In the interests of fairness, here is the complete text of the letter from Ian Lucas regarding the Gurkhas:
Dear Mr Raven
Thank you for your email concerning the issue of the Gurkhas Brigade and the calculation of the figure of £1.4bn, as a potential cost of allowing Gurkhas to settle in the UK.
I do understand that this is a very important and sensitive issue, and I am well aware of the strength of feeling on it. I would like to make it clear that I fully acknowledge and respect the service, commitment and bravery of those serving with the Gurkhas Brigade. However, as you mention in your email, I voted against the motion to grant the pre-1997 Gurkhas settlement rights, and I will set out my views for voting this way.
I am very proud that this Labour Government is the first to give a number of rights to the Gurkhas Brigade, long before the Commons vote in May, and I think it is important to set out the background to this issue.
in September 2004, the then Prime Minster, tony blair, announced the Government's decision to amend the Immigration Rules. On a discretionary basi, Gurkhas who had completed at least 4 years service and been discharged from Nepal from 1 July 1997 onwards, wereable to settlein the UK within two years of their discharge, where there were strong reasons why settlement in the UK was appropriate. As I have pointed out, this was the first time that any Government has brought in rules to allow Gurkhas to apply to stay permanently in the UK. However, at this stage there was never any suggestion that the opportunity to settle in the UK would be offered to every former member of the Brigade of Gurkhas.
A Judicial Review was launched against this policy on the treatment of Gurkha veterans by 6 former Gurkhas. On 30 September 2008, the High Court found that the 1997 cut off date was not discriminatory, as the circumstances of Far-East based Gurkhas were not comparable with those of Commonwealth citizens serving in HM Forces pre- July 1997.
Instead, the judgement found that the Goverment's discretionary guiidance for Gurkha veterans discharged before 1997 was not sufficiently clear, and this guidance was judged to be unlawful. However, reports seem to have misinterpreted this as the judge finding that the entire policy was unlawful and that all pre-1997 Gurkhas should now have the right to settle in the UK.
The High Court found that the policy should be reconsidered in line with the Court's judgement and the revised guidance would have to indicate the relative weighting to be given to factors, including length and quality of service. Up until May, the rules relating to Gurkhas discharged post-1997 remained unchanged. Instead it was the guidance that was changed.
As you are aware, in May, the Government was outnumbered in the House of Commons on the issue of extending the right to all Gurkhas to settle in the UK. While I did not vote for this, it is right that the will of the House of Commons was respected. I am pleased that, after the vote, and agreement was able to be reached acoss Government, across the House and Gurkha representatives, and that all Gurkhas won the right to settle in the UK.
It is always very difficult to calulate the cost implications of such legislation. You are right that the figure of £1.4bn was the maximum cost, but it was still the potential cost. However, as youpoint out, it is very unlikely that all Gurkhas will choose to settle in the UK, and that they would bring over their entire families. I can assure you that when I voted for against the motion to grant the pre- 1997 Gurkhas settlement rights, I was mindful that the £1.4bn was the maximum potential cost, and that it would not necessarily reflect the actual cost.
I am sorry that I have set out the position at some length but I am afraid that there has been much misepresentation of the history of this matter, much of it for political advantage by parties who have not supported the Gurkhas when they were in power. I also do not believe that this issue is as simple as the media coverage suggested.
I do appreciate you contacting me concerning this issue. If you would like to discuss it further, or any other issue, it may be helpful to contact my office to fix an appointment.