Labour demands answers over Tory donor Ranbir Singh Suri’s peerage

 

Senior reporter

The body which oversees the awarding of peerages has been asked to investigate the case of a major Conservative Party donor who was elevated to the House of Lords by David Cameron.

Labour has written to the House of Lords Appointments Commission to ask whether the recommendation of a peerage for Ranbir Singh Suri was properly assessed before being accepted. The 79-year-old jewellery magnate has donated more than £300,000 to the Tories since 2004.

Yesterday The Independent revealed how Downing Street deliberately created a misleading impression about the new Lord Suri by suggesting in its official citation that he was “former General Secretary of the Board of British Sikhs” – a group which has not existed for more than 20 years and which folded after holding only a few meetings.

No 10 also described Lord Suri as a leading figure in Britain’s Sikh community, a claim which has been dismissed by prominent Sikh groups, who said he was unknown to them. One of them described the suggestion as a “bare-faced lie”.

In a letter to Lord Kakkar, the chairman of the Commission, Labour MP Chi Onwurah asks if it was made aware of Lord Suri’s “multiple donations” to the Tories and his membership of the party’s Renaissance Forum dinner club, which is only open to people who have given £10,000 or more.

She also asks what information the Commission was given by the Tories about Lord Suri’s role on the British Board of Sikhs; whether it sought assurances about his record of charitable and voluntary service; and whether special advisers in Downing Street played any part in the decision to recommend him for a peerage.

Although the Commission is responsible for vetting nominations for peerages for propriety, it does not assess their “suitability” to enter the House of Lords, which it says is a matter for the parties recommending them.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of Lord Suri, who was a magistrate for more than a decade and runs a successful jewellery company, Oceanic Jewellers, in London. His spokesman said yesterday that he was “unavailable for comment”.

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