50th Anniversary of the Expulsion of Asians from Uganda Debate

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Department: Home Office

50th Anniversary of the Expulsion of Asians from Uganda

Lord Dykes Excerpts
Thursday 27th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Dykes Portrait Lord Dykes (CB)
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My Lords, I warmly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for her inspiring speech, as well as other noble Lords for the extremely inspiring and moving speeches we have heard today.

When John Major was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, as we became friends very rapidly, he very kindly agreed to come and speak at one of my routine ward meetings in Stanmore, my biggest and most important ward in Harrow East when I was its MP. I drove him up in my car; we did not talk because he was so tired from work, so I said, “We’ll start talking when we get there.” The chairman of the ward, who gave the function in his house, was an interesting new man whom we had not really got to know called Mr Dolar Popat. It was a very routine occasion, though more social than others. John Major enjoyed it, they enjoyed it and he made a very good speech.

The following day, I said to John Major, “Thank you for coming; I appreciate it very much indeed. You were a great help. It was nice of Dolar Popat to offer his lovely house for this purpose.” He said, “Yes, and by the way, I hope you won’t mind me saying so, but ward chairmen in Conservative associations up and down the country are routinely not particularly inspiring. This young man did rather a good job, and I think he will probably go far in life.” I said, “That may be prescient, but I don’t know; only time will tell.”

Going back to 1972 and the events that have been discussed today by so many noble Lords, I had started working for Edward Heath in the 1964 election, I then helped him in the 1966 election—he also helped me, as I was standing—and particularly in 1970 when we came in. At 30, Winston Churchill junior, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and I were the three youngest to come into the House. Edward Heath was a very gruff and difficult man in many ways, and was known for not being good at socialising, including in his constituency of Bexley. However, I found his compassion coming out when he said, “Hugh, we are going to have settlement zones in Harrow and Leicester to help the Asians who have been expelled by Idi Amin.”

I remember one of the people at the function when the noble Lord, Lord Popat, was ward chairman saying, “We don’t want Asians coming into this country from anywhere, because there are too many Jews in this constituency already.” That was the beginning of the contact. What the noble Lord has achieved in his career has been remarkable. His book was very inspiring indeed.

Edward Heath would not back down. He said, “We’re going to do this. We’ll take a thousand in Harrow to start with, and in Leicester, and see how that goes. You tell the association that that will happen.” Some of the members were very difficult about it; some said some very nasty things, but most did not. When the Asians came—as they did many years later into Harrow, by coincidence—they immediately made the local borough economy dynamic. Just a small number of Asian businesspeople had that effect on the local area, which was prosperous but slow-moving.

That was such a remarkable achievement that the impression it left remained with me for ever, as did my admiration for Edward Heath—not least because we both loved the European Union and he was the architect of our entry into it. Those two things may be among the greatest things he did. Unfortunately, it all went wrong very quickly after 1974, but we have to remember that none the less.

We must thank the Asian communities for what they have done for this country. They have provided a superb example of what can happen when foreign people come to stay, work and live here and become citizens, with or without British passports. They contribute so much to the good of British society. That attitude must now be reinforced, because there are still some dark forces in dark corners of constituencies up and down the country where that view is not held. We must fight that vigorously and make sure we stand up in future for what is just and right for those communities and the whole of the British public.