Peter Bleach

– in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 2nd March 1999.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor Conservative, Rochford and Southend East 3:47 pm, 2nd March 1999

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the conduct of the Home Secretary and of the Metropolitan police in the case of Mr. Peter Bleach, whose trial on a charge that involves a hanging penalty is nearing completion in Calcutta. Although I do not wish to interfere in any way with the respected Indian courts, there is clear evidence that the Home Secretary, whose presence I greatly welcome, has misinterpreted some evidence that is crucial to the case, and that the Metropolitan police have acted improperly and illegally in producing evidence to the courts in India. The evidence is so specific and so clear that I believe the House has a duty to consider the issues, and to ensure that the courts in India are told the truth.

In a nutshell, Mr. Bleach and several others are accused of conspiring to drop ammunition and weapons in West Bengal in an endeavour to create armed conflict in India. Mr. Bleach has contended throughout that he advised the authorities of the approach made to him to participate in the arms drop and of every step that he took in the organisation of the venture. To that extent, the recording of the contacts between Mr. Bleach and the security and other authorities are crucial.

One vital piece of evidence given to the court by the Government, which I have, is a handwritten report of a meeting between Mr. Bleach and the North Yorkshire police in September 1995. However, the copy of the document that was given to the Indian court, which I also have, has significant parts removed from it at the beginning and the end.

Mr. Bleach believed that the document had been deliberately tampered with and altered, so I took up the issue with the Home Secretary in a letter of 20 April. On 14 May I received a reply from the right hon. Gentleman stating that, having reviewed the whole situation, he had come to the conclusion that it was nothing more than a clerical error by the police.

I was therefore horrified to hear last night that a police officer, Sergeant E1cock, giving evidence in Calcutta on 18 February, which I have in my possession, stated that he had altered the document on the instruction of MI5. Such an alteration requires a PII certificate, but none was sought. It is obvious that the Home Secretary and Sergeant E1cock cannot both be correct. We have a duty to Mr. Bleach to clarify the situation.

To protect himself during the preparations for the arms drop, Mr. Bleach prudently recorded every word said to him on the telephone by Government officials. However, his home and the home of a disabled lady in London were raided, in one case by 10 constables, and all the tapes except one have disappeared. Most worryingly, when the right to carry out such searches was being secured, sections of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989 simply were not adhered to in one case at Bow street magistrates court. Sergeant E1cock not only admitted that, but stated that it was normal practice.

I have abundant evidence of the various endeavours made to prevent the courts in India from knowing of the close contact between Mr. Bleach and British authorities in this business. It is vital for justice for a British citizen that the facts be clarified and transmitted to the courts in India. Without a debate, and without such clarification, Mr. Bleach will face an Indian court that may not be aware of the facts. That is why I am calling for an emergency debate.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

I have listened carefully and intently to the hon. Gentleman. I must now give my decision without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24. I cannot therefore submit his application to the House.