A COUNCILLOR’S ‘disgraceful’ and ‘imperialistic’ comments on commonwealth veterans has sparked outrage.
A motion was brought forward by councillor Pav K. Mann (Labour: Britwell and Northborough), lead member for planning and regulations, calling for the Government to ‘right a historic wrong’ by immediately granting the right for commonwealth veterans, who have served for a minimum for four years, and their families to remain in the UK if they wish.
She also called for British citizenships to be granted for any veteran who completed 12 years’ service and waive any application fees – which has risen to £2,389 from £1,051 – if a veteran wishes to take up the opportunity.
The motion was agreed by a majority of councillors at full council meeting on November 24 (Tuesday) – however, not everyone agreed.
Councillor Dexter Smith (Conservative: Colnbrook with Poyle) said many commonwealth veterans joined the army in previous campaigns to obtain ‘highly valued’ British passports, adding military service shouldn’t be a ‘backdoor way’ of getting one by non-nationals.
Cllr Smith said: “This motion lacks sincerity as well as common sense or any sense of relevance to the present day.
“Next, Labour will be telling us that we should gain Icelandic citizenship for working four years for a certain retailer.”
Outraged councillors called Cllr Smith’s comments ‘disgraceful’, ‘disgusting’, and ‘demeaning’ – with councillor Waqas Sabah (Labour: Farnham) saying he was ‘deeply offended’ by his remarks.
They demanded Cllr Smith to retract his comments and apologise.
Cllr Mann said: “As my colleagues have so rightfully pointed out on how disgraceful and despicable some of those comments are.
“He [Cllr Smith] is either woefully been misinformed and misunderstood the premise of the motion or he is intentionally being condescending and imperialistic.
“I sincerely hope it’s the former and he had simply misunderstood the intention of the motion.”
She added the motion focuses more on the 7,500 commonwealth citizens in the British armed forces – with more than 5,000 of whom serving in the army – today rather than veterans in previous campaigns such as World War Two.
The leader of the Conservatives, councillor Wayne Strutton (Haymill and Lynch Hill), said he found it ‘strange’ and ‘disappointing’ the Labour group ‘continuously brings forward motions focusing on national issues rather than the issues in Slough’, adding this is for the Government to discuss rather than the council.
Cllr Mann said: “Any councillor who says that the issue of commonwealth armed service veterans are not an issue for Slough clearly do not understand the community of Slough and the people who live in the community.”
A majority of members were for the motion, Cllr Smith was against and three Conservative councillors abstained.