HL Deb 08 July 2002 vol 637 cc68-9WA
Lord Swinfen

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to support serving and retired Gurkha soldiers and their families in Nepal. [HL4883]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)

Support to serving and retired Gurkhas and their families is channelled through our bases in Kathmandu and Pokara, which provide resettlement training and a recruitment service to help Gurkhas secure employment after they have been discharged. Our pension paying offices also arrange for the regular payment of pensions to retired Gurkhas, who are entitled to an immediate pension after only 15 years service.

Separately, the department supports the work of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, an independent charity established in 1969 to provide financial, medical and community aid to Gurkhas and their families when they leave the British Army. The Ministry of Defence makes an annual grant in order to pay for the administrative costs of its field arm, the Gurkha Welfare Scheme (GWS), headed by our defence attaché in Kathmandu. It spends some £6.5 million each year in Nepal and our contribution enables all the money raised by the trust through charitable donations and public appeals to be used solely for welfare purposes. The GWS now also provides, even in the most remote areas of Nepal, primary healthcare, first aid and emergency treatment, doctors' clinics and elementary dentistry, all free of charge. It is also involved in community projects and the award of one-off hardship payments in respect of individual catastrophes. No genuine case of hardship is ever turned away and its work not only benefits our ex-servicemen, but is also of value to the infrastructure of Nepal as a whole.

In view of the current security situation in Nepal, our embassy in Kathmandu continues to monitor the position closely, and appropriate security briefings are given to all personnel embarking on periods of long leave. HQ British Gurkhas Nepal also keeps in regular contact with Gurkha communities throughout Nepal via a network of retired Gurkha officers.