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Gurkhas: Pensions

Volume 494: debated on Friday 19 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has received on the provisions made for the Gurkha Pension Scheme in the Sixth Indian Pay Code; and if he will make a statement. (280986)

A report was produced on the impact of the Indian Sixth Central Pay Commission on the Gurkha Pension Scheme on 2 March this year. The majority of rates of pensions in the Gurkha Pension Scheme still compare favourably with the changed rates in the Indian scheme and no action is needed. A few minor changes are being implemented, but the main area for change affects those pensioners aged 80 or over, the most vulnerable group, who are to receive an increase of at least 20 per cent.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of up-rating the future pensions of Gurkha ex-servicemen who retired prior to 1 July 1997 to the amount received by their UK equivalents. (280987)

Government policy is not to implement improvements to pensions and similar benefits retrospectively, a policy that is applied across the public sector in the United Kingdom. However, it has been estimated that to pay retrospective pensions to Gurkhas would cost MOD £1.5 billion over 20 years.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information his Department has on the number of Gurkhas who left the Brigade prior to 1997 and who (a) live in poverty in Nepal and (b) receive charitable assistance to meet their basic needs; and if he will make a statement. (280988)

There are around 36,000 retired Brigade of Gurkha veterans/veterans' widows, most of whom live in Nepal.

Of these, some 24,000 are in receipt of Service pensions under the terms of the Gurkha Pension Scheme or the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. These provide a very good standard of living in Nepal. The rate of pension under the Gurkha Pension Scheme is kept under regular review and uplifted annually for inflation in Nepal, which ensures that the pension maintains its value in Nepal over the years. (The annual value of Gurkha Pension Scheme pensions that will be paid by the MOD in Nepal in 2009-10 is £54 million.)

There are around 5,000 veterans/veterans' widows who do not qualify for a Service Pension but who receive a Welfare Pension from the Gurkha Welfare Scheme, which is the field arm of the independent charity, the Gurkha Welfare Trust. The Welfare Pension is paid from donations made to the Gurkha Welfare Trust which allows them a sustainable lifestyle. The Ministry of Defence grants the Gurkha Welfare Trust more than £1 million per year, which covers most of its administrative costs in Nepal.

The remaining 7,000 personnel are veterans who did not serve for long enough to qualify for a Service Pension and who are not yet old enough or needy enough to qualify for a Welfare Pension. On leaving the Brigade of Gurkhas, they would have received a gratuity but no pension. If these veterans fall on hard times they too become eligible for a Welfare Pension.

All veterans receive free primary health care and those without Gurkha Pension Scheme or AFPS payments receive free secondary health care, all through the Gurkha Welfare Scheme.