Politics

Johnny Mercer To Oversee New Office Of Veterans' Affairs

Mr Mercer has been made a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in both the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office.

Johnny Mercer served in the Army for 10 years (Picture: UK Parliament).

Johnny Mercer, the former-Army-officer-turned MP, has been given a ministerial job in Boris Johnson's government.

He has been made a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in both the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Cabinet Office.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Oliver Dowden, and MOD and Cabinet Office Minister Johnny Mercer will also jointly oversee a new Office of Veterans’ Affairs.

The Office will work with departments to coordinate and drive government policy on veterans’ welfare, spanning mental and physical health, education and employment.

The head of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs will report jointly to both ministers.

Watch: RUSI Deputy Director-General, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, discusses what influence the new Office for Veterans' Affairs may have.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told Forces News that the effectiveness of the Cabinet Office will hinge on its persuasive powers.

He says a lot will depend on Johnny Mercer "having the clout, with the Prime Minister's support... to give this a priority":

"Departments across Government are very focused on Brexit and will find it hard to address issues like this."

Professor Chalmers insisted that the new measures for veteran support were "a step in the right direction", but "so much depends on how it is carried out in practice".

Johnny Mercer has always campaigned for better support to veterans and mental health awareness.

Mr Mercer said he was "delighted" with the role, saying it is the first time the Government's efforts to help military veterans will be properly coordinated:

"For the first time in its history, the UK 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, and I look forward to getting on with the task at hand.”

Mr Mercer's recent appointment has been welcomed by the new Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. In a tweet, he said he was "delighted to have such a top Ministerial team at MOD".

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt signed up to a campaign which is also calling for the military covenant to be enshrined into law and for the protection of veterans from facing repeated historical allegations, including in Northern Ireland.

Melanie Waters, Help For Heroes' CEO, said wounded and sick veterans needed "long-term" support: "They will need our help in the long-term as they grow old, and our absolute promise to them is they grow old with dignity and pride and I think the nation would want that."

Mr Mercer spent 10 years in the Army and served in Afghanistan. Two months after leaving, he became the Tory candidate for Plymouth Moor View and was elected in 2015.

Three months ago Johnny Mercer said he would no longer support the government in Parliament until it stopped the prosecution of veterans over historic allegations.

It is something Boris Johnson has said has "got to stop", though the new Northern Ireland Secretary says the issue is still under examination.

Watch: in May, Johnny Mercer MP told the PM that he found the repeated investigations into historic allegations "personally offensive"