Gurkhas in firing line as Army prepares to lose jobs

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Labour has criticised the Government’s “shoddy treatment” of Gurkhas, amid claims that the soldiers will be disproportionately hit by the latest defence cuts.

The Nepalese infantrymen will reportedly bear the brunt of the latest round of Ministry of Defence (MoD) redundancies, due to be announced on Tuesday.

The Army is already set to lose 2,000 personnel as part of plans set out in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and MPs fear the Royal Gurkha Rifles, who have served alongside the British Army for almost 200 years, will be disproportionately affected relative to their strength of 3,500.

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: “This is a shoddy way to treat those who have shown years of bravery for our country.

“This is the second painful cut the Gurkhas have had to endure in just a few months. David Cameron talked a lot in Opposition about his pride in the Gurkhas, yet they are now bearing the brunt of his rushed defence review.”

Mr Murphy added: “The country will expect a cast-iron guarantee that no Gurkha currently serving in Afghanistan will be sacked on their return. We need to know what the military impact of these cuts will be and what support is on offer to all those losing jobs at this difficult time.”

An MoD spokeswoman said: “Difficult decisions had to be taken in the SDSR to deal with the vast black hole in the MoD budget.

“Reducing numbers through redundancy is essential if we are to have smaller Armed Forces that deliver the best possible operational capability.

“We need to structure our forces to ensure they are sufficiently flexible and adaptable to meet the demands of an uncertain future.”

She admitted the decisions were “not easy”, but said they would “help defend the UK so we are best prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century”.

The spokeswoman added: “No-one who is preparing for operations or deployed on operations will be made redundant unless they have volunteered.

“Only those who have returned from operations and have taken all their operational leave will be considered.”