Gurkha's win the vote
Gordon Brown suffers humiliating defeat in Gurkha vote as Labour MPs rebel
By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 7:05AM BST 30 Apr 2009
Gordon Brown suffered a humiliating Commons defeat over his refusal to allow Gurkha to live in Britain as a number of Labour MPs rebelled.
In a significant blow to the Prime Minister's already fragile authority, MPs voted for a motion calling for the scrapping of new immigration rules that would prevent many Gurkhas coming to live in the country they served.
With the backing of Labour rebels and the Conservative Party, a Liberal Democrat motion demanding the admission of all Gurkha veterans and their families was passed by 267 to 241.
In all, 27 Labour MPs voted with the Opposition, and dozens more abstained, defying orders to support the Government. One ministerial aide, Stephen Pound, resigned from the Government to vote with the rebels.
Deepening the Government's embarrassment, the Commons defeat came despite last-minute concessions to Labour rebels from Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary.
Only hours before the vote, Mr Brown had told MPs that the Government could not afford to admit all the Gurkhas, claiming that doing so would cost £1.4 billion.
Campaigners and opposition leaders said that the Government must now drop its curbs on admitting Gurkhas and their families and allow all Nepalese veterans of the British Army to live in the UK.
Ministers last night promised to consider the vote and set out new rules next week.
The Commons vote was driven by rising public concern over the Government's treatment of the Gurkhas. The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday launched a campaign calling for them to be admitted, with an online petition attracting hundreds of supporters in only a few hours.
Gurkhas have served the British crown since 1815 and have amassed battle honours including 26 Victoria Crosses.
Gurkhas seeking the right to live in Britain have been supported by the actress Joanna Lumley, whose father served with a Gurkha regiment. Last night, she said she was "ecstatic" at the vote and thanked the "wonderful" backbenchers who defied the Government.
Gurkhas who served in the British Army after 1997 are permitted to live in Britain, but those who retired before that, including some of the most highly-decorated veterans of conflicts including the Second World War, are not.
The High Court last year declared that preventing Gurkhas who had served in the British Army before 1997 from living in this country was unlawful.
In response, the Home Office last week issued fresh criteria for allowing Gurkhas into the UK, but set the bar for entry so high that campaigners say that only a few hundred veterans will ever qualify.
Under the new rules, only Gurkhas with at least 10 years' service are eligible to come to Britain. Other Commonwealth nationals serving with the British Armed Forces can apply after only four years.
The Commons motion declares that "people who are prepared to fight and die for the United Kingdom should be entitled to live in the country" and calls for all Gurkhas to have equal rights of entry.
Ministers have claimed that giving all Gurkha veterans and their families the right to enter Britain could mean admitting as many as 100,000 people.
Campaigners have rubbished those figures, pointing out that the Government's own figures show that there are only 26,500 Gurkha pensioners who retired before 1997. Most have shown no interest in coming to Britain.
The Commons vote is not legally binding, but opposition leaders insisted that ministers must now come up with new rules on admitting Gurkhas and their families.
The vote is a personal victory for Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, who first challenged Mr Brown over the issue in the Commons in March last year.
At an impromptu joint press conference outside the Commons after the vote, Mr Clegg and David Cameron, the Tory leader, said the Prime Minister must now change his policy.
Mr Clegg said said: "This Government has now lost its moral authority.
"From the first moment I challenged Gordon Brown on this over a year ago, he didn't understand that there was a simple moral principle at stake. People who are willing to die for our country, should be allowed to live in our country."
Mr Cameron paid tribute to Mr Clegg's campaign and said Mr Brown must produce "immediate proposals" for admitting Gurkha veterans.
Looks like we're a democracy after all:D
Good stuff, bout time the Gurkhas got the support they so deserve!!...
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