HC Deb 02 July 1968 vol 767 cc1289-90
23. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the efforts which he is making to have expedited the proceedings against Mr. W. Nash of Burnopfield, County Durham, who has been held in custody in New Delhi for many months on charges of alleged smuggling.

Mr. Whitlock

Our High Commissioner in New Delhi has made appropriate representations to the Indian authorities about the time Mr. Nash has already been in custody, and I hope that the proceedings against him will now be expedited.

Mr. Watkins

I thank my right hon. Friend for the efforts which he and the High Commissioner have made on behalf of my constituent. However, is it not disgraceful that anyone should be held in custody for so long without any charges being proved against him?

Mr. Whitlock

Mr. Nash was arrested on 15th December and could not produce bail. The Indian Customs authorities completed their inquiries on 12th March when a complaint was alleged against him in court. I understand that there are 24 witnesses in this case, of whom only eight have so far appeared in court. Progress is slow, but the conduct of the case is a matter for the Indian courts on which I cannot comment. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that Mr. Nash is in good health, is being well treated, and is regularly visited in gaol by the staff of our High Commission.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

As the Indian authorities have a very good record for expedition in such cases, can the hon. Gentleman say why there has been this delay in this case?

Mr. Whitlock

Presumably the delay has been because of the need of the Indian Customs authorities to complete their inquiries. They were not completed until 12th March. Since then, there have been a number of hearings of the court and a variety of witnesses have been examined.