Boris Johnson praised by Portsmouth soldiers for setting up new veterans department
PRIME minister Boris Johnson has been praised for establishing the first dedicated veterans’ office in government.
The Whitehall department will be led by new veterans minister and former army officer, Johnny Mercer, and will prioritise stopping the legal witch-hunt against troops.
The PM’s decision has been welcomed by retired soldiers and armed forces campaigners from across Portsmouth.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker, chairman of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Association which looks after hundreds of infantry veterans in the south, was delighted by the news.
The Northern Ireland and Iraq veteran, who grew up in Cowplain, said: ‘This will come as a huge relief to many soldiers to see Britain is starting to catch up with the likes of America in how it treats its veterans. It’s going to be a massive leap forward.’
The role is a first for Britain. It will see Plymouth Moor View MP Mr Mercer running the unit with the paymaster general Oliver Dowden.
The idea is that he will be able to oversee all veterans' issues across government, including housing, mental health support and finding work.
The News has been campaigning for better care of veterans in our series Veterans in Crisis.
Retired Private Stephen James was excited by Mr Mercer – who sits on the Commons’ defence committee – and his new role.
‘It’s wonderful to see a retired army officer, leading the government’s strategy on veteran welfare,’ said Mr James, co-founder of Southsea-based military group All Call Signs.
‘Johnny Mercer has been a powerful ally to everyone working to improve the lives of veterans and service personnel in this country.
‘The prime minister has created a new role to give him more power to continue his good work and he’s done it within a week of taking the top job, this shows a serious commitment to ending historic prosecutions and giving the armed forces covenant the teeth it needs to be a serious pledge.’
Reacting to his appointment, Mr Mercer said: ‘I am delighted with this role, and am resolutely determined to reset this country's relationship with her veterans.’