Sarah Atherton MP arriving at Downing Street in 2020
Sarah Atherton MP arriving at Downing Street in 2020 (Picture: PjrNews / Alamy Stock Photo).
Politics

Who is Sarah Atherton? The Army veteran appointed defence minister

Sarah Atherton is the first female MP to have also served in the regular Armed Forces.

Sarah Atherton MP arriving at Downing Street in 2020
Sarah Atherton MP arriving at Downing Street in 2020 (Picture: PjrNews / Alamy Stock Photo).

Sarah Atherton, the MP for Wrexham, has been appointed a defence minister.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced she takes on the position of Minister for Defence, People, Veterans and Service Families.

The MOD said Ms Atherton will be the "ministerial lead for issues related to people, veterans and families".

As a British Army veteran herself, Ms Atherton is the first female MP to have served in the regular Armed Forces and is also the first woman to represent Wrexham, a previously staunch Labour constituency.

On her appointment, the new minister said: "I am looking forward to getting stuck in to the role and delivering on key issues that our personnel and members of the Defence community are close to."

Former Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Johnny Mercer MP, said "veterans can be confident Sarah will fight their corner hard".

Who is Sarah Atherton?

Ms Atherton joined the Women's Royal Army Corps in 1986 and served for four years as a Military Analyst (Special Intelligence). 

Before her career in politics, Atherton was a District Nurse at Wrexham Maelor Hospital in the 1990s and a social worker for 18 years from 2000. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Atherton upskilled and returned to practice to support the NHS. She worked on a COVID Recovery Ward at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital between March and June in 2021. 

The Conservative MP is well known for championing issues concerning women and the Armed Forces community. 

In July 2021, she chaired the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces as it published a damning report into the experience of women in the military.

In a break with regular protocols, the Sub-Committee was allowed to hear directly from serving women for the first time. 

More than 4,000 women gave evidence to the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces for its landmark inquiry, which found that 64% of female veterans and 58% of serving women reported experiencing bullying, harassment and discrimination (BHD) during their careers.

The group of MPs described the report as "one of the most important in the Committee's history".