Victory for my Nepali friends

Gurkha campaigners are celebrating a U-turn in Government policy that prevented those who retired before 1997 the right to settle in the UK.

As a former soldier, and someone who has spent some time in Nepal, (and who intends to spend lots more), this news is excellent. I have a number of Nepali friends who have served in the same Army as me, wore the same uniform as me, and faced the same foe's as me. So yes, these men deserve the same right to live in the UK as me. I'm especially pleased for Kawit, a man who has served with the British Army and now works alongside me every day.

Actress Joanna Lumley was close to tears as she listened to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith tell the Commons that Gurhkas had equal settlement rights.
Ms Smith said: "I'm delighted that we have now been able to agree - across Government, across the House and with the Gurkhas' representatives - new settlement rights that all those who have served us so well, so highly deserve."

Outside the Commons, Ms Lumley paid tribute to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who she said was a "brave man who has made today a brave decision on behalf of the bravest of the brave".
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling hailed the U-turn as a "great victory for a well-run campaign, that has publicly embarrassed ministers".
Gurkhas and their supporters were left furious when the Government announced that thousands who left the British Army before 1997 would not be given settlement rights in the UK because it would cost too much.
Last month, the Government made some concessions but did not agree to full residency rights for all Gurkhas.
The Government then suffered an embrarrassing and major defeat on the issue in the House of Commons and Mr Brown agreed to meet Ms Lumley.
Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg, whose Commons motion led directly to the U-turn, said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the Gurkhas have finally been given justice.
"Gordon Brown has finally woken up to the principle that people across Britain understand instinctively: if someone is prepared to die for this country, they must be allowed to live in it."
The changes will allow retired servicemen with four years service to move to this country.
Ms Smith said 1,400 outstanding applications for settlement now before the UK Border Agency would be processed on the basis of the new policy "as a matter of urgency" before June 11.
Mr Brown said in a statement: "For many years, the Brigade of Gurkhas have shown bravery, commitment and dedication in serving this country, and continue to do so on operations today."

The House of Commons has now expressed a clear view that all Gurkhas should be entitled to settle in the United Kingdom if that is what they wish.

This scheme recognises the unique nature of the service given to the UK by the Brigade of Gurkhas and is offered to them on an exceptional basis. We believe that, in announcing the new policy today, we have met their concerns and those of Parliament.


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