§ Mr. Churchill
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for how many years it has been the practice of Her Majesty's Government to provide free medical services to Gurkha pensioners in Nepal; whether this has included provision of free medicines; and what steps are proposed to maintain such provision.
§ Mr. Hanley
Although the Government have no obligation to provide medical services, free or otherwise, to Gurkha pensioners in Nepal the Ministry of Defence has since 1969 provided funding, in the form of grant in aid, to the Gurkha Welfare Trust—GWT—a charity whose operating arm, the Gurkha Welfare Scheme, runs a welfare service in Nepal for Gurkha ex-service men. Although at its introduction the grant was intended to cover administrative costs and medicines, in 1973 the GWT requested that the grant be used solely for administrative costs; the salaries of the field and support824W staff and the rent of offices. This request was granted on the basis that the cost of providing drugs and medical care would be met from the trust's charitable funds. There are no plans to change this arrangement.
In addition, Gurkha pensioners were also able to receive free treatment at the British military hospital in Dharan in eastern Nepal which provided medical care including medicines to serving British Gurkhas and their dependants on a no-cost basis from its opening in 1960 until it was handed over to the Nepalese Government in 1990.