I want to start with a few comments about the situation in Afghanistan. Over 14 days, the UK has airlifted 15,000 people in 165 flights from Kabul. This includes British nationals and vulnerable Afghans who have supported UK operations over the years. Armed forces personnel have put themselves at great risk to bring these people to safety and deserve our gratitude.
My office has dealt with several Forest of Dean linked cases and I will continue to do what I can to support them, although this will be more difficult now that the UK presence has withdrawn.
The sacrifices of British soldiers in Afghanistan, including the 13 from 1 RIFLES at Beachley Barracks who lost their lives, have bought us 20 years of security, with not a single terror attack launched against the UK from Afghan soil or by those trained on it. We must ensure that security continues. When Parliament was recalled, I questioned the Prime Minister over whether a failure to assess intelligence had led to the scenes of recent weeks. Our safety depends on the quality of these intelligence assessments.
In other news, I’d like to congratulate Forest of Dean Paralympian Piers Gilliver for winning gold last week in the wheelchair fencing, and silver and bronze in the team events at Tokyo 2020. As a former Minister for Disabled People, I am aware of how important a role sport plays in the lives of many disabled people and Piers’ success exemplifies why Paralympic sport is something we must continue to support.
Finally, I had the opportunity to contribute to BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions last Friday, broadcasting from Stroud. I believe that politicians are best held to account in person and so I was delighted to appear in front of a live audience for the first time since the pandemic began. Amongst other things, I talked about the importance of constructive dialogue on issues like climate change and my work as chair of the Covid Recovery Group, ensuring that we take advantage of the vaccine rollout and don’t see a return of Covid restrictions this Winter.