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Gurkhas: Pensions

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will assess the merits of increasing the future pension for Gurkhas who served prior to 1997 to a level equivalent to that of British Army soldiers with the same service with effect from 1 April 2010; and if he will make a statement. (284166)

It has been the policy of successive Governments not to implement changes to pensions and similar benefits retrospectively. This policy has been applied across the public sector in the United Kingdom, not just to Gurkha veterans. To do so now would not only be counter to this policy but would also lead to potential claims from other groups in public sector schemes.

The Gurkha pension scheme pays pensions earlier than the armed forces pension scheme. This is because Gurkhas are unlikely to work again in Nepal unlike their British counterparts, in the UK. For example, a Gurkha Rifleman or Corporal with 15 years service (approximately 85 per cent. of those receiving GPS payments) can claim an immediate pension (from age 33) whereas equivalent service under the AFPS would not attract pension payments until age 60. Like any pension scheme, the earlier the benefits are paid the lower the annual payment.

It has been estimated that the cost of increasing the annual pension payments for Gurkhas who served prior to 1 July 1997 to the amount received by their UK equivalents would be £1.5 billion over 20 years.