FOREIGN Secretary Dominic Raab repeatedly refused to answer questions on the timing of his holiday to Crete during his appearance at the Foreign Select Committee.

Raab was probed separately by SNP MP Stewart McDonald and Labour MP Chris Bryant over the timetable of his holiday plans compared to the chronology of the fall of Afghanistan. 

The Conservative MP said he "would not have gone away, with the benefit of hindsight” but refused to be drawn on giving specific details - including the date he left the UK to go on holiday.

It came as the Foreign Secretary also told the committee that he was unsure how many people in Afghanistan - who are eligible for resettlement under exisiting schemes - were left behind. 

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Raab also dodged questions about when he spoke to UK ambassadors in countries neighbouring Afghanistan. 

On the topic of his holiday, Bryant was the first MP to take the Foreign Secretary to task during the session.

After Raab ignored his question in the first instance, he asked again if the Foreign Secretary was already on holiday on 11 August - the day the US said the Taliban were likely to seize the whole country. 

Raab said: "I've given a full statement on my holiday. I said I wouldn't have gone away with the benefit of hindsight, which is the luxury..."

Asked again to answer the question, Raab replied: "I'm not going to start adding to frankly the fishing expedition beyond the facts that I've articulated in a fullsome statement and having answered questions continually about that."

Watch the full exchange between Raab and Bryant in the video above

Bryant again asked for further details, asking Raab if he could "see that it's important for British people to understand why you thought it was right to go on holiday?". 

Raab replied: "No, sorry, I don't agree with that."

Later in the evidence session SNP MP McDonald had his chance to grill the Foreign Secretary.

He asked: "Much like Mr Bryant I think it's important people do take holidays, but it's also important to know when to cut them short.

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"Again for the sake of transparency of your own actions, when did you go on holiday? What date did you go on holiday? I'm not interested what you did there, when did you go?"

Raab repeatedly replied that he had "made a full statement" but refused to give any further details - despite McDonald asking the question six times.

After Raab refused to answer, McDonald said that it was "absurd" that he wouldn't give any specifics. 

Watch the exchange between Raab and McDonald above

McDonald later chastised Raab and said it was a "bad idea" for him, the Prime Minister and senior government officals to take holidays during the evacuation of Kabul airport. 

Raab confirmed that his department's staff did not have their summer leave cancelled during the evacuation. However, all military leave was cancelled for the operation. 

McDonald asked: “I understand that the involved military leave was cancelled on 23 July. Did you initiate a similar process for the Foreign Office?”

Raab replied: “No, what I did was make sure that we had cover, a decent rota, specifically because we didn’t know for how long this would endure.

“Of course we were pressing for an extension of the window, in which case you need to make sure with emergency responses and indeed your team theatre that you are able to resource those properly but also make sure you can maintain it. Otherwise you have got a much greater risk of mistakes.”

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McDonald said: “I think many would think that if all military leave was cancelled on 23 July it is a bad idea for yourself, the Prime Minister and several other officials in the FCDO, the Home Office and the MoD to take breaks at that time.”

Raab also told the committee that he would be heading to the region around Afghanistan after his evidence session finished.

The Foreign Secretary did reveal some information to the committee, including that the UK Government's central assessment was that Kabul was "unlikely" to fall in 2021, and was a view "widely shared" by Nato allies. 

He said: “The central assessment that we were operating to, and it was certainly backed up by the JIC [Joint Intelligence Committee] and the military, is that the most likely, the central proposition, was that given the troop withdrawal by the end of August, you’d see a steady deterioration from that point and it was unlikely Kabul would fall this year.”

This assessment remained in place "until late". He added: “The planning for military withdrawal began in April but the contingency plan was also there for a more rapid deterioration.”

The National:

Raab was grilled about Afghanistan by MPs during the select committee session

Planning for a possible evacuation from the country started in June, Raab said, which included plans for a "full drawdown" of the UK embassy. 

The Foreign Secretary also said he had ordered a "full review" of the closure of the emabassy in Kabul - amid concerns the details of UK-linked Afghans had falled into the hands of the Taliban.

He also told the committee he could not give a "definitive answer" on the number of people left behind in Afghanistan who would have been eligible for resettlement. 

Asked to confirm the Prime Minister’s assertion that the “overwhelming majority of people who worked for us are out”, he said: “I’m not confident with precision to be able to give you a set number, but I am confident that the Prime Minister is right, that we’ve got the overwhelming number out.”

Probed on when he spoke to UK ambassadors in countries neighbouring Afghanistan, Raab again dodged answering. 

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He said: “The advice of ambassadors is often distilled down so we have a single complete holistic view.

“We get telegrams in, we assess them very carefully, I don’t need to pick up the phone to get an assessment from the ground.

“What I do need to do is get a holistic picture from the team who are getting all the different advice, get the options and assess what we do next.”

The Foreign Secretary also pledged not to recognise the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. 

And, asked if he had considered resigning or offered to resign at any point, he said: "No I considered getting on with the job [of evacuating people from Afghanistan]."