Yesterday, Basingstoke MP Maria Miller spoke in a debate on support for Gurkha veterans.
Speaking in the debate, Maria said:
Gurkhas have made an outstanding contribution to the UK through their years of dedicated service and are rightly held in high esteem by the British Army and the British public. I have had the honour of meeting many Gurkha Veterans in my own constituency of Basingstoke because we have one of the largest Nepalese communities in the UK, but I also had the opportunity of meeting serving Ghurkha soldiers during my time in the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.
My constituency of Basingstoke is proud of its large Nepalese community, many of whom are Gurkha veterans who have served our country bravely, and their families who have made the UK their home. The Ghurkha Veterans and their wider families play a central role at the Basingstoke, including civic events such as the Remembrance Sunday Commemorations, demonstrating the importance of remembering the contribution of people across the globe to protecting our way of life on these shores.
More than 700 people in Basingstoke signed the petition for the debate we are holding today and I thank the Petitions Committee for this opportunity to underline the importance of fairness in how we support every member of the British Armed Forces and every former member of the armed forces too. And it is fairness when it comes to pensions and the way we treat Ghurkhas at the end of their military career that has been central to the many conversations and meetings I have had with my constituents.
The welfare of all veterans including Gurkhas could not be more important. Welfare is of course is at the heart of the Armed Forces Covenant brought in by this Government to ensure the best support for those who have done so much for our country and our safety. That pledge acknowledges the bravery of those who serve and who have served in the armed forces and their families, and that they should be treated with fairness and respect in our communities, economy and society.
I know the pension schemes in place for Gurkha veterans have been scrutinised by the courts on a number of occasions too, with the basis for Gurkha pensions having been upheld in no less than 3 Judicial Reviews since 2003, including a European Court of Human Rights case too.
But it is right to always keep these things under review, so I am glad the Minister for Defence People and Veterans have confirmed that he and the Secretary of State for Defence have met a wide range of Gurkha representative groups as well as the Nepali Ambassador and have committed to a Bilateral Committee to discuss all Gurkha welfare issues in the next few weeks. This is in addition to the measures announced in 2019 for Gurkha veterans serving before 2007, that they will benefit from a £15m increase in the Gurkha pension scheme, and the Ministry of Defence announcement a new £25m investment for medical support for veterans living in Nepal.
Many of the representations I have had from my constituents also refer to the issue of fees for non-UK service personal applying to settle in the UK at the end of their military service, so it is reassuring to hear that the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence are currently analysing the responses to a consultation on this specific issue. We need a system that doesn’t place an unfair financial liability on Gurkhas and their families at the end of their military service.
The Nepalese community in my constituency are an incredible asset to our town. Several individuals come to mind, including Mr Om Gurung, Chairman of the Basingstoke Nepalese Society, Mrs Poonam Gurung former head of the UK Nepalese Residents Association, and Gurkhas like Captain Pancha Rai who fought in the Falklands War and is now a partner of the Gurkha Grocery Shop in town, as well as many who have campaigned on the issue of pensions raised by this petition debate today, like Dhan Gurung who has been so committed to this cause.
When it comes to the treatment of all former military UK and non-UK personnel, there needs to be real fairness, and I hope this debate today reiterates that point to my Honourable Friend the Minister in advance of his discussions next month.
To watch Maria's full contribution, please click here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/2fcfce85-ea3e-4ddc-8dd8-422ef2f28…