August 6, 2016 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London: “It had been thought several months ago there would be between 40-50 new peers this summer and there was a high expectation that this could include at least one or two Sikhs. There was particular pressure on the Labour Party that has had no Sikh peers since Lord King, its one and only Sikh peer, passed away more than three years ago in January 2013. There was even talk of a turban wearing Sikh would be the next Labour peer”, Sikh Federation UK said in a written statement issued on August 5.
“What we have seen in the last 24 hours is the creation of 16 new peers as part of David Cameron’s resignation list, 13 new Conservative peers, two cross-benchers and one new Labour peer. Cameron appointed a staggering 190 new peers in the last six years. Some in the media have called these latest appointments as ‘peerages to pals’. It is not just many of Cameron’s nominations that are causing controversy, but also Jeremy Corbyn’s one nomination of Shami Chakrabarti as she ran Labour’s ‘independent inquiry’ into allegations of anti-Semitism and racism in the party and more or less gave a clean bill of health. Whilst it appears Jeremy Corbyn was allowed to give only one name from Labour to keep up Labour numbers many have criticised the timing of his nomination and whether it would have been better for Labour to avoid any nominations in Cameron’s resignation list”, the statement reads further.
“It is expected Theresa May as the current Prime Minister will want to fairly soon put out her own tranche of new peers into the Lords not linked to Cameron’s ‘resignation list’ and Jeremy Corbyn will also be able to make some more nominations. Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) has therefore today written to the Prime Minister, Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to work together to ensure the House of Lords and Parliament better represents the people it serves and there is equality of opportunity. The letter states: “Those selected by the political parties should be based on merit and those who have served their country and communities with unprecedented distinction and are the most deserving.”, the statement reads.
“Expectations remain high as all party leaders and politicians across the political spectrum accept Sikhs are under represented in Parliament. Following his appointment a year ago, the Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson gave a public commitment to the Sikh community that he has repeated several times. More recently the Labour Leader and his deputy went out of their way in the EU referendum campaign to commit to greater Sikh representation in all legislatures, including the House of Lords”.
“There are currently no Sikh MPs, although the size of the Sikh population and extent to which Sikhs are members of political parties, that is emerging from the UK Sikh Survey commissioned by the Sikh Network, suggests there should be at least six or seven MPs if the party selection processes were fair and designed to nominate Sikhs from safe seats to make parliament more representative”.
“Sikhs are also unacceptably under represented in the House of Lords compared to other minority communities, such as the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim communities. In relative terms these minority communities disproportionately each have between 10 to 20 times as many Parliamentarians in total as the Sikh community. One of Cameron’s new peers, investment banker Jitesh Gadhia, has added to the sense the Sikh minority is being deliberately overlooked when it comes to Parliamentary representation”.
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