30 April 2009
Yesterday the House of Commons voted for a Liberal Democrat motion to let Gurkhas settle in Britain; an expression of a view and not binding. Frankly, the way the Gurkhas have been treated by British governments 1945-1997 is very poor. To its vast credit the Labour government since 1997 has done much more to treat them justly than ever happened before: between 1945 and the advent of Labour to power in 1997 only five Gurkhas were granted settlement here; under the present government six thousand have (Hansard 29 April 2009 column 997). It is disappointing that the government has so far failed to build on that achievement and find a way to be more generous and fair to all Gurkhas.
What we have now is a moral question. It is in terms of financial and immigration policies complex, but it is fundamentally about dealing justly and generously with people who are prepared to defend and die for our freedoms. As Chris Huhne said, it is about “the sort of people we are” (Hansard 29 April 2009 column 898).
At bottom, the Labour government yesterday opposed justice and generosity.
The Gurkha motion was supported by the Libdems, including all five from Cornwall, along with Conservatives. About a hundred Labour MPs either voted for the Gurkha motion or appear to have abstained, refusing to support their government. The Conservatives did damn all about allowing Gurkha settlement here when they were in power.
Later yesterday the government responded to the debate and vote (Hansard 29 April 2009 column 988) and it is clear pressure on them must continue.
I am pleased all the Cornwall MPs voted for justice and generosity to Gurkhas. Our corner of Britain owes them a debt of honour too.
Read the debate here: Hansard
UPDATE 21 May 2009
The government has today decided to let the Gurkhas settle in Britian if they wish. Yes, it’s a turnabout but it is right.