HC Deb 16 November 1982 vol 32 cc138-9
9. Mr. Neil Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when the Gurkha pension of £5.88p a month was first paid; and what it should be now to offset the effects of inflation.

Mr. Wiggin

The pension in question was payable with effect from 1 September 1980. It has already been raised in line with movements in the consumer price index for Nepal to £8.94p with effect from 1 April 1981 and to £10.00p with effect from 1 April 1982.

Mr. Thorne

Knowing of my hon. Friend's great admiration of the Gurkhas, and as they did so much to assist us in the South Atlantic, standing shoulder to shoulder with our own Service men, does he agree that it would be wrong now to shelter behind the agreements made 30 years ago with the Indian Government to maintain the pensions in line with those of the Indian Army? Is it not now time thoroughly to review the position with a view to updating the amounts paid to a much more sensible and realistic figure?

Mr. Wiggin

As my hon. Friend knows, a substantial change was made in 1981 to inflation proof this pension in terms of the economy into which these people retire. While I completely share his compliments on their performance—indeed, everyone has known of that performance for many years—the fact remains that they are not complaining about the new arrangements, which they welcomed at the time.

Mr. Ron Brown (Leith)

Is it not a disgrace that former soldiers from both world wars, not just Gurkhas, should have to depend on handouts from the Earl Haig fund? Will the Minister do something about it?

Mr. Wiggin

I am not aware of any difficulties for Gurkha soldiers.

Mr. Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that as the Gurkhas are performing identical duties to our own indiginous troops, in all fairness they ought to be moved more closely to our own scales?

Mr. Wiggin

This question relates to terms of engagement. When the Gurkha soldier signs on, he is well aware of what his pension is likely to be, and, after all, we have made a substantial improvement on the previous payment.