I send my warmest greetings at this special time of Vaisakhi.
As an MP representing thousands of Sikh and Punjabi constituents I know this is a very special time for our community. I look forward to joining the Nagar Kirtan procession from Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, Sedgley St, and attending the Vaisakhi Mela in West Park.
It will also be my honour this year, as every year for the past seven years, to host the Vaisakhi celebrations in Parliament next week. I believe it is very important that Parliament, the home of our democracy, reflects what the United Kingdom is today and am delighted that this celebration takes place every year with support from all parties and speakers from many parts of the Sikh community. I am grateful to Mr Speaker for allowing us to host this Vaisakhi celebration in the Speaker’s state rooms.
At the election last year, two Sikh MPs were elected to Parliament – Preet Kaur Gill as the first woman Sikh MP and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi as the first turban wearing MP. Both of them are doing a great job in Parliament and I am very pleased that as a country we have made this breakthrough in representation.
Following the election we have reformed the All Party Parliamentary Group for UK Sikhs. This Group is chaired by Preet Kaur Gill and I have become its Vice Chair.
A number of specific issues of concern to the community have been taken up including the ongoing campaign to have a war memorial in central London dedicated to the memory of the 80,000 Sikh soldiers who died in the two world wars. I am pleased to say this campaign has gathered force and now raised substantial funds to pay for the project. The next stage is to find an appropriate site in central London.
I will keep working on this campaign and on other issues of interest to the Sikh and Punjabi community. Once again I extend my best wishes for a very happy Vaisakhi.