My Lords, I thank my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, for initiating this debate, which is very important and highlights the contributions of the minority ethnic communities in the United Kingdom.
Let me start by saying that yesterday I took part in a photograph session in Westminster Hall. There were 40 Peers and MPs from both Houses. As noble Lords have already heard from the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Sheikh, there were only four such Members 25 years ago. I am sure your Lordships' House will agree with me that that in itself is a testimony to the huge contributions made by the people of ethnic minority origin in this country.
Ethnic minorities, found in all walks of life, have integrated into the society in which they live by taking opportunities, utilising their skills and making their own mark on society. Here I might add that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, is an example of one of those who has made his own mark, in his own way, on his own Parsee community with which he is involved.
Contributions have been made in every sector from religion, business, and professions such as the law, accountancy, medicine, and of course philanthropy and politics. As we are restricted to speak for a short time in this debate, it is not possible for me to talk about all those sectors. However, I would like to make a point on business. There are many people who contribute, from those on news stands and in small corner shops to multinational corporations. Examples are my local shop, which is run by a Gujarati, and the Tata Group, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, Tetley Tea, TSC, Corus, and many other businesses. The benefits enjoyed from gainful employment and remuneration are enormous, and aid the growth of the economy.
I, too, have contributed in a small way through my own company, Rinku Group. Here, I wish to declare an interest. My company started in 1964 from a market stall in the market town, Widnes, with only me and my wife, and is now a respectable fashion business with more than 300 concession retail outlets employing some 400 staff in this country. It is hard work, but at same time the opportunities offered by this country are tremendous in promoting and helping people to start up businesses that can grow to provide employment and security, as well as contribute to the communities that they are involved with through charitable giving.
However, this progressive assimilation of minority ethnic people is a wealth that is measured not in pounds and pennies but in enrichment, enlightenment, integration and a uniting of different cultures within the local community in which they live and work. This is a solid foundation on which to move forward, taking with it a new generation, who, shaped by this evolution, can surely bring further advances and benefits to the cultural life and economy of the United Kingdom.