Service Pensions

Defence written question – answered on 7th November 2001.

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Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Labour, Chorley

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) what the pension paid is to (a) a retired Gurkha and (b) a similar ranking British ex-service man, in money terms and as a percentage;

(2) if he will make a statement on how pensions are paid to retired Gurkhas.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

Because of their different engagements and career structures, comparing Gurkha and British solider pensions in this way is particularly difficult. 87 per cent. of Gurkhas are discharged in Nepal after 15 years' service and receive an immediate pension. British soldiers discharged at this time would receive no pension until they reached the age of 60.

The only British and Gurkha rank likely to be discharged at the same point of service is a Warrant Officer Class 1 after 22 years. In this instance, a Gurkha receives an immediate annual pension of £1,672, or 16 per cent. of the £10,283 paid to comparable British ex-servicemen. The difference reflects the Tripartite Agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom, Nepal and India, and the cost of living in Nepal, where all Gurkhas are discharged. In the Nepalese economy, Gurkha pensions now compare favourably with professional salaries.

The way in which Gurkha ex-service men receive their pensions depends upon the region in which they live. Those based to the main population centres in Nepal are able to receive their pension either directly into bank accounts or from one of the three Pension Paying Offices in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Itahari. These are manned on a full-time basis and the majority of ex-Gurkhas opt to receive their pension this way.

Nepal has poor communications, however, and we recognise that the arrangements above do not cater for residents of the more rural and remote areas. For this reason, Gurkha pensions are also paid quarterly, in cash, via Area Welfare Centres. There are 24 of these located throughout Nepal, but concentrated near the main ex-Gurkha populations centres where there are often no banking facilities. Nepal's topography, inclement weather and poor infrastructure, means that it is inevitable that some pensioners will still have to undertake long journeys in order to collect their pension. These difficulties are minimised as far as possible and, where necessary, special arrangements are put in place to enable pensions to be collected on behalf of the sick or infirm.

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