MoD budget cuts 'threaten Gurkhas'
The Gurkha regiment may be axed amid cuts to defence spending, according to a Conservative MP.
Former Army officer Patrick Mercer said everything is "up for grabs" at the Ministry of Defence, adding that the Gurkhas are now "not so cheap" since they won a high-profile campaign for better rights, and that there has been a rise in "home-grown" recruitment.
His remarks follow reports 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 about defence funding.
Mr Mercer told GMTV: "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.
"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."
The British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS), the largest welfare organisation for Gurkhas in the UK and Nepal, called on the Government to clarify the situation urgently.
Chairman Major Tikendra Dal Dewan said: "I sincerely hope that the recent speculation is unfounded and that the Gurkha regiments will remain an integral part of the UK's Armed Forces for many years to come."
Meanwhile, Britain and France may soon be sharing their aircraft carrier capability in a dramatic co-operation pact designed to maintain military power while cutting costs, it has been reported.
But the MoD said the report, in The Times newspaper, was mere "speculation" before the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review due out next month.
However, one source said ideas for all sorts of co-operation will be "on the table" when Defence Secretary Liam Fox visits Paris for talks with his French counterparts on Friday, and did not exclude the possibility of sharing the aircraft carriers being discussed.