Thursday, 30 April 2009

Round-up: Ayo Gorkhali!

Yesterday was a dramatic day at Westminster as the plight of the Gurkhas came under the spotlight.

The issue dominated PMQ's and the subsequent opposition day debate grabbed all the headlines as the Government lost the division for the first time in over thirty years.

Conservative leader David Cameron started the ball rolling with the third of his six questions to applaud LibDem leader Nick Clegg for championing the issue of Gurkha rights.

Reading West's Martin Salter, who chairs the parliamentary group representing Gurkha rights followed up with a "finger-prodding harangue of Gordon Brown," according to David Hughes.

Jim Pickard reports that Mr Salter called government figures suggesting the cost of settlement for the Gurkhas would be £1.4bn per year as "nonsense" based on a massively inflated number of people being granted residency rights all of whom would be "on the dole and claiming housing benefit".

Reading East's Rob Wilson spoke in the debate, describing the penurous conditions of Gurkha's living in Reading and calling the Home Office criteria as "immoral".

You can read the whole debate and the full list of voting patterns here.

Of Berkshire's 6 MP's all 4 Conservatives voted for the LibDem-proposed motion while Labour's MP for Slough Fiona MacTaggart voted against the motion. Reading West's Martin Salter abstained.

BBC also notes Mr Salter's abstention, which was despite being chair of the parliamentary group on Gurkha's rights. They also quote his explanation:
"I refused to support the government in the division lobbies, but I felt I had to acknowledge the concessions that we had got out of the government in the course of the day and I think, perhaps most significantly, we had this great announcement from the home secretary that of the 1,360 Gurkhas awaiting determination of their appeals and their applications for settlement in the UK, that we're not going to be seeing any of those brave men and women deported from our shores."
His abstention came despite his unambiguous outburst at PMQ's and being named on TV (at 5:38 in the segment) as the leader of the Labour rebels.

A full list of the 28 Labour rebels is provided here.


Reading Chronicle reports that the campaigners defeat of the government is a triumph for the town as local residents played a prominent role in efforts to force concessions from the Home Secretary.

Martin Salter takes a self-congratulatory note for his efforts to force his leader to make "significant progress" on the issue - in the shape of an announcement that the decision will be reviewed in the summer, although this was despite receiving no reply to his official question to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on what the nature of that review will be.

Craig Morley contributes on behalf of Reading East MP Rob Wilson, who says that "the government is failing to listen to the genuine outrage felt by British people." He also describes 'surprise' at the number of Labour MPs who were happy to have their photos taken with the Gurkhas, but who weren't prepared either to participate in the debate or vote on the motion.

Meanwhile local councillors and bloggers have also been moved to comment.

LibDem Paul Walter was quickest off the mark to record the 267-246 vote, which Mark Thompson points out only came with a high degree of behind-the-scenes politicking by by the losers. Cllr Warren Swaine says each of the 246 should be ashamed.

Cllr Glenn Goodall helpfully cites the full text of the motion. He expresses his outrage at the behaviour of Mr Salter and quotes LibDem leader Nick Clegg, who said the current government has lost any moral authority it held.

Independent councillor Tony Jones outlines the moral perspective of the Gurkha campaign and provides some insight into the immoral means by which his former comrades attempted to stop them.

Conservative Cllr Richard Willis hails the vote as a victory for parliamentary democracy and says LibDem leader Nick Clegg deserves credit. He describes the events as the 'death rattle' of the current Labour administration.

Elsewhere the events are described as a new hypocritical low for Mr Salter by anonymous antagonist Martinsnottheone.

Oranjepan says:
Following Mr Salter's abstention in the parliamentary vote - against the wishes of the Gurkhas - his position as chair of the parliamentary group representing their rights must surely now be untenable.

With more precariously balanced votes pending, if Prime Minister Gordon Brown loses another in quick succession his position must surely also become untenable.


Update: Reading's Nepalese community recently celebrated another victory over the Home Office with the overturning of a government decision to refuse Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to highly-skilled migrants (HSMs).


More on the Gurkha residency campaign.


  1. Excellent round-up, well done. Thanks also for highlighting the rank hypocrisy of Martin Salter MP, so-called 'Labour rebel'.

  2. Where's Jane? I expect she might have an interesting analysis on the debate and the vote.

  3. Thanks anon#1, that's sweet of you.

    Anon#2 I too would be interested to hear the opinion of Jane Griffiths, but I'm afraid I can't account for her.

    All comments are appreciated, but I would like to remind anonymous commenters that Reading List does have a comments policy, and anonymous abuse will be judged at the discretion of the editorial board.

    It is for this reason that pseudonymity is recommended.


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