Lumley hits out at 'smear' campaign over Gurkhas' rights

Joanna Lumley today hit out at what she claimed was a Government smear campaign that saw her accused of "deathly silence" over Gurkhas' rights.

Earlier this month, defence minister Kevan Jones expressed "irritation" with the actress amid claims that Nepalese veterans had been mislead and exploited. "Her deathly silence, frankly, irritates me," he said.

But in a letter circulated today, Ms Lumley denounced the allegations.

Signed by the actress, campaigner Peter Carroll and legal advisers Howe & Co Solicitors, it reads: "We feel that these comments are part of a set of actions that constitutes a broader attempt to taint the widely-welcomed positive outcome of the Gurkha Campaign."

Last year, after a lengthy battle spearheaded by Lumley, MPs agreed to throw out rules that prevented retired Gurkhas from settling in the UK.

But recently questions have been raised concerning the advice given to those wishing to make the move.

A parliamentary inquiry is currently looking into allegations that Gurkhas are being encouraged to pay hundreds of pounds in voluntary donations to veterans' organisations in Nepal which then refer them on to UK solicitors.

Giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Mr Jones claimed some of the advice being given to veterans was misleading, encouraging them to expect they would have homes provided when they arrive in Britain.

He expressed "irritation" with Lumley over what he said was her failure to speak out now the problems have emerged.

Mr Jones said he believes the onus was on Ms Lumley to speak out and make sure the veterans hoping to come to the UK do not need to pay out and should use the system put in place by the Government.

In today's statement, the actress said she decided to speak out "so that the hundreds of thousands of people who supported our campaign can remain confident that they backed a just and right cause."

The letter states that allegations that the campaign had given false expectations to Gurkhas were "untrue".

It adds: "Our campaign's aim has always been to safeguard and protect the rights of veteran Gurkhas. We will not be bullied out of doing so, and our primary concern will always remain the welfare of the Gurkhas."

Ms Lumley is due to hold a press conference on Monday to further respond to attacks on the Gurkha Justice Campaign.