Rishi Sunak was “duped” by a fake Falklands war hero at a Downing Street meeting for veterans attended by fellow ministers, according to a report.
The prime minister and veterans minister Johnny Mercer last month hosted Chris Webber – a man claiming he had fought in the Falklands conflict.
But a group investigating fake war heroes called the Walter Mitty Hunters Club claims to have exposed Mr Webber as a fantasist, according to The Mirror.
The online group said he told them he had served in the Intelligence Corps and was part of a “covert team” among the first British troops to land in the Falklands after the Argentine invasion.
But the group was suspicious after spotting that some of his medals appeared to be non-military and his cap badge seemed to be from the reign of George VI.
After confronting him about whether he was actually a Falklands’ vet, the Walter Mitty Hunters Club said Mr Webber had told them: “I’m sorry that I stated I’d served in the Falklands as this is untrue.”
Mr Webber also told the group: “My grandfather and father served in the Second World War and I wanted to be like them.”
A government probe is reportedly under way after Mr Webber’s December meeting with Mr Sunak, Mr Mercer, and Treasury minister John Glen.
The veterans’ minister confirmed concerns about the incident on Monday as he admitted a “stronger deterrence” against possible military fantasists was needed.
“I have no idea why people lie about their military service,” Mr Mercer tweeted in response to the Mirror report. “Clearly I need to construct a stronger deterrence. I will.”
The senior Tory MP added: “When they do so in order to use programmes I’ve worked hard to design for veterans who have served our country and fallen into hard times, it makes me very sad.”
Asked about the incident, a government spokesperson said: “Due diligence checks are carried out for these events.”
A spokesperson from the Walter Mitty Hunters Club said the group wanted to act as “a deterrent to those who wish to masquerade as a veteran, a serving member of the armed forces and those who exaggerate their service”.
They added: “Such people undermine genuine time-served veterans and those still serving in the eyes of the public.”
Mr Mercer announced in December a government package of £8.5m to help ex-forces personnel who are homeless. The money is aimed at allowing charities to deliver health and education services in more than 900 housing units.
Mr Webber was contacted for comment.