Gurkha Settlement Rights

Part of Opposition Day — [10th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:13 pm on 29th April 2009.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (also in the Home Office), Home Office, Minister of State (also in the Home Office), HM Treasury 2:13 pm, 29th April 2009

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that comment; he brings us to the crux of the debate. For the benefit of those who wish to contribute to the debate, I will depart from my written speech. We have two worries about abolishing the pre-'97 cut-off date. First, we are concerned that it would set precedents for other groups, and, as one would expect, I have taken legal advice on that. We fear that the precedent would be set for people from Commonwealth countries who had served in the armed forces, and that that retrospective decision from pre-'97 would apply to other groups. We have to be clear that if a blanket decision was made on Gurkhas for pre-'97 there would be no unintended consequence for other groups who may have the right to challenge on the basis of common law and public law. With that there is the consequential impact on budgets, and the Prime Minister referred to the £1.4 billion. I do not recall using the £1.5 billion figure, but if I did I withdraw that. Our estimate is £1.4 billion, and I remind the House that that would come from the defence budget.

Secondly, if right hon. and hon. Members are honest with themselves—I hope that we all are—the truth is that none of them knows how many would apply. But as the former Chief of the Defence Staff said in The Independent on Sunday, the Government have to live in the real world, not in the world of emotion. Therefore the staged approach that we have taken, as described by the Prime Minister—this is the crux of my right hon. Friend's proposal—

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