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UK Politics

Lumley joy as Gurkhas win total victory

Gurkha campaigner Joanna Lumley paid tribute to Prime Minister Gordon Brown today as she hailed the decision to allow all Gurkha veterans to come to Britain.

The move, announced in the Commons by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, means thousands of Gurkhas who retired before 1997 will be given settlement rights.

Lumley said: "I would like to pay tribute to Gordon Brown the Prime Minister, a brave man who has made today a brave decision on behalf of the bravest of the brave.

"A great injustice has been righted. The Gurkhas are coming home."

The changes will allow retired servicemen with four years service to move to this country, Ms Smith told the Commons.

She said: "Generations of Gurkhas have served the United Kingdom with great courage, sacrifice and distinction and they continue to make a vital and valued contribution to our operations around the world.

"We respect the will of the House of Commons on this issue and that is why I have now announced a new policy, the basis of which we have worked on with the Home Affairs Select Committee and Gurkha representatives.

"This means we can now welcome any Gurkha who has served for four years or more to settle in the UK."

The decision sparked jubilant scenes outside parliament as Lumley informed her fellow supporters that victory was complete.

The actress choked back tears as she thanked Mr Brown for making his "brave decision".

She then joined hundreds of former Gurkhas and supporters in screaming their famous battle cry "Ayo Gurkhali", meaning "the Gurkhas are coming".

Ms Lumley added: "This is a fantastic day for my brothers and sisters."

Flanked by supporters, she then joined in giving three cheers for the Prime Minister.

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg, whose Commons motion led directly to the u-turn, said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the Gurkhas have finally been given justice.

"This is a great victory for the Gurkhas and for everyone who has campaigned on their behalf.

"Gordon Brown has finally woken up to the principle that people across Britain understand instinctively: if someone is prepared to die for this country, they must be allowed to live in it.

"Tragically this decision will come too late for many of those brave Gurkhas who have been waiting so long to see justice done.

"Gordon Brown's claim of a 'moral compass' rings hollow when, on every issue from Gurkhas to expenses, he has to be dragged every inch of the way towards doing the right thing."

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "This has been a great victory for Joanna Lumley and her well-run campaign that has publicly embarrassed Ministers and has reminded us all of the role that the Gurkhas have played in helping defend this country over the centuries.

"First and foremost this case was about basic decency. People from around the world have come to live in this country in the past decade.

"There was never a justification to deny that right to a group of people who have long lived in the nation's affections, and who have risked and often given their lives for its protection.

"It is just a shame that the Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming through the courts and then through the crowds of Gurkhas outside parliament before it finally did the right thing."

Lumley was informed of the decision by the PM at breakfast talks today.

The Government U-turn followed a two-year campaign to get the same rights for pre-1997 Gurkhas as those who retired more recently.

They reacted with anger to new Home Office rules published last month which they said would allow only 100 more to move here.

Ministers were forced to reconsider the rules after they lost a Commons vote last month on a Liberal Democrat motion.