Veteran suicides: New defence secretary Penny Mordaunt urged to ‘put veterans first’​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Defence secretary Penny Mordaunt arrives in Downing Street, London. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Defence secretary Penny Mordaunt arrives in Downing Street, London. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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THE new defence secretary Penny Mordaunt has a ‘great chance’ to make positive changes to support armed forces veterans, say campaigners.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt was announced as the new defence secretary on Wednesday, following the dismissal of Gavin Williamson.

Stephen James and Dan Arnold, the co-foundesr of Portsmouth-based armed forces group All Call Signs. Picture Ian Hargreaves  (180824-1)

Stephen James and Dan Arnold, the co-foundesr of Portsmouth-based armed forces group All Call Signs. Picture Ian Hargreaves (180824-1)

Now, it is hoped that Ms Mordaunt will give additional funding to veteran support services, as well as help to pass new legislation to make coroners specifically record veteran suicides.

Ms Mordaunt’s opposite number in Portsmouth South, Labour MP Stephen Morgan, has written an open letter to the new defence secretary, asking for both of these things to be made ‘a matter of urgency’.

This has been backed up by the Portsmouth-based armed forces charity All Call Signs, which gives past and present service personnel the chance to connect with one another and open up about their mental health problems.

Mr Morgan said: ‘I welcome the news that Penny Mordaunt has been appointed as defence secretary.

‘As with her predecessor, I will be extensively lobbying her and the MoD to make these changes as a matter of urgency.

‘My request is clear – we need to see a legislative change that sees coroners record veteran suicide and we need to see tailored mental health services for ex-service personnel.

‘I hope Penny Mordaunt will meet with me and veterans organisations to make this happen.’

Co-founder of All Call Signs, Dan Arnold, says that these two changes will make a 'huge difference’ to the veterans community.

He said: ‘We’ve met Penny before and having someone from Portsmouth in the role is a positive step.

‘At the moment there’s an impasse between the veterans and the MoD – to have this extra support from the defence secretary would massively bolster the support that veterans can get nationwide.’

Dan says that Portsmouth is one of the lucky ones from the ‘postcode lottery' – but more must be done to help veterans everywhere.

‘We’re really proud to have a defence secretary from Portsmouth,’ he said.

‘Hopefully she makes a splash in the role.’