Where Parliament isn’t a joke

The UK Parliament spent half an hour today debating the prison break from Sarposa prison in Kandahar. Alistair Burt, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, took fourteen questions from Labour and Conservative MPs on topics including how it happened, to how it might affect the political negotiations with the Taliban, and the impact it will have on morale of UK soldiers in Afghanistan.

Canadians will notice a few curious things about the exchanges. First, the Afghan file is actually one that relates to Burt’s assigned portfolio—something rather unheard of in Ottawa. More oddly still, at no point did Burt accuse the opposition members of disloyalty to the troops or to the UK, nor did he take the occasion to bray like a donkey about how everything his government had done on the file was noble and pure, while everything the previous government had done was villainous and incompetent. Instead, Burt frequently thanked the opposition member for the question, and even—get this—agreed on occasion with the point the opposition member was making. At one point Burt and a Labour MP even shared a joke about which Pitt they were talking about.

But more importantly, Canadians will observe a foreign parliament treating with great seriousness an event that speaks directly to the country’s national security interests. I read on Twitter today that Michael Ignatieff made a few remarks about Sarposa . If Stephen Harper, Bev Oda, Lawrence Cannon, or Peter MacKay have addressed the fiasco, I’d appreciate a pointer to their remarks.

Meanwhile, here’s a transcript of the debate at Westminster.

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