Debates between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 18th Aug 2021

Afghanistan

Debate between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Wednesday 18th August 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I salute the bravery of those who served in our Armed Forces and those of our coalition partners, as well as those who worked for local and international charities in Afghanistan, the diplomats and others who served our country so well over these past 20 years —particularly the past two weeks—and the Afghan women who, in the past few days, have said publicly that they will not give up the fight and will stand and fight to continue their work in education and government. I salute their bravery absolutely. I also note my declaration in the register.

I have felt sick, in the course of the last few days, at the situation as it developed, but I felt particularly sick last Friday. A friend in Kabul, who I had been corresponding with over recent weeks, was sending messages telling me of family members who had disappeared in Kandahar and other areas, presumed dead, and of family members who had fled when they discovered that their girls were on the lists of those whom Taliban fighters were looking for to marry off to Taliban fighters. I was sick to hear of her and her family’s fear for what might unfold in the days to come. The last message I got from her, on Friday, said that she was trying to organise a way out but that if Kabul fell to the Taliban, her family would have to take her underground, but she would continue to provide me with updates. I have not heard from her since.

This terrifying, horrific situation we have seen unfold over recent days has been 18 months in the preparation. But only the Taliban has prepared for it. Our Government have serious questions to answer. The Americans may have made the big mistake, but our Government and the other coalition partners have been party to discussions in the G7, the United Nations and NATO over recent months that surely must have included this on the agenda. To have sat back over these 18 months and not prepared for this at least likely outcome is a great failure on the part of Ministers—perhaps also on the part of those who advise them.

There are huge questions that need to be answered if we are to learn lessons from this immediately—not after a long inquiry, but immediately—and ensure that our government and its administration are fit for purpose in the months and years ahead. Were the Government advised just a few weeks ago that this was at least a possibility in the days and weeks following the rapid withdrawal? If they were advised of this, did they ignore that advice? If they were not advised of this, why do those advising them not have the knowledge and expertise to give better advice? If government Ministers ignored that advice, what on earth were they doing over these last few weeks as this situation unfolded in front of us? These questions need to be answered right now.

It cannot be that the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister or anyone else in government hides behind announcements or generalisations. We and the people of Afghanistan deserve to know—

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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I am afraid the noble Lord has gone well over his time. Can we hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik?

G7 and NATO Summits

Debate between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Thursday 17th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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At the summit, the G7 leaders announced plans to deepen the G7’s current partnership with developing countries and deliver a new deal for Africa, including magnifying support from the IMF for countries most in need. The increased funding for COVAX will help with the vaccine rollout within countries in Africa.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, it was reported that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had observer status at the summit. Was this regarded as a successful new initiative and is it likely to be repeated? It seemed to me to be very welcome.

I welcome the strong wording in the G7 communiqué about establishing the Democracy 11, and the strong wording in the outcome of the NATO summit about defending the borders of free nations in the east of Europe from Russian expansionism. Will the Government therefore guarantee that any current support available for conflict prevention, peacebuilding and institution building in those eastern European nations will be maintained, despite the cuts to the budget for official development assistance in the UK?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con)
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As I have said in response to previous questions, we remain and will remain a world-leading aid donor. Officials are currently looking through the implementation plans for our spending and I am sure that the noble Lord’s comments will be taken into account.