Brown will solve Gurkha issue by end of May, says Lumley
Actor and campaigner says that prime minister is wholly supportive of the Nepalese soldiers' cause
Deborah Summers, politics editor
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 May 2009 16.17 BST
Gordon Brown will come up with a solution to the Gurkhas issue by the end of May, Joanna Lumley said today.
Following a half-hour meeting with the prime minister in the House of Commons this afternoon, the actor and campaigner said that Brown was “wholly supportive” of the Gurkhas.
“I trust him. I rely on him. And I know that he has now taken this matter into his own hands and so today is a very good day,” she said. “I'm certain he will give much, much more than we have been offered in the past.
“Let right be done. I think he will do the right thing.”
Lumley said Brown had vowed to come up with a solution by the end of this month: “We see this as the end game, this is only three weeks away. We are going to have an enormous successful conclusion to this whole issue.”
The actor said she believed that, as a result of the meeting, the prime minister finally understood the issue.
“He is our prime minister and this is the chance for him to do something tremendous and I know he will do it,” she said.
The Gurkha Justice Campaign has been calling for parity between the treatment and settlement rights of Commonwealth soldiers and Gurkhas.
About 36,000 Gurkhas, a brigade of Nepalese soldiers who serve in the British army, are denied UK residency.
Lumley said she accepted the prime minister would have to deal with the issue “slowly and deliberately” but added his commitment to bring forward the processing of all outstanding applications from July to May had already shown “a huge intent and purpose”.
She said: “He promised he would do all he can … Now, I feel we have got the head man, the man at the top, the leader of our entire nation and I feel absolutely confident he is going to do the right thing for the Gurkhas.”
Downing Street said it had been a positive meeting.
“It was a friendly meeting, it was a constructive meeting,” the prime minister's spokesman said.
“The prime minister listened to Miss Lumley's concerns and proposals and made clear his admiration and gratitude for the Gurkhas' contribution over the years.”
The spokesman said that the government had already agreed to bring forward to the end of May the deadline for dealing with all 1,500 outstanding applications from Gurkhas wanting to settle in the UK. After that, the government would “come forward with proposals for the next stage of the reform of our rules”.
Brown's spokesman would not say whether the prime minister had apologised to Lumley for not replying to letters that she had sent him about the case in the past.
Earlier today, at prime minister's question time, Brown insisted he would listen to the views of MPs following last week's shock government defeat on Gurkhas' immigration rights.
MPs voted by 267 to 246 last Wednesday for a Liberal Democrat motion offering all Gurkhas equal right of residence.
Brown said the government had been the first to allow any Gurkhas the right to settle in the UK and added that he had always wanted reform to happen “stage by stage”, and ministers would come back to the Commons with a statement.
His comments were in response to a question from Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, who asked whether the government would be bound by the terms of last week's vote.