Politics

Johnny Mercer's Successor As Veterans Minister Confirmed

Former British Army captain Leo Docherty has been appointed as the new Minister for Defence People and Veterans.

A former British Army captain in the Scots Guards has been appointed as the new Minister for Defence People and Veterans, following Johnny Mercer's resignation last night.

Leo Docherty replaces Mr Mercer, who left Boris Johnson's Government after expressing frustration at a lack of progress over legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles.

Mr Docherty served with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards and completed operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Upon, leaving the Army he became director of the Conservative Middle East Council in 2010, and was later elected as MP for Aldershot in 2017.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he is "delighted" to welcome Mr Docherty to the department.

"He will be taking up one of the most important roles, championing our veterans and service personnel," Mr Wallace said.

"Leo comes with a wealth of experience, both of the Armed Forces, having served in Afghanistan, and of politics.

"I know that he will do an excellent job."

Former Army officer Mr Mercer said he had "no choice" other than to leave his post, but was doing so with a "heavy heart", after having "exhausted my efforts and my team to make it work".

Mr Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, has been heavily involved in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which is being considered by MPs, as it goes through its final stages in Parliament.

The legislation was developed in response to legal claims made after operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not cover incidents in Northern Ireland.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Mercer said the Government risks "damaging an already bruised veterans cohort further", adding he had hoped Mr Johnson's premiership would "signal a step change in veterans affairs in the UK".

Expressing his feelings over personnel who have served in Northern Ireland, he added: "They deserve the protections of the Overseas Operations Bill like everyone else."

He signed off his resignation letter, saying: "I am deeply proud of my predecessors who served in Northern Ireland.

"I made promises on your behalf that we would not leave them behind and would walk through simultaneous legislation for them. No discernible efforts have been made to do so, and I can see no prospect of this changing.

"I have no choice but to leave Government and campaign for them in Parliament."

Mr Johnson said in his reply to Mr Mercer that he was "grateful" for his contribution as veterans minister and he had "made a real difference" to the lives of defence personnel.

He said the Overseas Operations Bill is a "crucial part" of efforts to protect personnel against "vexatious and repeated" legal claims.

"But we are committed to doing more over the coming months, including for those who have served in Northern Ireland," he said.