HC Deb 25 May 1944 vol 400 cc908-9
17. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider introducing amending legislation to preclude foreign courts in this country from sentencing their nationals to death for offences that do not warrant the extreme penalty under our own laws.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison))

By the Allied Forces Act, 1940, provision was made whereby the Allied Powers were enabled to exercise in this country jurisdiction over members of their armed forces for certain purposes. Except in the case of the United States of America, this jurisdiction is concurrent with that of the courts of this country in respect of any conduct that is also an offence against our law, and the Allied Powers have agreed that they will notify any death sentences passed in the United Kingdom by their courts to the Minister responsible for the appropriate Service Department and that they will not carry out any such sentence except with his concurrence. As regards the United States, Parliament by the United States of America (Visiting Forces) Act, 1942, gave to the United States authorities exclusive criminal jurisdiction over members of their armed forces. I am not prepared to consider the introduction of legislation to amend either of these Acts of Parliament.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Is the Minister aware that the American authorities in this country have sentenced to death certain negroes for offences that are not punishable by death in this country? [HON. MEMBERS: "And white people, too."] Can he do anything to prevent the American Government sentencing to death on British soil persons whose offences are not so punishable under our law?

Mr. Morrison

The colour of the troops is, of course, irrelevant. With regard to the other aspect of the matter, this House, deliberately, with its eyes open, and I think wisely, gave to the American Forces complete criminal jurisdiction. That being so, the laws of the United States must necessarily apply.

Hon. Members


Mr. Rhys Davies

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.