Gurkha hunger strike called off as MPs launch parliamentary probe into rights


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The Independent Online

A parliamentary probe into Gurkha rights is being launched with Prime Minister David Cameron's “blessing” following a two week hunger strike by veterans.

Conservative MP Rob Wilson has brokered a deal between campaigners and MPs to bring to an end the protest over pension, benefits and health care rights.

A cross-party commission will take written and oral evidence before reporting its findings, which will be considered by government, next spring.

Campaigners, including actress Joanna Lumley, welcomed the move and met with hunger striking Gurkha, Gyanraj Rai, who is camped opposite Downing Street, to tell him about the plans.

The 55-year-old veteran has threatened to starve himself to death in the battle for improved rights and earlier this week around 1,000 ex-Gurkhas marched down Whitehall to highlight the cause.

Martin Howe, solicitor and joint founder of the Gurkha Justice Campaign, said: “This presents a unique opportunity to finally settle genuine issues of concern and allows Gurkhas to continue to be held with affection by the UK Government and people.

“We are grateful to parliament for taking up these important issues and for indicating its support for the work of the parliamentary inquiry.”

Nepalese fighters have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years and were given settlement rights in Britain following a high profile campaign in 2009.

Mr Wilson said: “I am delighted to have brokered a deal that has allowed the Gurkhas to end their hunger strike.

“I don't think that going on hunger strike is the right way of advancing your case in a democracy but I am hugely relieved that my constituent and friend Gyanraj Rai is now out of danger.

“Everyone in Britain should be grateful for the Gurkhas' bravery and loyalty in the service of our country.

“The Gurkhas will now have another chance to have their grievances heard by an independent commission under the auspices of MPs on the All Party Parliamentary committee on Gurkha issues.

“We now need to make sure that the commission is set up properly and the Gurkhas can have full confidence that their views are heard and considered fairly.

“The commission of inquiry will receive written evidence from all parties until the New Year, when oral evidence will take place.

“A report is due to be published in the spring, the findings of which will then be considered by the government and Gurkha campaigners.”