Prime Minister Boris Johnson sacked his veterans minister Johnny Mercer in a row over the treatment of British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.
In a statement released shortly after 7pm, the spokeswoman said: ‘This evening the Prime Minister has accepted the resignation of Johnny Mercer as Minister for Defence People and Veterans.
‘He thanks Johnny Mercer for his service as a Government Minister since 2019.’
However, in a tweet accompanied by the resignation letter, Mr Mercer wrote: ‘I’m sorry to have been relieved of my responsibilities in Government tonight.’
In the letter, Mr Mercer said: ‘It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to offer you my resignation from your Government.’
Johnny Mercer, pictured, has resigned this evening from Government in a row over the treatment of veterans accused of crimes in Northern Ireland
Mr Mercer published his resignation letter which revealed he was ‘forced’ to leave Government
Mr Mercer said he will lobby on behalf of Northern Ireland veterans in Parliament, having said he made promises to those troops in Mr Johnson’s name
10 Downing Street claimed Mr Mercer resigned, but the former veterans minister said he was ‘relieved of my responsibilities in Government
The former British Army officer was reported to be unhappy about a lack of progress in dealing with former personnel being investigated for killings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
He accused Mr Johnson’s government of ‘abandoning’ veterans who served in Northern Ireland.
He wrote: ‘I made promises on your behalf that we would not leave them behind and would walk through simultaneous legislation from 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.’
He had been heavily involved in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which is going through its final stages in Parliament.
The legislation was developed in response to legal claims made after operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but it does not cover incidents in Northern Ireland.
The Telegraph reported that Mr Mercer had become increasingly frustrated about the lack of progress on the Northern Ireland issue.
Lords amendments to the Bill will be considered in the Commons on Wednesday.
Mr Mercer appeared in the House of Commons chamber on Tuesday evening in order to reply on behalf of the Government to the adjournment debate.
Johnny Mercer’s resignation letter in full
It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to offer my resignation from your government.
I am very proud of the small team in the Office for Veterans Affairs who have worked hard against a strong prevailing wind in Government to establish themselves and start the significant piece of work of getting the UK Government to realise her responsibilities to those who have served in the UK’s armed forces.
I had hoped your premiership would signal a step change in Veterans Affairs in the UK. Whilst we continue to say all the right things, you will understand that if we fail to match that with what we deliver, we risk damaging an already bruised Veteran’s cohort further, as I told you last month in our first face to face meeting, we crossed that line some time ago.
The challenges of the Office for Veterans Affairs are well known – I have raised them time and again within Government to you and many others. It was always designed in a specific way in the Veterans’ Pledge that you signed when you were running to be Prime Minister in 2019. I was not the author; a cohort of charities, stakeholders, veterans and families came together with an ask of the next UK PM and both candidates signed it. However, after signing the pledge your team chose not to configure it in the way it was designed, and from the very first moment you appointed me, I made clear that this was unlikely to be successful.
I am of course, desperately sad events have transpired the way they have – I truly have exhausted my efforts and my team to make it work. But the truth is politics always was a means to change how this Country treats her military veterans, and I remain genuinely appalled by the experiences of some of the Nation’s finest people who have served in the Armed Forces. I fought and bled alongside them. I’ve been far more fortunate than many of them since, and I have a duty to tell their truth to power.
Perhaps nothing embodies this more than what we are asking our Veterans in their seventies and eighties to relive, through endless reinvestigations and inquests, into events often more than fifty years ago in Northern Ireland.
Almost all these events were investigated at the time, and without the emergence of any new evidence and simply a changing of the political tide, we have abandoned our people in a way I simply cannot reconcile. Whilst endless plans are promised and solutions mused, veterans are being sectioned, drinking themselves to death and dying well before their time – simply because the UK Government cannot find the moral strength or courage we asked of them in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, in finding a political solution to stop these appalling injustices.
You have known for some time this was my red line. I am deeply proud of my predecessors who served in Northern Ireland. They are not second-class veterans. They deserve the protections of the Overseas Operations Bill like everyone else. A police decision was taken not to include them. 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.