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: 100,000 more Gurkhas?

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 27 April 2009

Immigration minister Phil Woolas told Channel 4 News that relaxing the rules for Gurkhas further would mean up to 100,000 people coming to live in the UK. Is he right?

The claim

"What I can’t do, which is what some are asking me to do but the judge did not, is to grant every Gurkha since the 1940s and their families access to this country because that would be up to 100,000 people."
Immigration minister Phil Woolas, Channel 4 News, 24 April 2009

The background

Government has changed the immigration rules for retired Gurkhas.

Those who retired before 1997 are now to be entitled to settle in the UK, if they meet certain criteria. Gurkhas who joined military service after 1997 are technically based in the UK and are able to apply for citizenship anyway, so remain unaffected.

The Home Office said the new rules would allow about 4,300 more Gurkhas the right to settle in the UK, but campaigners condemned the rules as "shameful", after predicting only 100 of the former soldiers would be eligible to move to Britain.

The government's argument, as aired by Phil Woolas on Channel 4 News, was that if it relaxed the rules further then "up to 100,000" Gurkhas and their families could be on their way to Britain.

FactCheck looks at where the 100,000 claim came from.

The analysis

So how did Woolas get to the nice round number of 100,000?

The Home Office said the total was derived from the number of Gurkha veterans who were claiming a pension in 1997. This is because last week's change in the rules solely related to Gurkhas who retired before 1997, when rules changed.

Now, according to the Home Office, the number of Gurkhas claiming a pension, who retired before the 1997 cut-off point, was approximately 36,000 in 2004.

Despite this total being five years old, the Home Office last week used the 36,000 figure to also assume that every single Gurkha would bring roughly two dependents with them from Nepal to the UK.

So the estimate for dependents, according to the Home Office, accounts for another 64,000 people, bringing the overall estimate up to 100,000.

The Home Office was keen to stress to FactCheck that the 100,000 statistic was "only ever an estimate", but Woolas was certainly forthright in his fears when he spoke to Channel 4 News.

The Home Office was keen to stress to FactCheck that the 100,000 statistic was "only ever an estimate", but Woolas was certainly forthright in his fears when he spoke to Channel 4 News.

Interestingly, despite Woolas being a Home Office minister, his department told FactCheck that if it wanted more up-to-date figures on the number of Gurkhas claiming a pension it should contact the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which controls the £50m plus pensions pot.

In fact, initially, FactCheck did not have to even have to call the MoD. A written ministerial statement last month from Kevan Jones, MoD minister, said there were 26,500 Gurkha pensioners - not 36,000. A call to the MoD confirmed this.

So even by the Home Office's generous estimates over each Gurkha pensioner having two dependents, it would make the total closer to 75,000 than 100,000.

But a prediction of up to 75,000 Gurkhas descending on these shores would still assume that every single veteran and their assumed two dependents would want to move to the UK.

So how many Gurkhas, before Friday's rule change, had actually applied to live in the UK? It was just 1,350 - a considerable way short of 100,000.

For the government's part, it is fair to assume that were the rules to be relaxed, more Gurkhas and their families might come forward to apply to live in Britain. Whether it would be another 98,000 remains to be seen.

The verdict

Phil Woolas seems to have employed some very generous methodology when predicting that up to 100,000 Gurkhas and their families could move to the UK if the rules denying them access were scrapped.

The prediction was based on outdated figures that overstated the number of Gurkha pensioners by nearly 10,000, and were even contradicted by an MoD written statement last month.

It is difficult to know how many veterans would seize the opportunity to move to the UK with their families if they could, but Woolas's concerns seem somewhat ill-founded.

FactCheck rating: 4

How ratings work

Every time a FactCheck article is published we'll give it a rating from zero to five.

The lower end of the scale indicates that the claim in question largerly checks out, while the upper end of the scale suggests misrepresentation, exaggeration, a massaging of statistics and/or language.

In the unlikely event that we award a 5 out of 5, our factcheckers have concluded that the claim under examination has absolutely no basis in fact.

The sources

24 Apr 2009: Gurkhas - 'We've been betrayed'
Home Office: new immigration rules for Gurkhas
20 Mar 2009: written ministerial statement, MoD minister Kevan Jones

Your views

You've read the article, now have your say. We want to know your experiences and your views. We also want to know if there are any claims you want given the FactCheck treatment.


FactCheck will correct significant errors in a timely manner. Readers should direct their enquiries to the editor at the email address above.

Send this article by email

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.