HC Deb 10 May 1944 vol 399 cc1875-6
1. Mr. Hugh Lawson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that two coloured American soldiers have been sentenced to death for rape by a court-martial held in this country recently; and if he will inform the American Government that the carrying out of such a sentence would be interpreted by many people in this country as racial persecution and therefore likely to cause bad feeling between the two countries.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. The second part of the Question raises an issue upon which His Majesty's Government have no basis for representations to the United States Government.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Is it not an anomaly that a person can be sentenced to death on British soil, for an offence to which the same punishment would not apply under our own law?

Mr. Eden

The jurisdiction of the United States authorities over their Armed Forces in this country rests upon the Visiting Forces Act passed by this House in 1941. Therefore, I have no locus standi in the matter.

Mr. Davies

Is it not a fact that Parliament never anticipated that this would happen?

Mr. Eden

On the contrary, if the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to read the Debate he will find that it was clearly stated by the Minister that, in some respects, American military law was more severe than our own.

Mr. Davies

It is a disgrace.

Mr. Hugh Lawson

Can the Foreign 1944 Secretary say whether the same sort of sentence has been passed for a similar offence, on white American soldiers in this country?

Mr. Eden

This action has been taken under an Act which the House has passed. It is in accordance with the law of another country, and it is being administered in accordance with a decision of this House. I really cannot say more than that.