HC Deb 03 February 1947 vol 432 cc1380-1
27. Major Bramall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in reaching agreement with the U.S. authorities on the maintenance of the children in this country of U.S. Servicemen.

Mr. Mayhew

As the answer is somewhat long, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

While realising that the answer may be long, cannot the Under-Secretary give an indication whether it is in the affirmative or in the negative?

Mr. Mayhew

It is neither the one nor the other.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Can the Under-Secretary say whether he holds out any hope to our constituents who may, unfortunately, be suffering in this connection?

Mr. Mayhew

I am afraid that the hon. Member must read the reply.

Following is the answer:

As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend in October last, this problem has been under informal discussion with the United States authorities. We proposed for their consideration that a fund should be established in this country, which would be supported by contributions from United States charitable organisations, or from other sources, and from which maintenance payments could be made in approved cases. In doing so, we realised that we were asking the United States to take a unique step, since no country has made corresponding arrangements for the maintenance of its servicemen's dependants in foreign countries. The State Department considered the proposal carefully and sympathetically, but have regretfully concluded that they cannot accept it. They are of the opinion that acceptance would create a precedent with far-reaching consequences, affecting other countries as well as themselves. However, the State Department have undertaken to give their fullest support to the efforts of welfare agencies, or other unofficial bodies, in the United States to get into touch with the United States ex-Servicemen who have failed to maintain their dependants in the United Kingdom, or who are alleged to be the fathers of illegitimate children. Both our Embassy and Consular officers in the United States do all they can to help any British subjects who may need such assistance. We are, however, considering making legal aid available where necessary, and so far as may be reasonably practicable, in respect of legal proceedings in which such persons may be involved, and a full statement on this will be made very shortly.