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Johnny Mercer gets defence minister job as Boris Johnson pledges dedicated veterans' office

2 min read

Boris Johnson has handed Tory rising star Johnny Mercer a job as Defence Minister, as he unveiled a new government office for armed forces veterans.

The new Office of Veterans' Affairs will sit inside the Cabinet Office and will be jointly run by the Plymouth Moorview MP and the Cabinet-attending paymaster general Oliver Dowden.

Mr Mercer will reportedly be asked to focus on ending the legal pursuit of former service personnel, amid anger in the Conservative party over the treatment of those who served during Northern Ireland's Troubles.

He told The Sun: "I’m delighted with the role. The PM has tasked me to end the repeated and vexatious pursuit of veterans by so-called Lawfare and to put together legislation to place the Forces covenant into law, in line with a pledge first made by the Conservative Party in 2009."

The new minister has been a vocal critic of the Historical Investigations Unit, which has looked into allegations of misconduct by service personnel as well as unsolved criminal cases stemming from The Troubles.

Last year the Police Service of Northern Ireland said there were still more than 1,000 unexplained deaths stemming from the conflict, and resolving the cases was a key part of the 2014 Stormont House agreement between the British and Irish governments.

But Mr Mercer is among the group of Tory MPs who have been highly critical of the way Theresa May's government treated those under investigation.

In a brutal House of Commons attack on the former PM in May, backencher Iain Duncan Smith said it appeared the Government had "abandoned" former service personnel, while fellow MP Mark accused the Prime Minister of “pandering” to the IRA.

Mr Mercer told Mrs May at the time: "I think the Prime Minister and this House is beginning to understand the level of fury of veterans in this country when it comes to their treatment by this place over the years."

And he warned that the Government risked creating an "equivocation between those who got up in the morning to go and murder women and children and civilians and those who donned a uniform to go and protect the crown".

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