Why I trust PM May to get right deal for Northern Ireland on Brexit: Lord Rana
Writing exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph as he joins the Lords' Conservative benches, Lord Rana says Theresa May has our interests at heart
My first encounter with the Conservative Party came in 1985. I worked with the then-Secretary of State and his team at the time and was impressed with their efforts to resolve the problems and achieve peace in Northern Ireland.
And, today, I am pleased to announce that I am joining the Conservative benches in the House of Lords. Working with the Government, I believe I will be able to advance the common causes we care about.
During the 1980s, the centre of Belfast was emptied of businesses and emptied of life. Now, it is a thriving city centre. But it could be stronger still. The Conservative Party has always been committed to Northern Ireland, and this Government has led the way in devolving powers to local cities, empowering elected mayors and helping local communities drive local growth.
Belfast City Council's recent launch of a bid for a City Growth Deal is a sign of a city coming together to determine its destiny. I hope the discussions are fruitful.
I have always been devoted to helping those less fortunate than us, both nationally and internationally. While overseas aid spending is sometimes in the headlines for the wrong reasons, David Cameron's commitment to spending 0.7% of our national income helping those in need around the world is a powerful sign of our commitment to the world's poorest. I am pleased that Theresa May is continuing this commitment - a sign that Britain post-Brexit will not close in on itself.
Many will be aware that I advocated passionately for the UK to remain within the European Union and that I was disappointed by the result on June 23.
Although I know that the Remain vote was stronger in Northern Ireland than in England or Wales, I also know that our country is stronger together, and I have been impressed by Theresa May's commitment to the Union and her determination to get the right deal for Northern Ireland as she delivers on the referendum result.
Those of us who live here know just how important it is to maintain the free and open relationship on both sides of the border in Ireland, not just for businesses, but for communities and families as well.
I have always been pleased to play my part in bringing the community together, and now I look forward to supporting Theresa May's Government to ensure we achieve a Brexit deal that works for everyone. The Prime Minister has shown her commitment to building on the UK's strong relationships with nations around the world and taking advantage of the opportunities that the Brexit vote presents for trade and cooperation.
I have long worked to foster links between people and businesses in Northern Ireland and India, now the second largest foreign direct investor in Northern Ireland. Theresa May's government shares this vision, and I was pleased that India was amongst the first countries outside Europe that the Prime Minister visited.
Having been born in India and lived so much of my life in the UK, the Commonwealth has always been of great importance to me. Not just because of the link to India, but because of the common heritage of law and government and the spirit of friendship and cooperation between nations that we see in events like the Commonwealth Games and the regular Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings.
I have been promoting Belfast's case to host the next Heads of Government Meeting, and hope to continue this within the Conservative Party. Indeed, it has been pleasing to see the Prime Minister's move to strengthen relations with the Commonwealth.
Closer to home, Theresa May has focussed her attention on ensuring that government works for everyone, and particularly for those people who are just about managing.
This is an especially pressing issue in Northern Ireland, and I look forward to working with the Government to help people just about managing have more control over their lives.
I am pleased to be joining the Conservative team in the House of Lords and working in support of this Government and to assist them in building a country that works for everyone.