British Government’s Response to the Inquiry All Party Parliamentary Group on Gurkha Welfare
The British Government responded to the report produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gurkha Welfare on 29 January 2015. The report made 16 recommendations of which the Government has accepted seven. The others either relate to the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) or were recommendations that the Government could not accept. There are four headline areas of the response which the Government would wish to emphasise. These are:
- The provision of £5m of funding from LIBOR fines for the GWT, which is being used to increase the welfare payments made to needy Gurkha veterans in Nepal.
- The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has set-up a scheme to make a goodwill payment to compensate those Gurkhas (we believe around 15-20) who left the Brigade of Gurkhas early as a result of marrying a non-Nepali.
- The Government has awarded £960,000 to Gurkha Homes Ltd to build 32 affordable homes around the UK for up to 64 Gurkhas and their spouses or partners. These homes will be built in four locations around the UK but will be done so with a view to both Nepalese cultural sensitivity but also the ability to integrate into UK communities.
- Since May 2009, members of the Brigade of Gurkhas who were discharged before 1 July 1997 have been able to obtain settlement in the UK on a discretionary basis as a result of their service. The 2009 policy also covered their immediate families (spouses, civil partners, unmarried or same sex partners, children under 18 and widows). The Home Office has reviewed the 2009 policy, and the discretionary arrangements have been adjusted to allow adult children of former Gurkhas to be granted settlement in certain circumstances.
The main Gurkha grievance about pension arrangements was not supported by the APPG report, nor was it supported by Parliament during the debate on 11 September 2014 in the House of Commons.
The British Government’s approach to pension matters is shaped by the long standing principle held by successive Governments that individuals qualify for pensions according to the rules of that pension scheme at the time that an individual qualifies for their pension.
Successive Governments have also held to a general principle of not introducing improvements to public sector pension or compensation schemes retrospectively.
Making retrospective changes to pension schemes would have financial implications across the public sector and therefore for the national exchequer. No Government which has the strength and sustainability of the nation’s finances at its core can agree to retrospective changes to pensions of the type sought by some Gurkha veterans.
The Gurkha veterans’ community in the UK have had an independent forum within which their grievances have been listened to, considered and ultimately debated in Parliament. The British Government has given its response to the APPG report and considers the issues to have been dealt with fairly and correctly.