Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 12:07 UK

Rules on Gurkhas 'need rethink'

Former Gurkha soldier Tulbahadur Pun
The government lost a Commons vote on Gurkha rights last week

The government must come up with a revised policy on Gurkha immigration rights, a senior Labour MP has warned.

Home Affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz said the issue would not "go away" until this happened.

Mr Vaz was one of 27 Labour rebels who voted in the Commons for a Lib Dem motion to give all former Gurkhas the right to settle in the UK.

The government, which was defeated over the issue, is to publish new proposals by the summer.

The Lib Dem motion, which passed by a majority of 21, is not binding on ministers, but was seen as embarrassing for Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

It calls for former Gurkhas who served before 1997 to be given the same rights to settle in the UK as those who served after that date.

Disputed figures

Some 36,000 Gurkhas - a brigade of Nepalese soldiers who serve in the British Army - have been denied UK residency because they left before 1997.

Ministers recently introduced rules allowing more of these older soldiers to settle in the UK based on long service, medals received, and injuries suffered in battle.

The Home Office said the change would allow about 4,300 in, but the Gurkha Justice Campaign said it would be just 100.

They wouldn't all come here; they just want the right to come here
Joanna Lumley, campaigner

Immigration minister Phil Woolas has promised MPs revised proposals will be published before Parliament's summer recess.

He added that all outstanding applications for UK residence by Gurkhas would be dealt with by the end of May.

Actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley and Mr Woolas will give evidence to Mr Vaz's committee on Tuesday.

Speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Vaz said: "This issue is not going to go away...

"Ministers have the opportunity to first of all, deal with all the outstanding cases which they promised to do by the end of May and then formulate a new policy.

"But I think what Parliament will not accept is the same policy again."

He added: "This wasn't a vote against Gordon Brown. This was a vote in favour of a particular change of policy that provides justice for the Gurkhas."

Ms Lumley said government claims that up to 100,000 people could come to the UK as a result of a change of immigration policy were "mad".

She said: "They wouldn't all come here; they just want the right to come here. As one of them said to me on Wednesday, Britain would be our second home but always our first love."

There had been only 1,350 outstanding applications from pre-1997 Gurkhas, she said.

But Mr Woolas warned last week that an open-door approach could cost billions of pounds.



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