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Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 15:29 GMT
Gurkha compensation ban angers MP
Gurkha troops
Current members of the Gurkhas in East Timor
A Conservative backbencher has accused the government of insulting "some of the bravest men who ever fought for this country" by leaving Gurkhas out of a compensation package.

The charge came after it was confirmed that Gurkha soldiers held prisoner by the Japanese in the Second World War will not benefit from a recently-announced deal.

MP Patrick Nicholls wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair to protest about the exclusion of the Nepalese-born troops, saying the government's handling of the issue was "shabby".

It was announced last month that UK former PoWs and civilian internees held by Japan would each receive 10,000 in compensation for their suffering.

An appalling statement and completely unsustainable

Patrick Nicholls MP

But social security minister Hugh Bayley told the Commons on Monday that the Gurkhas would get nothing because they were employed by the Indian Army at the time of the Second World War.

Responsibility for the wartime Gurkha regiments had passed to the Indian Government on its independence in 1948, and then to the governments of India and Pakistan at partition, he said.

Mr Nicholls said this was an appalling statement and completely unsustainable.

'Shabby beyond words'

"To try and use the date when colonies were given their independence as an excuse to avoid paying compensation to some of the bravest men who ever fought for this country is shabby beyond words.

"The prime minister was keen to take the credit for the original statement, made in the week of Remembrance Day."

Mr Micholls added: "It is now up to him to ensure that the original statement really did mean what it said."

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Wales
Army accused of Gurkha 'bias'
20 Nov 00 | UK
Gurkha accuses 'racist' MoD
20 Nov 00 | Latest News
Gurkha brings race discrimination case
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