Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

FactCheck cited in Gurkha debate

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 30 April 2009

FactCheck's investigation into the number of Gurkhas eligible to move to the UK under new immigration rules is used in the Commons debate that led to Gordon Brown's first defeat as PM.

Gurkhas after the government lost the vote in the House of Commons (credit:Getty Images)

The government was defeated yesterday in its bid to maintain strict new rules over Gurkhas' rights to settle in the UK.

Some 27 Labour rebels joined opposition parties to vote for a Liberal Democrat motion to give all Gurkhas who have served in the British armed forces equal rights of residence.

FactCheck featured twice during yesterday's debate, our analysis was cited by Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, and Home Office Minister Phil Woolas, whose own claims had been the subject of FactCheck's scrutiny earlier in the week.

FactCheck analysed Woolas's prediction that up to 100,000 Gurkhas and their dependents could move to the UK if the rules were completely relaxed.

Chris Huhne told the Commons yesterday: "On 27 April, the Channel 4 News FactCheck rated the reliability of the figures of the minister for borders and immigration [Woolas] as four.

"That was on a scale of one to five, in which the number five means that the claim 'has absolutely no basis in fact'.

"In other words, the minister's claim is a wild guess - just about as much of a wild guess as previous forecasts on immigration from his department, which have proved to be wildly wrong.

"In fact, the Home Office estimate was based on a five-year-old figure for the number of Gurkha pensioners in Nepal of 36,000.

"We know from parliamentary answers from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that there are currently just 26,500 Gurkha pensioners, so even under the Home Office's own preferred methodology, the total, including dependants, would be 75,000 not 100,000, but that makes the assumption that every single one of those discharged servicemen would want to move."

Kevan Jones, an MoD minister, replied to Huhne to say the 36,000 figure questioned by FactCheck was correct, as it incorporated 26,000 pensioners, and 10,000 welfare pensioners.

What Jones neglected to mention was that the 10,000 welfare pensioners all served for less than 15 years, which is why they did not qualify for the standard pension.

Thus, under the government's now doomed new criteria, they would all have been ineligible to qualify under the rule which dictated the relevant Gurkha must have completed 20 years service.

Some of the 10,000 welfare pensioners could have qualified under one of the other criterion, but as previously examined by FactCheck, the scope for potential applications seemed small.

For example, the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which looks after the 10,000 welfare pensioners, said yesterday that it did not expect the new rules to have any impact on its veterans. So it appears using the 10,000 welfare pensioners as part of the calculations which led to the "up to 100,000" claim was somewhat unfair.

Phil Woolas, in his defence of the new rules in parliament yesterday, also mentioned FactCheck.

He said: “The point about the potential resource implication of this is important, and the prime minister referred to it earlier at prime minister's question time.

“Let me be clear because the numbers have been challenged, I think unfairly. I looked at the numbers after I had met representatives of the campaign.

“I cannot base the advice of the government on the "Channel 4 News" fact indicator; I have to base it on the best information available to us, and my hon. friend the under secretary has explained, the derivation of the figures. But it is an important point. The government have never said that 100,000 people would apply and would get settlement.

“We have to look, as we do under all immigration law, at the potential, and our best estimate is that it is 100,000. It may be more, it may be less.”

Did it sound like just an estimate when Woolas was using the 100,000 claim on Friday? FactCheck will let you decide.

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest Domestic politics news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Cartoon coalition


How Channel 4 News viewers picture the coalition in cartoon form

Token candidate?

Labour leadership candidate Diane Abbott (credit:Getty Images)

Diane Abbott: I am the genuine move-on candidate for Labour

'Mr Ordinary'

Andy Burnham, Getty images

Andy Burnham targets Labour's 'ordinary' person.

Iraq inquiry: day by day

Tony Blair mask burnt during protest outside the Iraq inquiry. (Credit: Getty)

Keep track of Sir John Chilcot's Iraq war findings day by day.

The Freedom Files

Freedom Files

Revealed: the stories they didn't want to tell.

Making a FoI request?

Channel 4 News tells you how to unearth information.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.