HC Deb 25 May 1944 vol 400 cc913-5
26 and 27. Mr. Kendall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he is aware of the situation that exists in Grantham and many other towns where it is unfit for a woman to walk unescorted through the town at night or in the daytime due to the in-effectiveness of the American military authorities to deal with the improper behaviour of the American Forces and the complete failure to prevent unconcealed immorality and to give proper protection to women; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with this serious question;

(2) what steps does he propose to take to give adequate protection to the moral welfare of young girls of the town of Grantham and other districts who are being accosted by members of the American Forces, many of them being incited to alcoholic excesses which is tending to undermine the morality of a number of these young persons who, having been directed away from home, do not have the benefit of parental control.

Mr. H. Morrison

In the time available since these Questions appeared on the Order Paper, I have not been able to make any special inquiries into the conditions at Grantham. I am, however, in constant touch with the general situation in the country, and my information does not suggest that these Questions give either a fair or an accurate picture of the position. In particular, the innuendo that the United States authorities are failing to assist to the utmost in disciplining their troops and checking misbehaviour is quite unjustified. They have, at all times, co-operated to the fullest possible extent with our police; they take prompt and severe disciplinary action in any case in which a breach of the law is established, and they have shown the greatest willingness to act on any suggestions made to them by the British authorities. A variety of measures have been taken by the Departments of State who are concerned with this social problem, including the provision of additional facilities for healthy recreation for the young of both sexes, the education of the public as to the dangers of venereal disease, and the employment of more women police.

Mr. Kendall

Will the Home Secretary please bring to the notice of the American authorities that, whilst we are more than anxious to extend our hospitality to the United States troops, we would wish to see these troops extend to our womenfolk the same chivalry and courtesy that they extend to their own women-folk in their own country?

Mr. Morrison

If any specific complaints are made, I will, of course, examine them, but I am bound to say that the American authorities have been most helpful and co-operative. I would venture to suggest that these matters are far better dealt with by correspondence, and I venture to add that I think these Questions put on the Order Paper are misconceived and rather mischievous.

Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward

Does not Question 17, which was asked by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) prove that the American military authorities are doing their best to deal with this situation?

Mr. Morrison

That is so.

Sir Herbert Williams

Apart from the Home Secretary's general answer, will he make specific inquiries into the circumstances at Grantham, having regard to the fact that the situation there is much graver than he appreciates?

Mr. Morrison

I certainly will look into the allegations, but there was not time to do so between the Questions going on the Order Paper and now.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this state of things applies to many other towns besides Grantham? Is he also aware that the offences complained of in the Questions, if they are committed by the coloured troops, are subject to the death penalty, and that the white troops are allowed to do as they like?

Mr. Morrison

That suggestion is a very mischievous one. I understand that American law on that subject applies to both coloured and white troops. Of course, it is true that in every Army serving abroad, difficulties and black patches will occur here and there, but I am bound to say, having kept closely in touch with the situation, that my belief is that, broadly speaking, the conduct of the American troops, both white and black, is exceedingly good.

Mr. Kendall

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter, at the earliest opportunity, on the Motion for the Adjournment.