Rishi Sunak’s Tory conference warm-up man pocketed more than £13,000 in taxpayer-funded payouts after being sacked by successive Prime Ministers, it can be revealed.
Johnny Mercer, the Minister for Veterans affairs, will be giving the speech before the PM at this week’s Tory conference in Manchester - a spot traditionally reserved for a speech to rouse party faithful with attacks on the opposition. He made headlines this week after it emerged he had claimed £7,920 in severance pay after being sacked by Liz Truss - despite indicating publicly he had not done so.
Asked by the Plymouth Herald, his local newspaper in September last year whether he had claimed the £16,876 he was entitled to as a departing minister, Mr Mercer said: “No I did not get a £17,000 severance payment and I just don't talk about that stuff." Now this newspaper can reveal he was handed a further £5,593 as a “contractual payment on termination of employment” after being sacked by Boris Johnson just 16 months earlier.
It takes the total value of taxpayer’s cash he’s accepted in payouts to £13,513 - on top of the ministerial salary he earned while in office, and his £86,584 a year salary as an MP. Ministers are entitled to receive severance payments worth a quarter of their salary on leaving office, provided they are not reappointed within three weeks.
Figures compiled by the party show that over half a million pounds in "taxpayer-funded handouts" was paid in severance during a year of Tory chaos. In the financial year 2022-23, £530,000 was paid out to former ministers, including £18,860 to 49-day PM Liz Truss, who trashed the economy with her disastrous mini-Budget.
Mr Mercer served as Minister for Veterans affairs from July 2019 to April 2021 under Mr Johnson, before being “sacked by text” following a disagreement over the government’s Overseas Operations Bill. He said it was a “red line” for him that the bill, designed to protect British servicemen and women from “unfounded prosecutions”, excluded troops in Northern Ireland.
He was re-hired in July 2022, in the final hours of Mr Johnson’s premiership, as the embattled PM struggled to fill ministerial positions in the wake of mass resignations. But when Liz Truss came to power in September 2022, she stuffed her ministerial team with loyalists in a bid to push through her failed right-wing agenda, and Mr Mercer was sacked again.
But he found fortune again when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister the following month, and he returned to his role as Veterans minister. Challenged over the £8,000 payout by TV maths wizard Carol Vorderman on Twitter this week, Mr Mercer suggested his previous denial was a matter of semantics. “I was asked if I received a £17k payout. I said no. Because I didn’t,” he wrote.
In 2016, Mr Mercer proudly announced he would be living on a houseboat while in London to attend Parliament, rather than waste taxpayers’ money on hotel room fees or rent on a flat in the Capital. But this plan was short-lived, and he racked up hotel bill worth more than £12,000 in the 2016-17 financial year.