Last Tuesday Labour MP for Ealing Southall and local councillor, Virendra Sharma, made a rare appearance in the council chamber. Sharma claims to be much too busy to attend very often due to Parliamentary business. He also makes a right fool of himself when he does. Last Tuesday he was defensive to say the least as he was constantly challenged by the Tory group for his lack of attendance.
Yesterday, whilst the government lost the Ghurka vote in a large rebellion, Sharma managed to stick with the government whip and voted against the Ghurkas after having spoken and voted for them in our own council chamber. What a prat?
Ealing Council Leader, Cllr Jason Stacey, said:
Many Gurkhas attended the council meeting on the 21st April and they heard Mr Sharma speak in favour of their cause and all parties represented on Ealing Council voted to support the motion in favour of the Gurkhas campaign. How can an elected MP and Councillor speak and vote one way and then just eight days later do the complete opposite? Mr Sharma can try all he likes to wriggle out of this one but many Gurkhas in this borough will feel completely betrayed by an MP who has treated them with such contempt.
The following motion was passed unanimously by Ealing Council on the 21st April 2009:
Campaign for Gurkah Citizenship Rights
This Council acknowledges its gratitude to the Gurkhas of Ealing who have fought and sacrificed for the United Kingdom, and supports their campaign for citizenship rights.
This Council notes that the Government announced in September 2004 a change in immigration rules that allowed Gurkhas who had served in the British Army to settle in the United Kingdom with their families.
This Council notes with concern however that this offer has only been extended to cover those Gurkhas who had served at least four years and been discharged after 1st July 1997.
This Council believes that, given the exceptional service they have given to the United Kingdom, Gurkhas and their families should be given fast track eligibility for either the right to remain or citizenship.
This Council urges Ealing’s three MPs to support the campaign for Gurkha rights.
Obviously Sharma voted for this motion and did in fact speak in favour of it.
The following motion was laid before the House of Commons on 29th April 2009:
That this House regrets the Government’s recent statement outlining the eligibility criteria for Gurkhas to reside in the United Kingdom; recognises the contribution the Gurkhas have made to the safety and freedom of the United Kingdom for the past 200 years; notes that more Gurkhas have laid down their lives for the United Kingdom than are estimated to want to live here; believes that Gurkhas who retired before 1997 should be treated fairly and in the same way as those who have retired since; is concerned that the Government’s new guidelines will permit only a small minority of Gurkhas and their families to settle whilst preventing the vast majority; further believes that people who are prepared to fight and die for the United Kingdom should be entitled to live in the country; and calls upon the Government to withdraw its new guidelines immediately and bring forward revised proposals that extend an equal right of residence to all Gurkhas.
Sharma voted against this motion (unlike 27 of his Labour colleagues).