First minister for veterans to fight troops witch-hunt
BORIS Johnson is to establish Britain’s first dedicated veterans’ office with a priority of stopping the legal witch- hunt against troops.
Tory MP Johnny Mercer, a former Army officer, was yesterday appointed Minister for Defence People and Veterans working across the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence.
The new Prime Minister is understood to have told Mr Mercer Defence and Security Editor in a phone call to find a way to put an end to the relentless probes against soldiers.
The idea is that he will be able to oversee all veterans’ issues across government, including housing, mental health support and finding work.
It is understood Mr Johnson will also work to enshrine the ‘military covenant’ in law, which will enable soldiers to sue if the Government doesn’t treat them fairly. Earlier this month he vowed to back former soldiers, saying: ‘There will be a minister with particular responsibilities for veterans in Cabinet.’
The Mail reported on Saturday that Mr Johnson had been accused of ‘forgetting’ veterans because he had not yet made the appointment.
It is thought Mr Mercer was subsequently offered a role as a parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence but refused it as it didn’t meet his pledge. The Prime Minister then agreed to create a new role that would enable the veterans minister to sit inside the Cabinet Office.
Mr Mercer launched a Commons defence committee inquiry into the witch- hunt in 2016 following a Daily Mail campaign to put an end to the hounding of troops.
The Plymouth Moor View MP has been a champion of British troops ever since, and is highly regarded in military circles.
He said last night: ‘ For the first time in its history, the Government will have an Office for Veterans’ Affairs to pull together all functions of government to ensure that when our armed forces personnel leave service, they are looked after in the manner that they deserve.
‘I am delighted with this role, and am resolutely determined to reset this country’s relationship with her veterans. I entered Parliament to do precisely this. I am grateful for the opportunity this Prime Minister has given me to do this.’
Hounded war hero Brian Wood, a recipient of the military cross, welcomed the move. He said: ‘ It is important to have someone feeding Boris information from veterans. Johnny is the right fit.
‘He has campaigned tirelessly on the Iraq Historical Allegations Team. He was also the only MP to meet me face to face. I will support him in any way I can.’ The US currently has a dedicated veterans department in Washington DC but ministers in Britain have previously rejected such a concept.
In November 2016, defence minister Mark Lancaster said the Government as a whole should be responsible for veteran care.
Mr Johnson has said he wants to bring in new laws to stop the military facing an ‘abhorrent spectacle’ of prosecutions.
During the campaign to become Tory leader he said if he became PM he would introduce legislation in his first Parliament to ‘protect our veterans from repeated investigations and vexatious’ claims.
Soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are still facing probes over their actions on the battlefield despite repeated promises such processes would be shut down.
WITCH-HUNT AGAINST OUR HEROES