Gurkhas hit out at 'unfair' cuts


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The Independent Online

Gurkhas today claimed they were being unfairly targeted for cuts after the Ministry of Defence announced around one in 10 posts in the brigade will be axed.

Up to 2,900 members of the Army, 1,000 members of the Royal Air Force and 300 members of the Royal Navy, including military top brass, will be made redundant in the latest round of Government cuts.

The MoD confirmed 400 Gurkhas with more than six years' service in the 3,500-strong brigade will lose their jobs.

Actress Joanna Lumley, a leading campaigner on Gurkhas' rights, warned that compulsory redundancies would be a "tragedy".

The Nepalese fighters appear to be losing out now as a result of improvements in their terms of service following the celebrated Gurkha Justice Campaign led by the Absolutely Fabulous star.

Under the changes, the Gurkhas can now serve a maximum of 22 years - rather than 15 years previously - bringing them in line with the rest of the Army.

The result has been to swell their numbers with soldiers who would otherwise have left staying on for an additional seven years and the brigade is now considered to be overmanned by military planners. It lost 140 troops in the first round of redundancies.

Ms Lumley said: "I know that the Government is wrestling with enormous financial worries.

"However, I would urge it to bear in mind the fantastic service given by all members of the Armed Forces, including the Gurkhas.

"In these worrying and uncertain times, any serviceman or servicewoman forced out against their wishes is a tragedy.

"Any feeling that the Gurkhas are being unfairly hit will cause a great disquiet with people across Britain."

Dhan Gurung, 43, who was a Gurkha soldier for 18 years and also chairs the Folkestone Gurkha Memorial Fund in Kent, said: "This is a very unfair decision by the Ministry of Defence.

"If you compare the cuts that have been made to the whole of the Army and Navy, the strength of the cost-cutting on the Gurkhas seems unfair.

"It's like a form of discrimination towards Gurkhas. The Gurkha people are very loyal, very brave and hard-working people."

The Army will lose eight Brigadiers and 60 Lieutenant Colonels as well as 500 infantry privates.

Posts earmarked to go at the Royal Navy include five Commodores, 17 Captains and 19 Royal Marine officers at Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel and Brigadier ranks, while around 80 Fleet Air Arm jobs will also be axed.

In the RAF, up to 15 Air Commodores and 30 Group Captains will be among the posts being scrapped.

The redundancies will be the last "major" wave of job losses for the Navy and the RAF, officials said.

But the Army is expected to need further cuts if it is to reduce its number from 100,000 to 82,000 by 2020, as set out in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

The MoD has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies but said that no personnel currently on operations or preparing to go on operations would lose their job in the latest tranche unless they volunteer.

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: "Any further defence cuts in Scotland will compound the 10,500 defence job losses and £5.6 billion underspend Scotland has been hit with over the last decade from Westminster."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond insisted he had "no choice" but to make the cuts in the second tranche of the redundancy programme set out in the SDSR as he tries to plug the £38 billion black hole in the defence budget.

"Difficult decisions had to be taken in the SDSR to deal with the vast black hole in the MoD budget," he said.

"The size of the fiscal deficit we inherited left us no choice but to reduce the size of the armed forces - while reconfiguring them to ensure they remain agile, adaptable and effective."