He said: “I’ll always advocate for service personnel to get paid more, I’d be mad not to. But it has to be within the constraints of a budget.”
Putting to him that people do not choose to rely on food banks for their provisions, Mr. Mercer replied: “Well, in my experience that is not correct.
“I think there are some direct cases that we need to do more to wrap our arms around and make sure that there is a safety net for people. I don’t think food bank use is an accurate portrayal of where levels of poverty, relative or absolute poverty, are in this country.”
Mr Mercer added: “I don’t want to see anybody using food banks but I think that being in the military still affords you a good wage and a good quality of life.
“And that will continue to be the case.”
Food banks are often run by charities and community groups, giving free packages of donated goods to those who cannot afford shop prices.
Those attending food banks tend to be referred by a service or specialist, such as a doctor, health visitor, social worker or Citizens Advice.
Reacting to criticism on social media, he later posted on Twitter:, external “Military personnel should not be using food banks – period. Disagree if you like, but that is true.
“If you are serving personnel and you are using a food bank because you are ‘starving’ please do call me and I will come and see you.”
Mr Mercer was speaking as part of an announcement around a dedicated helpline for homeless veterans.
Ex-servicemen and women can be referred to a network of support, including housing providers, charities and local authorities, by calling the government-funded hotline.
The £500,000 helpline, open to people in England, Scotland and Wales, is part of a two-year £8.5m program working towards the government’s pledge to end rough sleeping veterans.