Following exchanges over the issue at PMQs earlier, a vote has just taken place during an Opposition Day debate initiated by the Liberal Democrats in which the Government was defeated on settlement rights for Gurkhas.

MPs voted by 267 to 246 in favour of a motion that the government should extend an equal right of residence to all Gurkhas.

Conservatives and Lib Dem joined forces along with, I imagine, a number of Labour rebels (28 according to sources around the murmurs around the Commons). In advance of this afternoon's vote, shadow immigration minister Damian Green said:

“We are supporting the Gurkhas today because we believe the Government is being ungenerous and unfair. A Conservative Government would give all Gurkhas and their immediate dependents the right to settle here, and we hope the Government listens and acts immediately on this matter.”

Paul Waugh notes that David Cameron and Nick Clegg made a joint appearance outside the Commons in the wake of the vote, which is the culmination of a long campaign, highlighted here last week.

5.45pm update:

The following statements have just been put out:

David Cameron said:

"Today is an historic day where Parliament took the right decision. The basic presumption that people who fight for our country should have a right to come and live in our country has been set out very clearly. And the Government has now got to come back with immediate proposals so that those Gurkhas who have been waiting so long for an answer can have that answer. It can be done, we've set out a way for it to be done so that it doesn't ruin our immigration system and it should be done.

"I think that everyone would like to say congratulations to Joanna Lumley for the incredible campaign that she's fought with all these brave Gurkhas, some of them very old and very infirm, coming to Parliament again and again.

"The Government attempted a shoddy deal today to try and buy off some of their backbenchers and I'm proud of the fact that it didn't work and I'm proud that Labour joined us all in the lobby and actually got the right result for Britain and for the Gurkhas.

"I also pay tribute to Nick Clegg for holding the debate today, it was pleasure to join him in that lobby and get the Government to see sense."

Shadow Immigration Minister, Damian Green added:

"A Conservative Government would scrap Labour's plans for the Gurkhas. We will create a new category within the points based system for former service personnel who are not British citizens and we will allow them the right to settle. The vast majority of those who will benefit from this category will be pre-1997 Gurkhas. We will be consulting with Gurkhas representatives and others about how best to achieve this."

6.30pm Update:

PoliticsHome records the following reaction from shadow defence secretary Liam Fox:

Mr Fox said that the vote this afternoon had "moral implications" and it showed that the government was "fatally out of touch."

"The vote says to the Government that the current policy is regarded by the majority of people in Britain as unfair," he said.

"It's a country where people have seen immigration get out of control
and many people coming in who haven't necessarily contributed anything,
and yet the Gurkhas are discriminated against."

Challenged over the cost of allowing the Gurkhas to live in the U.K, Mr Fox conceded that this was a reasonable concern.

"That's why we put down an amendment to the motion," he said. "We said
that within a more restrictive immigration policy, we'd set a new
category for those who fought for the armed forces. We may have to
tighten immigration policy but when we do, we should do it in a fair

Mr Fox added that the government were on the "wrong side of public opinion" and were "perhaps fatally out of touch".

Jonathan Isaby

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