Boris Johnson has reportedly sacked Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer following a humiliating climbdown on a new war crimes law.

Just five hours earlier, the Prime Minister's spokesman had said Mr Mercer was "a valued minister in the Government".

But Mr Mercer said he had been "forced" to offer his resignation in a blistering email accusing Mr Johnson's government of lacking "moral strength and courage."

It comes after the Ministry of Defence agreed to water down a law which could block prosecutions against British troops over historic allegations.

The MOD announced this afternoon it would make accusations of genocide, torture and crimes against humanity explicitly exempt from the bill, following a huge defeat in the House of Lords last week.

Mr Mercer is understood to have strongly opposed the idea of changing the bill to include the exemptions.

Number 10 announced this evening that Mr Mercer had offered his resignation and the Prime Minister had accepted it - following reports through the day that Mr Mercer was

But Times Radio reported that the PM had this evening asked Mr Mercer to resign and he had refused, so the PM sacked him.

And Mr Mercer told the Sun: "On the record I have not resigned, I have been sacked."

The PM and Mr Mercer on the campaign trail
The PM and Mr Mercer on the campaign trail

A Downing Street spokesperson 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.”

It's also been reported Mr Mercer was sacked by text message.

In a blistering letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Mercer said he had been "forced" to offer his resignation.

He said: "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."

He said he was "desperately sad" at how events had unfolded but said he had "truly exhausted" his efforts to "make it work".

But he accused the Prime Minister of having "abandoned our people in a way I simply cannot reconcile...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."

He added: "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."

Earlier, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Whilst we maintain nothing in this Bill prevents those accused of breaking the law from being prosecuted, we have listened to concerns, and in order to send a powerful message to the international community amendments will be made to the Overseas Operations bill.

"Excluded offences in Part One of the Bill will be expanded to include torture, genocide and crimes against humanity."

On April 8 Mr Mercer criticised ministers for “foot-dragging” and a slow pace of progress in passing the law.

Plymouth Live reported he had vented his unhappiness recently in a video Q&A: “It’s a real uphill battle – our politicians talk a good game about our military but when it comes to actually doing something like voting to end repeat prosecutions of our service men and women they go running to the hills."

He said: “We are going to get something through. It’s not going to be everything everybody wanted. It will make a significant difference and I will continue to fight this fight as it’s one of the disgraces of modern Britain."

Asked about reports that Mr Mercer was set to resign today, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I've seen there is speculation, and speculation is what it is at the moment. Johnny Mercer is a valued minister in the Government and we have a good track record on delivering for veterans' issues."