| Mittal: ‘Role model’
London, Aug. 7: The Indian-born steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal is to be given a life peerage, it was claimed today.
Others of Indian origin said to be in the running to join Lord Swraj Paul, Lord Meghnad Desai and Baroness Flather in the House of Lords include the food millionaire, Sir Gulam Noon.
Mittal, who gave an astonishing '2-million donation to the Labour party last month, still retains his Indian passport, which would be a hitch if he wants a peerage.
“I’m proud to be an Indian national,” he has told The Telegraph on many an occasion.
But with dual nationality now possible in theory, he could take up British nationality to make himself eligible for a seat in the House of Lords. He could also keep his Indian citizenship. “His application for British nationality could be fasttracked,” said a senior Indian businessman last night. “The state can do what it likes.”
It is not clear whether he would first have to give up his Indian passport to get a British one and then reapply for Indian citizenship.
Among Indians in the UK, Mittal has something of a mixed reputation. He is admired for having taken the Mittal Steel Company to the dizzy heights of becoming the biggest steel company in the world.
“But when it comes to donating money to Asian charities or causes in Britain, he is hard to convince,” said one Indian fundraiser.
Prime Minister Tony Blair’s instinct is to promote more people of Asian origin into the House of Lords so that they are seen as role models by the rest of society. Unlike Noon, who has a record of service to the Asian community, Mittal’s efforts have been directed almost exclusively to expanding his own company.
According to today’s Sunday Times, “Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s richest man who recently gave '2-m to the Labour party, is being lined up for a seat in the Lords. He is one of a number of successful British-based Asians, including Sir Gulam Noon, a ready-meals tycoon, expected to be offered peerages this year.”
The paper says: “The honours will prove controversial as both men are big Labour party donors and Mittal’s previous links with Tony Blair sparked a ‘cash-for-favours’ row in 2001.”
That is a reference to the controversy generated by Mittal’s '125,000 donation.
“Government sources say it wants more successful Asian businessmen in the Lords to act as role models for disaffected youngsters from ethnic minorities,” adds the Sunday Times.
A Labour source has told the paper: “Mittal and Noon are on the list for the next round of peers. We are expecting criticism about the donations, but Mittal has risen from nothing to being one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country ' just the sort of person you want in the Lords.”
One of Mittal’s friends was quoted by the paper as saying that he was very interested in becoming a peer: “He has aspirations to become a lord. His recent donation is an indication of his desire to become more involved in politics.”
The Sunday Times said: “Blair has a track record of giving peerages to key donors. Labour sources say wealthy people support the party with gifts but this should not disqualify them from peerages.”