Chris Matheson has called on Boris Johnson to “do a deal” to bring home a Chester man languishing in an Indian jail – so he can share a pint with him before summer ends.
Ray Tindall is one of six ex-soldiers – known as the Chennai Six – serving time for illegal weapons charges, though the men have always maintained their innocence.
Speaking in the Commons, City of Chester MP Mr Matheson appealed to Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, for help.
Mr Matheson said: “Another Foreign Office Questions and still my constituent Ray Tindall and the other men of the Chennai Six are incarcerated in India.
“Will the minister pick up the phone to his opposite number in India, do a deal to get the men deported, so Ray and I can have a pint in Chester before the summer is out?”
Mr Johnson said he appreciated Mr Matheson’s persistence, adding he has personally raised the case with his Indian counterparts on several occasions.
He added: “What they say to me is they cannot interfere in their own courts system, any more than we can interfere in our own courts system.
“That is where the matter currently stands but I wish to assure you we continue to raise it on your behalf and on behalf of your constituents.”
Conservative former Foreign Office minister Sir Hugo Swire later suggested the Foreign Secretary meets the chief minister in the state where they are being held to find a solution.
Mr Johnson replied: “You suggest an interesting avenue for further work. I will certainly look at the possibility of talking to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
“Whether we will be any more successful with her in making our points, I will ascertain, but we will leave no stone unturned.”
The other men involved are Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll and Bute, Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland, Paul Towers, from Yorkshire, John Armstrong, from Wigton, Cumbria, and Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire.
Along with Mr Tindall, who is from the Newton area of Chester, they were working for US maritime company AdvanFort providing anti-piracy protection when their ship, MV Seaman Guard Ohio, which had a crew of 35, was detained and weapons found.
They were arrested in October 2013 on illegal weapons charges, which were dropped in the following months, but an appeal followed from the Indian authorities and the men were later convicted and sentenced to five years in jail.
Prime Minister Theresa May raised their plight with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the recent G20 summit.
- See full story in the Chester Leader