Piara Singh Khabra (20 November 1921 – 19 June 2007) was a British politician who served as the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Ealing Southall from 1992 until his death. He was the fifth Asian, and the first Sikh, to become a British MP. From the retirement of Sir Edward Heath in 2001 until his death, Khabra was the oldest MP sitting in the House of Commons, and at the end of his career was the only sitting MP to have served in the British Commonwealth's forces during the Second World War.
|Member of Parliament|
for Ealing Southall
9 April 1992 – 19 June 2007
|Preceded by||Syd Bidwell|
|Succeeded by||Virendra Sharma|
|Born||20 November 1921|
|Died||19 June 2007 (aged 85)|
Hammersmith Hospital, London
|Spouse(s)||2nd, Beulah Khabra|
|Alma mater||Punjab University|
Khabra was born into a well-off Sikh farming family in the Punjab, then part of British India. Khabra gave his year of birth as 1924, but his marriage certificate dated it as 1921. He attended Khalsa High School and Punjab University, but his education was interrupted by the Second World War, and he served in the Indian Army between 1942 and 1946. He returned to university after the war, earning a degree in social services.
He joined the Communist Party of India, and became a teacher in an elementary school. Refused a visa to emigrate to the United States, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1959 leaving his wife and son behind in Punjab. In 1964 Khabra sponsored his son for immigration to the UK where he completed an engineering degree. Khabra did not have a close relationship with his son who later emigrated to Canada to further his studies. Khabra's first wife and mother of his son emigrated to Canada in 1974 where she lived with her son until her death in 1985.
Lacking qualifications to teach in the UK, Khabra worked in factories. He requalified in 1964, becoming an elementary teacher and then a social worker. He became a leading member of the Asian community in Southall, west London. He also became the President of the Indian Workers' Association, which assisted Indian immigrants to establish themselves and find jobs, and was active in opposition to the far right.
He left the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1960s, and joined the Labour Party in 1972. He became a Justice of the Peace in 1977, and was elected as a member of Ealing Council in 1978. He briefly joined the Social Democratic Party in 1981, leaving two years later and returning to Labour in 1988.
He entered Parliament aged 70 at the 1992 election, the fifth Asian MP and inherited a large majority in the safe Labour seat of Ealing Southall, following Labour's de-selection of the long-serving sitting MP Sydney Bidwell. He claimed to have the largest caseload of immigration and asylum cases of any MP. He maintained good attendance and voting records, but very rarely spoke in Parliament. He said he was proud to speak on the report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and on the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000.
Khabra was a strong supporter of people with autism spectrum disorders. He sponsored one of the most successful early day motions on autism in the 2002 Autism Awareness Year; it was supported by 153 parliamentarians of all parties. Khabra backed the work of the Autism Awareness Campaign UK.
How Khabra voted on key issues from 2001 to 2007:
- Voted very strongly for the Iraq War
- Voted very strongly for university tuition fees
- Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws
- Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards
- Voted very strongly for replacing Trident
- Voted very strongly for the hunting ban
- Voted strongly for equal LGBT rights
- Voted strongly for a stricter asylum system
- Voted for more EU integration
- Voted moderately for laws to stop climate change
- Voted moderately for introducing foundation hospitals
- Voted moderately for a smoking ban
- Voted moderately for removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords
- Voted a mixture of for and against greater autonomy for schools
- Voted moderately against a wholly elected House of Lords
- Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq War
Khabra was known to have made several controversial statements. In the run-up to the 2001 general election, he suggested that Avtar Lit, chairman of Sunrise Radio and an independent challenger for his seat, should be "sent back to India".
In 2002, Khabra also claimed that the local Somali population was behind a recent crime wave in Southall. Somali activists responded to these criticisms by suggesting that their community was being targeted by some Asians who were attempting to drive them out of the area. Ealing Police also indicated that they did not believe Somali youths were responsible for the string of street robberies in question.
Retirement and deathEdit
Khabra died as a result of liver problems on the night of 19 June 2007 at Hammersmith Hospital, where he had been being treated for abscesses on the liver since April. He customarily gave his year of birth as 1924; birth registration was not compulsory in the Punjab until 1970 and so no birth certificate exists, but on his marriage certificate his year of birth was 1921. He was married twice. His first wife died in 1985 in Canada where she was living with his son, and he remarried in 1990. He was survived by his second wife, Beulah Marian, and a son from his first marriage.
- Obituary, The Guardian, 21 June 2007
- Statement by Jack Straw in Hansard, 21 June 2007.
- Obituary, The Times, 21 June 2007
- Obituary Archived 1 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 21 June 2007
- Hélène Mulholland and agencies, Labour MP Piara Khabra dies, Guardian Unlimited, 20 June 2007
- Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 21 June 2007
- "Lives Remembered: Piara Khabra". The Times. 22 June 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2019. (Subscription required.)
- "Autism Campaign's tribute to Piara Khabra MP Archived 2 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine", BUSINESSPORTAL24.COM, 21 June 2007
- "Piara Khabra". TheyWorkForYou.com. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
- "MP in race row over crime", BBC News, 3 September 2002
- "Slaughter will stand in new constituency", Ealing Gazette, 11 December 2006
- David Doyle, "Piara Khabra dies", Ealing Times, 20 June 2007
- Guardian Unlimited Politics - Ask Aristotle: Piara Khabra MP
- TheyWorkForYou.com - Piara S Khabra MP
- BBC News - Piara Khabra profile, 8 March 2005
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Piara Khabra
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Ealing Southall
Sir Edward Heath
| Oldest sitting Member of Parliament