Penny Mordaunt: Dealing with treatment of Northern Ireland veterans is a 'personal priority'
Penny Mordaunt has said that dealing with the treatment of Army veterans facing prosecution over their actions in Northern Ireland is a "personal priority" for her.
The new Defence Secretary's comments came just hours after a fellow Tory MP announced he was going on strike over the row.
Johnny Mercer, a former Army officer, said it was time to end the “abhorrent process” that has seen former servicemen and women pursued over events during the Troubles.
It is understood that six former soldiers are now facing prosecution over killings during the decades-long conflict.
In a statement, Ms Mordaunt - who became the UK's first female Defence Secretary after replacing Gavin Williamson last week - said: "This has dragged on for far too long and it is time for action. We owe it to those who take the greatest risk in the service of their nation.
"We will always hold our armed forces and the chain of command to account but I want to ensure our service personnel are not going to be victims of unfounded allegations, as we saw in the case of IHAT (Iraq Historical Allegations Team) or pursued unfairly for events that took place decades ago. This is a personal priority for me."
A spokesman for Theresa May said: "We owe a debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery of our armed forces.
"The issue of prosecutions of veterans is one we take extremely seriously and the Prime Minister is fully aware of the strength of feeling on this, both in Parliament and among the public.
"In relation to Northern Ireland prosecutions, we have been clear the system to investigate the past needs to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the Troubles and to ensure members of our armed forces are not disproportionately affected.
"This is why we have consulted widely on the system. There are a very large number of responses to that consultation and we will be responding to those in due course."
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley was forced to apologise in March after she told MPs that deaths during the conflict at the hands of British soldiers "were not crimes".