Ex-veterans minister Johnny Mercer slams Boris Johnson for failing to include a Northern Ireland veterans Bill in the Queen’s Speech as he claims No10 tried to BAN him from doing media interviews when he was in Government
- Queen’s Speech does not contain a Bill relating to Northern Ireland veterans
- Boris Johnson has promised that there will be legislation brought forward
- But no formal timetable has been set by officials, prompting a furious backlash
Ex-veterans minister Johnny Mercer has slammed Boris Johnson for failing to include legislation in the Queen’s Speech to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles.
The Prime Minister has promised that draft laws will be brought forward but no timetable has been set out and no specific Bill was mentioned by the Queen during the State Opening of Parliament.
An official document accompanying the speech said further details of proposed legislation would be confirmed ‘in the coming weeks’.
But Downing Street would not guarantee that the laws would be in place within the next 12 months and Mr Mercer expressed doubts over whether the legislation would actually be brought forward.
He also claimed as he gave evidence to the Defence Select Committee this afternoon that Number 10 had banned him from giving media interviews on veterans’ mental health when he was in the Government.
Ex-veterans minister Johnny Mercer has slammed Boris Johnson for failing to include legislation in the Queen’s Speech to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles
The Prime Minister has promised that draft laws will be brought forward but no timetable has been set out and no specific Bill was mentioned by the Queen during the State Opening of Parliament
Mr Mercer left the Government after expressing frustration at a lack of progress over legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles.
Following his departure he savaged the Government and accused Mr Johnson of surrounding himself with ‘cowards’ and ‘desperately weak people’.
Asked today if he believes the Government when it says it will soon be bringing forward legislation, Mr Mercer replied: ‘If I had thought legislation was going to be forthcoming on this I would not have left the Government. I didn’t want to leave the Government. It was hard, but I did not want to leave government.
‘But the truth is, on that very day I left, I asked my secretary of state if he had seen a single word committed to paper on these proposals and the answer was no.’
He added: ‘I just cannot be part of an administration that is going to promise these people things and then not make almost any effort to deliver on them.’
Mr Mercer said during his evidence that Number 10 had tried to stop him from giving media interviews when he was in the Government.
He said: ‘It was extraordinary. I will be honest with you, in that case an individual… a senior individual in Number 10 phoned me up and said “you are not to do the Today programme” talking about veterans’ mental health.
‘I think I recall saying to him, “has the Prime Minister specifically said that to you” because I didn’t believe he would say that, and he was like “the Prime Minister has specifically told me you are not to do that tomorrow”.
‘So I spoke to the Prime Minister and he had made no such pledge at all.’
Asked at lunchtime when the Government intends to bring forward legislation relating to Northern Ireland veterans, the PM’s Official Spokesman said: ‘We want to do this promptly and we also want to make sure this is done properly.
‘We have listened to a wide range of stakeholders since last March and we’ve also engaged substantially with the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland parties on this issue and we will bring forward legislation in due course.’
The proposed new system is expected to focus on ‘information recovery and reconciliation’ rather than criminal prosecutions which are unlikely to succeed.
Politicians from across the island of Ireland have voiced anger at the prospect of a form of amnesty on Troubles prosecutions.
Northern Ireland’s two main parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, both criticised the move reported last week by the UK Government to introduce a statute of limitations on prosecuting offences committed prior to the signing of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
Asked if the promised legislation would cover both the alleged actions of service personnel and terrorists, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘We will set out the proposals in due course, I’m not going to jump ahead of that.’
In his introduction to the Queen’s Speech package, Mr Johnson said: ‘We will introduce legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, ensuring that our proposals deliver better outcomes for victims, survivors and veterans, while ending the cycle of investigations.’
In her address to Parliament this morning, the Queen said: ‘My ministers will promote the strength and integrity of the Union.
‘Measures will be brought forward to strengthen devolved government in Northern Ireland and address the legacy of the past.’
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