Defence chief in Nepal to reassure Gurkhas over cuts

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The Independent Online

The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, has visited Nepal to address deep concern among Gurkhas that their historical ties with the British Army are being severely damaged by sweeping redundancies in the ranks.

The trip by General Richards, the Colonel Commandant of the Gurkha Brigade, was followed by Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, who was due to arrive in the Himalayan state yesterday to stress the help being given by the UK to troops and their families.

The high-level interventions illustrate the anxiety in the Government over the adverse publicity generated by the cuts in Gurkha numbers, with 400 out of the Brigade's 3,400 losing their jobs, as announced by the Ministry of Defence this week. Overall, 2,900 personnel from the Army, 1,000 from the Royal Air Force and 300 from the Royal Navy will go in the latest round of job cuts after the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Defence officials say the Gurkhas have become particularly vulnerable after a successful campaign to bring their pay and working conditions in line with that of British soldiers. One of the main changes meant Gurkhas can serve for 22 years rather than the 15 to which they had been restricted, thus adding to the wage bill.

The Opposition charged the Government with betraying servicemen and women who have made sacrifices in Britain's wars, highlighting the case of the Gurkhas – the only troops to have been part of every single brigade deployed to Helmand in Afghanistan since 2006.

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