Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gurkha motion in Scottish Parliament

This is the motion as proposed by Jim Tolson, Dunfermline West.
"That the Parliament welcomes the victory for the rights of Gurkha soldiers achieved in the Commons defeat on 29 April 2009 when MPs voted by 267 to 246 for a Liberal Democrat motion offering all Gurkhas equal right of residence in Britain; believes that this is a historic victory for the Gurkhas who have served the United Kingdom so bravely; notes the widespread opposition to the UK Government’s proposed guidelines, which are considered to permit only a small minority of Gurkhas and their families to settle while preventing the vast majority to do so; believes that the UK Government’s decision fails to recognise the long history of dedicated service by Gurkha soldiers; welcomes the support for justice for the Gurkha soldiers by former Gurkha officer, Major Bill MacKay of Dunfermline; commends the 70 years of continuous service given by Sergeant Sunar Gurung, who served with Major MacKay, and Sergeant Gurung’s six sons who all served with the Gurkha regiment, and believes that such service should be recognised. "

This is an email from Director, Gurkha Welfare Trust, in respect of the motion being debated today in the Scottish Parliament in connection with Gurkhas, and is addressed to Alison Tolson.

"Dear Alison
Thank you for your interest in the Trust and letting us know about Mr Tolson's motion.

As I explained, the Trust is a non political organisation and we avoid becoming involved in any debate concerning matters of HMG policy. Furthermore, many of the issues championed by Miss Lumley, and in turn referred to by Mr Tolson's motion are outside the remit of the Trust.

However, I really welcome the opportunity to bring the work of the Trust to your attention and appreciate your undertaking to raise awareness of our endeavours . To assist with this:

1. I attach a brief one pager on the Trust. You will see that our core activity is the provision of a monthly welfare pension of some £29 to 10,000 Gurkha soldiers and widows who did not serve the 15 years' to earn an Army pension. For many, this is their only source of income and all that stands between them and destitution. Last year we spent £4.4 million on this activity.

2. Also attached are two previous editions of our newsletter, Samachara. You will see on page four of both editions, the feats of Scottish men and women figure large. The newsletters will also give a feel for the Trust's response to the recent debate on Gurkha immigration.

3. You note correctly that Gurkha Highlander is one of the Trust's most successful fundraising events. Last year's walk was lead by John Archibald (ex Queen's Gurkha Engineers) and previously for a number of years by Neil Griffiths.

4. The Trust is reviewing its response to welfare for UK Gurkha in light of HMG's relaxation of immigration requirements and a likely increase in UK based Gurkhas seeking welfare support . The Trust is in close consultation on this issue with Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas and other service charities and will announce a response shortly. Currently, we work in partnership with the Army Benevolent Fund and Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas. in recognition of the work the ABF does for UK Gurkhas, the GWT provides an annual grant to the ABF. This broadly covers the costs ABF incurs helping UK Gurkhas.

5. The response of the British public in general and the Scottish public in particular for the Trust is overwhelming. Our Scottish branch is an active member of the Regional Branch network and offers sterling support for the Trust, both financially and in terms of raising awareness of the Gurkha soldier. Last year, the British public donated £7.5 million to support the work of the Trust.

6. The Trust also enjoys the support of MOD who provide grant in aid funding for our field operations. This funding covers the lion's share of our infrastructure and admin costs in Nepal.

7. DFID provided £994k to support clean water and sanitation projects in the Hills.

8. As we discussed, we note the huge groundswell of support for the Gurkha solider and Joann Lumley's campaign. However, the Trust is mindful that this good news may mean people lose sight of the plight of our welfare pensioners who will rely on the Trust for the remainder of their lives. Our mission is therefore as vital as ever. Any help you can providing in raising awareness of the ongoing plight of our welfare pensioners would be gratefully received.
Yours sincerely

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