Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Barton has been forced to apologise for providing “inadvertently inaccurate” information to MPs about communication between officials suggesting the prime minister authorised the evacuation of animals from Afghanistan.
In a letter made public last week, Barton told the Foreign Affairs Committee he was “not aware” of the prime minister’s involvement in the evacuation of cats and dogs from the Nowzad charity during the fall of Kabul in August, despite the emergence of emails suggesting otherwise.
He also said Nigel Casey, the prime minister’s special representative for Afghanistan, had not received any correspondence suggesting Johnson had intervened in the Nowzad case.
A series of leaked emails last week reignited a row over the incident, which followed a high-profile campaign by charity owner Pen Farthing to get his staff and animals out of Afghanistan.
One of the emails that emerged was addressed to Casey and referred to “the PM’s decision” about the evacuation.
Appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 25 January, Casey had told the MPs he had no recollection of being told the PM was involved.
Now that evidence contradicting those statements has emerged, Barton has written to the committee again “to apologise for the inadvertently inaccurate answers” to its questions about correspondence with Casey.
“On the day the email was sent, Nigel was almost entirely focused, in his role as gold in our crisis response, on the terrorist threat to the evacuation, which led to our changing our travel advice that evening to warn British nationals to move away from the airport,” the letter, sent on 27 January, said.
“As Nigel said to the committee on 25 January, he has no recollection of having seen emails in which staff attributed this decision to the prime minister. Nor do I.
“I would be grateful if you would pass on my and Nigel's apologies to your colleagues on the committee for this mistake.”
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has launched an investigation to find out who was behind the leaked emails.
Over the weekend, foreign secretary Liz Truss told Times Radio staff were looking into “how the email ended up in the public domain”.