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Gurkha regiment may be axed in MoD cuts

The Gurkha regiment could be facing the axe as part of the battle over defence spending, a Conservative MP claimed today.

Patrick Mercer, a former Army officer, said everything was "up for grabs" as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) attempts to balance the books.

He said the Gurkhas were now more expensive after winning a high-profile campaign for better rights and there had been a rise in "home-grown" recruitment.

"I think everything at the moment is up for grabs, particularly in terms of the balance between whether we cut kit or whether we cut manpower," he told GMTV.

"The great benefit that the Gurkhas had in the past was twofold - the first is that they were cheap, much cheaper than the British equivalent, and secondly they were plentiful.

"Well, now they are not so cheap and now British recruiting has never been higher."

His remarks come after it was reported that the regiment, part of the British Army for nearly 200 years, could be one of several sacrificed as a result of a Government dispute over defence funding.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox is said to be pressing the Treasury to provide more money for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to meet the £20 billion cost of replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent.

Dr Fox has warned that having to cover the cost from the MoD budget would impact on other defence capabilities but the Chancellor George Osborne has repeatedly insisted that the bill will fall to the MoD.

Trident is currently excluded from the review of the UK's security and defence requirements the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SSDR) which is due to report next month.

The reports follow a high-profile battle led by actress Joanna Lumley to improve Gurkha rights, including the right to settle in the UK.

An MoD spokesman said: "The Defence Secretary has made clear that tough decisions will need to be made but the complex process of a Strategic Defence and Security Review will be concluded in the autumn.

"Speculation at this stage about its outcome is entirely unfounded."

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