There have been no recent ministerial discussions with representatives of former Gurkhas. However, the Government place great value on the contribution of Gurkhas, past and present. I am aware of recent approaches by representatives of ex-Gurkhas to other right hon. and hon. Members on a number of issues, including the possibility of ex-Gurkhas joining the reserves.
Given the Government’s ambition and determination to create a large, integrated and fully trained reserve force, would it not be a powerful reinforcement of that strategy to give automatic reserve liability to Gurkhas, who have residency rights and, as the Minister rightly said, are famous for their contribution and military skills?
The fighting spirit of the Gurkhas has never been in doubt. They serve in the Territorial Army and all ex-Gurkhas who are living in the UK can apply to join the reserves. The recently launched TA Live campaign encourages all ex-regulars, including Gurkhas, to join. We hope that as many of them as possible will do so.
When he was Leader of the Opposition in 2009, the Prime Minister said of the Gurkhas:
“They are the bravest of the brave…they have fought and died for this country in some of its toughest battles. We owe them a huge debt. We need to treat them properly in return.”
In the light of those comments, can I take it that there will be no announcement tomorrow about redundancies for the Gurkhas?
Everyone in this House is a total supporter of the Gurkha regiment and former Gurkhas. However, now that the Gurkha regiment costs roughly the same as an English regiment, how can it be that we will scrap four infantry battalions in the next 18 months, some two years at least before the reserve Army comes into full being? That seems crazy to me. I am referring in particular to the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, the Staffords.
I am sure that my hon. Friend, with his military background of which the House is well aware, is as proud as any Member of the House of the service record of the Gurkhas for this country. As he is aware, we have a particular arrangement with the Sultan of Brunei regarding one of the two Gurkha battalions, which helps to defray part of the cost of their service to the country. That arrangement is likely to continue and our decisions are partly based on that. I reiterate our great pride at having Gurkhas in the British Army. That is something that we wish to continue.