This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.

30 April 2009

Gurkhas

The House of Commons has not received much good press of late, however the historic victory on behalf of the Gurkha’s earlier this week was democracy at its best. After a long debate, MPs voted by 267 to 246 in favour of a Liberal Democrat motion that all Gurkhas should be offered an equal right of residence.

The Gurkhas rightly hold a special place in the hearts of many people across the country. They have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years and have loyally fought for the British all over the world, receiving 13 Victoria Crosses between them. Over 200,000 fought for Britain in two world wars and anyone who has served alongside them will testify to their bravery and dedication.

Everybody I have spoken to agrees with the simple moral principle that somebody who is prepared to give their life for this country, ought to be allowed to live here.

Despite this, Gurkhas are still denied the legal right to live in this country and are excluded from becoming UK citizens. Despite High Court judgments and justifiable public outrage, Ministers have made only the most modest of concessions that would allow just 100 additional Gurkhas to settle here.

Because of the parliament rules, the Government has such a strangle hold over what is discussed in the House of Commons that opposition parties rarely have the chance to set the agenda. The only way to get the Government to debate the issues of Gurkhas was to use a rare Liberal Democrat opposition day to force their hand.

In the end it took a coalition of Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and some admirable Labour MPs prepared to defy their party and cast their vote for fairness and justice. Many people I have spoken to in Edinburgh have been disappointed that no other Edinburgh MP seemed able to cast their vote in support of the Gurkha cause.

Make no mistake, this was a historic vote, the first time that a sitting Government had ever lost a vote on an opposition day motion. While the vote does not bind the Government to change their policy it would be political suicide for the Prime Minister to ignore the will of parliament. However, its real significance isn’t about party politics, but about parliament for once recognising a just cause that has public support and doing something about it. If more of our politics operated in this way then maybe parliament would be held in higher regard than is currently the case.

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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.