Do you remember a few months ago when the government were still trying to prevent the Gurkhas from being able to settle in the UK if they wished, you know before they totally caved in the face of opposition from outraged people everywhere led by Joanna Lumley and Nick Clegg? The main justification they used at the time was that it would cost £1.4 billion to allow them to settle.
I always thought this sounded dodgy and very much on the high side. So did fellow blogger Matt Raven, so much so that he submitted a Freedom of Information request via whatdotheyknow.com and after much chasing he got his response a couple of weeks ago. He has blogged about it himself here.
It turns out, surprise surprise that the figure was derived from making the most extreme assumptions about how expensive it would be to allow the Gurkhas to settle. As Matt points out:
Their eventual reply was that the figure assumes (among other things) that:
- All 36,000 who retired between 1948 and 1997 would choose to settle if they were able to do so
- None of the dependants (including spouse, children under 18, unmarried dependant children 18-30, elderly parents living with the main applicant - and assuming half of children 18-30 are married) work
- All settling families are on Child Tax Credits maximum award.And do not take account of any tax or national insurance contributions that former Gurkhas may have made in the past or that they may make in the future
If I was a Gurkha, I would feel rather insulted that the justification the government had used to try and prevent me from settling made all these disparaging assumptions about me and all of my dependents.
As Gurkhaman Swaroop Charmlig (one of the Gurkha campaigners) said in the comments on Matt's post:
The ridiculous figure quoted is just that, totally ridiculous. You are absolutely right, such convoluted assumption does, and should, not apply to any particular group, let alone us, the Gurkhas! It is this mean Government's yet another answer to deny us Gurkhas fair and equal treatment as agreed in the Tripartite agreement in 1947!
I thought it was worth highlighting this myself and also to make the broader point that it calls into question the government's methodology for trying to make decisions like this. I can understand they need to do a "worst case scenario" but that is exactly what this is, worst case. Never in a million years was it actually going to cost £1.4 billion to allow the Gurkhas to settle. In fact if you think about it for more than a few seconds, the idea that ALL eligible Gurkhas would settle here, AND ALL of their dependents would be nothing but a drain on the public purse is just not credible. As Swaroop also pointed out not many of his veteran brothers are likely to go through the difficult and uncertain process of trying to settle here. I would wager that when the sums are finally done on this, the net cost will have been many multiples smaller than the scary headline £1.4 billion figure.
The government needs to stop taking the worst case and then banging on about it in the media as if it was established certain fact. You would think they would have learnt from the whole "45 minutes" debacle that taking extreme scenarios and trying to use them in this way ultimately comes back to bite them.