Gurkhas defeat British government in parliament (Lead)

April 29th, 2009 - 11:00 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 29 (IANS) The British government Wednesday suffered a humiliating defeat after parliament voted to reverse regulations seeking to curtail the rights of Gurkha ex-soldiers to settle down in Britain.

MPs voted by 267 to 246 votes in favour of an amendment, moved by the opposition Liberal Democrat party, to allow all Gurkha ex-soldiers who have served in the British Army to live in Britain.

Current regulations allow such rights to only those Gurkhas who retired after 1997, when a Gurkha army base in Hong Kong was moved to Britain.

Last week the Labour government said Gurkha ex-servicemen who retired before 1997 and want to live in Britain must prove they have close family in Britain, have served in the army for at least 20 years, been wounded in battle or won gallantry medals.

But Labour MPs joined opposition ranks Wednesday to vote against the government policy guidance.

Damian Green, the opposition Conservative party’s immigration spokesman, described the defeat as a “devastating blow” to the government.

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