Dec 10, 2008

World - Swraj Paul first Asian deputy speaker in Britain's House of Lords

LONDON: Leading NRI entrepreneur Lord Swraj Paul has scripted history by becoming the first Asian deputy speaker of the British House of Lords. NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has been appointed the first Asian deputy speaker of UK's House of Lords.

Though people of Indian origin have held ministerial berths in the British cabinet, this is the first time an Indian has been appointed to such a high position in UK's parliament. ( Watch )

"I am honoured," said Lord Paul in his reaction to the announcement.

He said it was an honour "for a person who comes from a freedom fighters' family from India. In fact, my name Swraj was given because this was a slogan of Mahatma Gandhi - We want Swaraj (freedom)," Lord Paul, founder of multinational national company Caparo, said last night.

"It speaks a great deal about British and the British system of democracy and is also a tribute to the country of my origin (India). I am looking forward to serving the Parliament."

The Speaker or Deputy Speaker presides over the house of Lords session, sitting on the Woolsack, a large red seat stuffed with wool, at the front of the Lords Chamber.

Conferred the Peerage in 1996 and honoured with the Padma Bhushan by President of India in 1983, 77-year-old Lord Paul is one of the most famous Indian origin entrepreneurs based in Britain.

He is the founder of the multinational company Caparo, the UK-based steel and engineering group, with an annual turnover of 1.5 billion pounds.

Lord Paul was born in Jalandhar in 1931. His father ran a small foundry, which made steel buckets and farming equipment.

Paul graduated from the Punjab University and subsequently obtained a Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA.

After his return to India, Paul joined the Apeejay Group, which his father had founded.

Destiny brought him to London in 1966 in search of treatment for his daughter Ambika, who was suffering from leukemia and after her untimely death, he stayed on.

Lord Paul started his business in Britain in 1968. After acquiring one steel unit, he went on to acquire more units and founded the Caparo group in the year 1978. Caparo developed into one of the leading producers of welded steel tube and spiral-welded pipe in the UK.

In 1996, Lord Paul stepped down from the management of the Caparo group and handed over the reins to his three sons.

Lord Paul has won several honours and awards. He wrote the biography of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and later he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1983.

Currently British Ambassador for Overseas Business, Lord Paul is Chancellor of two universities -- the University of Westminster and the University of Wolverhampton.

A philanthropist, Lord Paul donated one million pounds to the London Zoo to save it from closure in 1993.
Lord Paul was also appointed as Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Committee with the key task of providing infrastructure for the London Olympics 2012.

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