Tory peer Lord Tebbit who condemned EU citizens' right to stay employed immigrant workers in his own home

May Bulman

A Conservative peer who accused the House of Lords of “thinking of nothing but the rights of foreigners” employed immigrants in his home.

Lord Norman Tebbit, former minister under Margaret Thatcher, paid a number of immigrants, including Europeans, to carry out household tasks and care for his disabled wife — despite having condemned peers during a Brexit debate for attempting to protect the rights of "foreigners".

One Czech woman, Marketa Ziskova, said she worked in the former Conservative cabinet minister's household in 2007 as a relief carer for his disabled wife, during which she claimed she was paid minimum wage and told to address the couple as “Lord” and "Lady”.

Ms Ziskova, who lived in Britain for nine years before returning to the Czech Republic in 2013, provided The Independent with a copy of a pay slip she said demonstrates her employment under Lord Tebbit in May 2017. She described her several months working as a relief carer for Lady Tebbit as an “unpleasant” experience.

"They always had foreign carers. There was me, a girl from Slovakia and another girl from South Africa, but we worked single-handed shifts," Ms Ziskova said.

“When we had time off we still had to stay at their house and sleep there. We couldn’t stay with friends, for example.

"We ate dinner with them and were only allowed to drink water while they drank wine. Our food was in a separate fridge and it was mainly Tesco’s economy.

“We had to call them Lord and Lady Tebbit. It felt like they owned us. It was an unpleasant experience."

In response to the claims, Lord Tebbit confirmed to The Independent that he had employed foreign workers in his home, but denied allegations that he mistreated staff.

“We never shopped at Tesco’s, apart from to get petrol. And we never had separate meals. They had their own rooms, their own bathroom, they had a television,” the peer said.

“It’s a long while ago and perhaps her memory I not entirely correct, and quite likely mine isn’t either. But I can absolutely assure you that we’ve never, never had one menu for us and another for the girls working for us.

“Apart from anything else it would complicate things because it’s a big house, but we’ve only got one kitchen.”

Lord Tebbit said that in one instance they had supported a Polish woman who worked for them with her journey through university.

“One Polish worker who returned to Poland some years ago to go to university was pretty hard up, so we had her back here every summer and every Christmas," he said.

"It meant she had no living expenses at home, and we were able to pay her so she could earn and save money to finance herself through medical school. She’s going to qualify as a doctor this year."

He added that while he had employed foreign nationals, “some black, some white”, their household staff was currently made up of only British workers, because they were more likely to be “stayers”.

“For some time now we’ve been entirely British staffed. The thing about non-British nationals is that they tend to not be 'stayers',” he said.

It comes a day after the former minister sparked anger in the House of Lords on Wednesday when he attacked the bid by peers to give a post-Brexit guarantee to three million EU citizens living in Britain.

Drawing gasps from those around him, Lord Tebbit accused peers of attempting to protect the rights of EU nationals of “thinking of nothing but the rights of foreigners,” before adding: “Why is everybody here today so excited about an amendment which looks after foreigners and not the British?”

When later asked about the remarks he made in the House of Lords about the rights of EU nationals, Lord Tebbit told The Independent: “The gasps of horror in the house of Lords when I referred to foreigners — that’s what they are. If you’re an Italian in Britain, you’re a foreigner. If I go to Italy, I’m a foreigner.

“Of course their rights should be protected. The issue is that Ms Merkel and President Hollande because they’re in political trouble — scared of AfD and Marine le Pen — they want to talk tough.

“Ms Merkel refused to talk to Ms May about settling the matter of the British subjects living in the EU alongside the question of EU national living in Britain. It’s very simple what they have to do — protect rights on both sides.”

Lord Tebbit has been known to express an anti-immigrant sentiment in the past.

As an MP under John Major in 1991, he said he did not think certain immigrant communities would assimilate “because some of them insist on sticking to their own culture, like the Muslims in Bradford and so forth, and they are extremely dangerous”.

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