Former BR head 'knew nothing of bribe claims'

(First Edition)

SIR Peter Parker, the former chairman of British Rail, yesterday told a court of his 'surprise' at allegations that railway officials had received bribes from an engineering equipment supplier.

Sir Peter was giving evidence at the Old Bailey in the trial of the former head of BR's civil engineering department, David Currie, who is accused of receiving air tickets, champagne worth over pounds 700 and other hospitality in return for contracts. The prosecution claims the bribes came from Plasser Railway Machinery (GB) Ltd, between 1978 and 1988.

Sir Peter was asked if he was ever informed that colleagues were receiving gifts while he was chairman for seven years from 1976.' No. All this comes . . . as a considerable surprise,' he said.

'It was never brought to my attention people had been excessively entertained.'

Sir Peter said he had asked for a review following allegations in the early 1980s that relationships between Plasser and BR staff were 'too cosy'. But an internal investigation concluded there was not 'a shed of evidence' of misconduct.

Norbert Jurasek, 51, the managing director of Plasser, of Wargrave, Berkshire and Michael Brooks, 64, the company secretary, of Ringwood, Hampshire, and the company itself deny plotting to bribe BR employees and giving gifts to Mr Currie. Mr Currie, 66, of Penn, Buckinghamshire, denies taking them.

Asked about his views on corporate hospitality by Julian Bevan QC, for Brooks, Sir Peter said he had been to Covent Garden many times 'and I can never remember paying for a ticket'. But he added: 'There is a world of difference between entertainment and trying to fix a contract.'