan and listing his very recent ministerial visits to countries including Qatar and Pakistan – the latter on England's Covid red list, making the decision by the vast majority of the Tory MPs to ditch their face masks for Monday’s session a questionable one.

Dundee West MP Chris Law, also of the SNP, perhaps misread the serious mood of the topic when he compared the PM’s handling of the crisis to the plot of a Sid James comedy film – his argument dismissed in seconds by Mr Johnson as “wrong in every respect”.

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"The Prime Minister’s handling of the planned departure from Afghanistan is, for those of us old enough to remember, akin to one of the farcical characters in Carry on up the Khyber,” Mr Law said.

“The foreign secretary was on a beach as the Taliban advanced in Kabul. Unknown numbers of British nationals remain left behind and the Taliban and most probably Isis, being allowed to plunder military hardware and intelligence.”

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