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Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate he has made of the number of widows of Gurkha servicemen who would receive pension payments if Gurkha servicemen were eligible for the British soldier's preserved pension at the age of 60 after more than two years of service; (72134)

(2) how many Gurkha ex-servicemen there are who retired prior to 1 July 1997;

(3) what estimate he has made of the cost of up-rating the pensions of Gurkha ex-servicemen who retired prior to 1 July 1997 to the amount received by their British soldier equivalents.

On 11 January 2005, the then Secretary of State announced to the House that he had commissioned a comprehensive review of the Terms and Conditions of Service under which Gurkhas serve in the British Army.

As part of this review, the Department is looking at the pension position of Gurkhas back to 1 July 1997. Prior to 1 July 1997 Gurkhas were members of an overseas-based force and had no comparable British soldier equivalents. Gurkha soldiers are members of the Gurkha pension scheme which does not provide for preserved pensions; there are therefore no Gurkha widows who would be eligible. The Department does not hold records of individuals (or of their widows) who do not have an entitlement to a pension, so cannot make reliable estimates of either the numbers involved or the cost of hypothetical pension entitlements.

However there are currently 26,699 Gurkha service pensioners (of which 1,900 have retired since 1 July 1997) and the Gurkha Welfare Trust has reported that last year it paid 10,246 welfare pensions. Of the 26,699, there are about 5,000 Gurkha widows' or family dependants' pensions in payment.