HC Deb 30 November 1920 vol 135 cc1102-4

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether an English woman who has married a German and lives in Germany with her husband, and is accordingly a German subject, has no right to receive moneys left her in England under her mother's will; whether such moneys are payable by the executors to the Public Trustee; if so, on whose behalf and for how long does he hold them; and is he aware that the Government of the United States of America is allowing bequests to former United States subjects made German subjects by marriage only to be paid to them?


I have been asked to reply. The property of German nationals which is situated in this country is charged as security for the payment by Germany of the debts and claims of various classes of British creditors. Accordingly, an English woman who has acquired German nationality in the circumstances referred to in the question would have no right to receive moneys left her in this country by will if the testator died before 10th January, 1920, the date of the ratification of the Peace Treaty. When moneys have been so left by will, the executors must notify the custodian, and the moneys cannot be transferred or in any way dealt in without his consent. I understand that legislation enacted in the United States empowers the President, in certain circumstances, to release the property of United States born women married to German subjects.


Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman think there is any hope of any change in favour of the persons interested in this matter?


No, Sir; I see no reason whatever to give preferential treatment to a German subject at the expense of British creditors to whom his assets in this country are charged.


Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this also applies to the widow of a German, a British-born woman, and the Public Trustee will not give anything to her, and she is starving, not having enough money to go on with?


I believe it is notorious that hard cases certainly make bad law. I do not think a case of that sort alters the principle I have laid down. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade recently announced the appointment of a Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Younger, to deal with any especially hard cases of the kind.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is it open as an act of grace, in a hard case, to allow some benefit to British women who happened to be married to Germans?


Any hard case would be referred to Justice Younger's Committee. That Committee will scrutinise very closely applications that are made to them.