I am pleased to be able to announce to the House today the outcome of a wide-ranging review of Gurkha Terms and Conditions of Service, which was announced by the then Secretary of State for Defence in January 2005. This has been a very comprehensive review and as a consequence it has taken longer than was originally anticipated.
As the House is aware, it has been the policy of successive British Governments to ensure that the terms and conditions under which Gurkhas serve in the British Army remain fair and reflect the needs of Gurkha soldiers and their families. The Gurkhas became a UK-based Brigade on 1 July 1997 and the time is now right for their terms and conditions of service to be revised fully to reflect their role and status in the 21st century.
As a result of this review I am pleased to announce that, with certain exceptions designed to satisfy the Government of Nepal, all the remaining differences between Gurkhas’ terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts are to be eliminated. I am making arrangements necessary to ensure that members of the British Brigade of Gurkhas retain their distinctive identity and ethos as Nepalese citizens serving in their own units within the British Army.
The measures necessary to implement the new terms and conditions of service will begin to take effect from April 2007. In the particular case of pensions, we propose to give serving Gurkhas the opportunity to transfer from their current Gurkha pension scheme to one of the two armed forces pension schemes (AFPS), from a planned member transfer date of 1 October 2007. Retired Gurkhas who left service on or after 1 July 1997 will also be given the opportunity to access AFPS benefits.
This is good news, both for serving or recently retired Gurkhas and their families and for the British Army. The move to new and fairer terms and conditions of service will hopefully provide the basis for the foreseeable future of Gurkha service in the British Army, which is only made possible by the long-standing and friendly relations between the Governments and peoples of the United Kingdom and Nepal.
The review did not include consideration of the situation of Gurkha veterans who retired before 1 July 1997, for the reasons which my predecessor made clear to the House last summer. We will continue to respond to veterans’ grievances with a view to resolving any misunderstandings which may have arisen.
A copy of the report of the review of Gurkha terms and conditions of service, which has been redacted so as not to disclose privileged legal advice, will be made available in the Library of the House.