This Government respect the will of the House of Commons. As the Prime Minister said today, this Government took the first action to provide justice for the Gurkhas and enable them to settle in the United Kingdom. Under this Government, the first ever rights of settlement for Gurkhas in Britain have been granted, and 6,000 of them have applied successfully to settle in this country.
We have also introduced equal pay and pensions for the Gurkhas—something that had not happened previously. We doubled the pensions of people staying in Nepal and increased the overall pension for Gurkhas, especially those at a senior age. The guidance that we introduced last week will increase the number of Gurkhas eligible to come to this country by 4,000 or, including families, about 10,000 people.
However, we recognise the strong feeling in all parts of the House on this subject. As was recognised in the debate this afternoon, this is a complex issue with wide-ranging implications. The cost of implementing the decision of the House of Commons could well run into billions of pounds. The Government also have an obligation to consider the precedent for future decisions on other immigration categories, and wider Government policy. We cannot, therefore, responsibly or fairly rush into the formulation of new policy. We can and do commit to immediate action on individual cases, and we are setting a clear time frame for the next stage of the reform.
In the light of the decision of the House, I am bringing forward the date for the determination of the outstanding applications to the end of May. That will ensure that those who qualify under the guidelines now in force get confirmation of that as soon as possible, and we will report to the House the outcome of this work. In addition, based on that work, and recognising the strong feeling of the House, we will come forward with proposals for the next stage of our reform of the rules, to ensure that the Government continue to deliver a fair outcome for ex-Gurkhas and their families. We will publish this next stage before the summer recess.
I said in the House earlier that we cannot foresee circumstances in which ex-Gurkhas in the UK, who have served this country so well, would ever be removed from the United Kingdom. I can now say, in addition, that anyone whose case is considered under the current guidelines and does not qualify, whether in the UK or in Nepal, will not have that decision implemented pending the publication of the next stage of our reform.
The House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs has indicated its intention to conduct a hearing on this issue next week, and I welcome that. In addition, I will share our review of the applications with the Committee, once it has been completed. We will consider the guidelines published last Friday in the light of the decision of the House today, and we will introduce proposals based on the experience of our consideration of the outstanding applications.
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