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Dundee LibDems welcome Labour Government defeat on Liberal Democrat Gurkha rights motion

May 2, 2009 4:47 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Dundee Liberal Democrats today (Saturday 2nd May) said that the victory for a cross-party alliance will force the government to rethink over right to live in UK for Gurkhas who have fought for Britain.

The Government have suffered a rare defeat earlier this week, on a Liberal Democrat opposition day motion, calling for it to revise proposals and ensure that an equal right of residence is extended to all Gurkhas.

27 Labour MPs joined Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and others to inflict the Government's first defeat on an opposition day motion since the 1970s, a sign of the strength of feeling on the issue.

Opening the debate, Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, criticised the Government for its decision back in 2004 to distinguish between those who were discharged from the Gurkhas before 1997 and those who were discharged after. He argued this move led to "some ridiculous and shameful anomalies", whereby soldiers, including a holder of the Victoria Cross, have been refused residency in Britain because of "inadequate ties to the United Kingdom."

Chris highlighted many of the shameful rules the Government is proposing, the most discriminatory being the necessity of twenty years service in the Gurkha regiments.

Chris explained, "So many of the Gurkhas - and especially private soldiers and riflemen - serve just fifteen years. Only officers would have achieved twenty years or more."

Whilst the Government has argued its proposals would allow 10,000 people to claim residency in the UK, Chris argued this figure is more likely to be only 100 given the discriminatory eligibility criteria.

Former LibDem leader Sir Menzies Campbell also spoke in the debate. He attacked the Government's self-proclaimed achievements on helping the Gurkhas. He accused them of reacting to public pressure rather than having a sincere determination to help the Gurkhas, claiming the Government had merely felt "compelled" by the judicial decision to bring the proposals forward.

Here in Dundee, LibDem City Council Group Leader, Cllr Fraser Macpherson, added, "This was a splendid victory for all campaigning for Gurkha rights and underlines how out of touch the Labour Party now is."

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