Minority Ethnic and Religious Communities: Cultural and Economic Contribution — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:18 pm on 24th May 2012.

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Photo of Lord Hussain Lord Hussain Liberal Democrat 1:18 pm, 24th May 2012

My Lords, I apologise for being slightly late because of transport problems and for not being here at the beginning of the debate. I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, for securing it.

Britain owes its place in the world to the contributions of many people, of all races, colours and creeds, who have settled in the United Kingdom from various parts of the world. They have contributed to the economic growth and well-being of the nation. I work with many of them.

Owing to the limited time for today's debate, I shall focus on the Muslim community, many of whose members migrated from the Indian subcontinent for economic reasons. Most of them were invited to work in our manufacturing industries in the 1950s and 1960s. They arrived almost empty handed. According to the Guardian of 28 January 2011, the Muslim population in the UK is now more than 2.8 million. Over the years, these communities not only carried out some of the tedious and physically demanding jobs that were hard to fill but contributed enormously in many sectors.

I will quote a few examples. According to the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr Mahmood Adil, the Deputy Regional Director of Public Health for NHS North West, has made a substantial contribution through his clinical, public health, academic and senior Civil Service roles, notably the development of the Diabetes National Service Framework and the preparation of the Department of Health's toolkit to support good practice in international humanitarian and health work.

Professor Waqar Ahmed is deputy vice-chancellor of research and enterprise at Middlesex University. His previous academic career was at the University of Leeds as a professor and director of the Centre for Research in Primary Care, and at the Universities of Bradford and York. For three years, he was the chief social scientist in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, where he launched the ODPM/ESRC Fellowship and Studentship Scheme and the ODPM research networks.

According to the London Chambers of Commerce report of December 2001, one in 10 businesses in London is owned by people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin. A good example of entrepreneurship is Sir Anwar Pervez, who came to Britain aged 21 and became a bus conductor in Bradford, before opening a corner shop in London in 1962. He launched the Bestway cash and carry firm in 1976. According to the Female Entrepreneur Association in September 2011, the company is now worth over £500 million, employing 5,000 people in the UK and many more abroad.

The online newspaper Muslim View wrote on 23 May 2012 that Britain has more than 10,000 Muslim millionaires, including 53 billionaires. According to the Salaam Portal website, there are 100 charities in the UK run by Muslims. The list of Muslim contributions to contemporary Britain goes on. If the time allowed, I could have given similar examples of contributions made to our society by the Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and other communities.

Finally, I ask the coalition Government, when they are assessing immigration policy, to learn from history in order to implement policies that will benefit everyone in all communities in Britain.