Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer Quits Government Claiming It Has "Abandoned" NI Soldiers
Veterans' minister and ex-army captain Johnny Mercer has left the government this evening with a stinging resignation letter claiming the government had let down soldiers who served in the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
It has been reported tonight that the MP for Plymouth Moor View told people that he was sacked from his post, however both he and Downing Street released statements to say he had resigned this evening.
In his letter dated 21 April, Mercer said: "It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to offer you my resignation from your Government."
He said Boris Johnson's team had "crossed the line" some time ago on not meeting promises on delivering for veterans, specifically those in Northern Ireland who he said will not be protected from legal claims against them.
Johnson appointed Mercer in July 2019 to the role where he went on to set up the Office for Veterans Affairs. In his letter Mercer said their only face to face meeting during his time in post was last month.
His departure follows a day of speculation that he was on the brink of quitting over his unhappiness on the lack of protection being offered to British Army soldiers who served in Northern Ireland up to 50 years ago.
While the Overseas Operations Bill gives legal protections to soldiers who might go through the courts over their time in the forces, it excludes those who served in Northern Ireland.
The Telegraph reported tonight that up to 200 ex-soldiers are believed to face criminal investigations over deaths, some which date back to the 1970s.
In his letter, he said that the government would be asking veterans in their seventies and eighties to relive through reinvestigations events that happened more than 50 years ago.
"Almost all these events were investigated at the time, and without the emergence of any new evidence and simply a changing of the political tide, we have abandoned our people in a way I simply cannot reconcile," he said.
"I am deeply proud of my predecessors who served in Northern Ireland. They are not second-class veterans. They deserve the protections of the Overseas Operations Bill like everyone else."