[Frank Cook in the Chair] — Gurkhas
Tom Watson (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Veterans), Ministry of Defence; West Bromwich East, Labour)
I ask the hon. Gentleman to hear me out and let me make my point. If he is not satisfied, he should come back to me again.
As part of the review, the Department is looking again at the pension position of Gurkhas back to
The hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife asked whether we had estimated the cost of adding a retrospective element to the scheme for the time before 1997, back to the tripartite agreement of 1947. It would cost many billions of pounds if we were to do that, even before we accept that it would have repercussions in terms of precedent for other pension schemes in the public sector. There are good reasons for our not making retrospective changes for those who have already left under earlier pension rules, as that would make future improvements unaffordable. To depart from that rule for one group would inevitably cause others to demand the same treatment.
I recognise that that will disappoint the hon. Member for Colchester and those who retired before
I hope that I have provided some reassurances that the Department continues to treat Gurkhas with the significant respect that they earn and deserve. To reflect on the more recent period, in 1997 the brigade became a UK force, in 2003 we reviewed the responsibilities for Gurkha families and later in 2004 we changed their immigration status. I hope to align their terms and conditions further with those of the British Army. We are on a journey with their terms and conditions and I hope that it is a positive one.
I know the hon. Gentleman will be disappointed with my last point. There will always be people who think that we should do more and that we can do more, but I believe that our treatment of Gurkhas, Gurkha veterans and their dependants has been and remains both fair and reasonable under the circumstances.