Page last updated at 19:23 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 20:23 UK

In quotes: Reaction to Gurkha vote

The government has suffered a surprise defeat in the Commons on its policy of restricting the right of former Gurkhas to settle in the UK. Key figures give their reactions:

JOANNA LUMLEY, ACTRESS AND CAMPAIGNER

Joanna Lumley

Just before this vote was taken our spirits were nearly at zero. When it came through we saw it on the screen and I can't tell you the sense of elation, the sense of pride - pride in our country, pride in the democratic system and pride in our Parliament...

We want the policy changed as swiftly as possible. What is not widely known is that there are Gurkhas living here who've made applications, who are not allowed to work, not allowed to have social security or to go to the NHS, who are living in fact in limbo, and in great hardship and poverty, and sometimes in great illness.

PHIL WOOLAS, IMMIGRATION MINISTER

This government respects the will of the House of Commons... In light of the decision of the House, I am bringing forward the date for determination of the outstanding applications to the end of May. This will ensure that those who qualify under the guidelines now in force get confirmation of this as soon as possible. We will report to the House the outcome of this work. And based on this work, and recognising the strong feeling of the House, we will come forward with proposals for the next stage of our reform of the rules, to ensure this government continues to deliver a fair outcome for ex-Gurkhas and their families. We will publish this next stage before the summer recess.

MADAN KUMAR GURUNG, FORMER GURKHA

I would like to thank the loving and lovely people of Britain from the bottom of my Gurkha heart. Having fought so hard it is a great feeling to know that my colleagues will be able to stay here.

NICK CLEGG, LIB DEM LEADER

It's a victory for the rights of Gurkhas who have been waiting for so long for justice. It's a victory for Parliament over a government that just wasn't prepared to listen. But actually the biggest victory of all... it's a victory of decency. It's the kind of thing that I think people want this country to do - that we pay back our obligations, our debt of gratitude towards generations of Gurkhas who have laid their lives on the line for our safety. I'm immensely pleased that David Cameron and I have been able to work on this together, that Labour backbenchers have also been brave enough to vote with their consciences. It was a cross-party effort. It was a great, great day for everybody who believes in fairness and decency in this country.

DAVID CAMERON, CONSERVATIVE LEADER

Today is an historic day where Parliament took the right decision, that the basic presumption that people who fight for our country should have a right to come and live in our country has been set out very clearly. And the government now have got to come back with immediate proposals, so that those Gurkhas that have been waiting so long now for an answer can have that answer. It can be done. We've set out a way for it to be done that doesn't ruin our immigration system and it should be done. And I think everyone should say congratulations to Joanna Lumley for the incredible campaign that she's fought, with all these brave Gurkhas, some of them very old and very infirm, coming to Parliament again and again. The government attempted a shoddy deal today to try and buy off some of their backbenchers. And I'm proud of the fact that it didn't work and I'm proud of all those Labour MPs who joined us in the lobby - and actually got the right result for Britain and the Gurkhas.

ANGUS ROBERTSON, SNP LEADER AT WESTMINSTER

The UK government's treatment of the Gurkhas was utterly shameful, and this is another famous victory for these brave veterans. It is also a moral victory, and a victory for decency. The Gurkhas risked their lives fighting for this country, and it was nothing short of a betrayal by Labour ministers to deny them basic rights of residency.

ELFYN LLWYD, PLAID CYMRU DEFENCE SPOKESMAN

The previous rules and regulations for Gurkhas were unclear, leading to waiting lists applying for citizenship, and the new regulations, unveiled at the weekend, clearly discriminated against many former serving members. We await the UK government's response on this issue, which can only be full equal right of residence for all Gurkhas.

STEPHEN POUND, LABOUR MP WHO REBELLED

I support the government in 99% of what they do but I couldn't support them on this. I couldn't look my Gurkha friends in the eye if I wasn't doing everything I can to attempt to match their contribution to our country with our support for them. I hope that the government will now recognise that the situation of the Gurkhas is unique.

MARTIN SALTER, LABOUR MP WHO ABSTAINED

I refused to support the government in the division lobbies, but I felt I had to acknowledge the concessions that we had got out of the government in the course of the day and I think, perhaps most significantly, we had this great announcement from the home secretary that of the 1,360 Gurkhas awaiting determination of their appeals and their applications for settlement in the UK, that we're not going to be seeing any of those brave men and women deported from our shores.

SIR MICHAEL LORD, DEPUTY COMMONS SPEAKER

I'm sure the House will understand that since the matter has only been decided a few seconds ago it's unlikely I would have had any notice of any proposals by the government. But this is obviously a very serious matter and a very serious decision, and I'm sure the whole of the Treasury bench has heard what's happened today, as well as the whole House, and no doubt the government will take whatever steps they feel are necessary.



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