HC Deb 21 March 1944 vol 398 cc644-5
3. Mrs. Tate

asked the Secretary of State for War why the medals won by the late Sergeant A. J. Taber, of the 11th Hussars, have been sent to his father, whom he had not seen since the age of eight years, instead of to his mother who cared for and supported him and whose name he gave as his next-of-kin.

Sir J. Grigg

Medals and decorations are part of the estate of deceased soldiers. This soldier died intestate and in such cases the father, under the Regimental Debts Act, takes precedence of the mother as the person entitled to the estate. This legal position is not altered by the fact that the soldier gave his mother's name as that of his next-of-kin.

Mrs. Tate

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that, where the parents are separated and one parent has had sole charge of the child since early youth, that parent should be regarded as the natural kin, especially in view of the very prevalent rumour that mothers do make some substantial contribution to the production of the child?

Sir J. Grigg

I am sure the hon. Lady would not have me break the law, and, without breaking the law, I do not know of anything that I can do about it.

Mr. Bellenger

Would the position have been altered if the soldier made his will in Army Book 64?

Sir J. Grigg

That was intended to be the sense of my answer. This trouble has arisen because the soldier died intestate.

Miss Rathbone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if the law is as he says, it is inconsistent with the spirit of the law as applied to civilians, because, under the Custody of Infants Act, 1925, it is laid down that, where there is a quarrel between husband and wife, in all cases affecting the children, the matter should not be regarded as one between husband and wife, but should be settled solely with regard to the interests of the children?

Sir J. Grigg

I am very grateful for that information, but the law as regards the soldier is as I have stated it.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Will it be possible for the notice of the soldier to be called to the law, so that in similar cases soldiers can take action?

Sir J. Grigg

We have repeatedly sent round instructions that the attention of soldiers proceeding overseas should be called to the extreme desirability of making a will in Army Book 64.