HC Deb 05 February 1951 vol 483 cc1341-3
48 and 49. Mr. Sydney Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what arrangements or agreements he had made to ensure that British citizens injured in this country by drivers of United States Service vehicles recover the damages to which they would be entitled if injured in comparable circumstances by drivers of British Service vehicles;

(2) what arrangements or agreements he has made to ensure that members of the United States Forces who commit offences against the person in this country are made answerable to British law in British courts.

Mr. Younger

With my hon. Friend's permission I will answer Questions Nos. 48 and 49 together.

Mr. Silverman

On a point of order. I would point out to my hon. Friend that the two points in these two Questions are quite different.

Mr. Younger

I am quite prepared to answer the Questions separately, but I thought it possible that a full statement might have been better.

Mr. Silverman indicated assent.

Mr. Younger

A multilateral agreement governing the status of Forces of members of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation stationed in a country other than their own is being negotiated. This agreement will cover both criminal and civil jurisdiction over members of the United States Forces in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, British subjects injured by drivers of United States Service vehicles are entitled to apply for compensation to the United States Claims Commission in this country.

As regards offences against the person, in accordance with the terms of the United States of America (Visiting Forces) Act, 1942, members of the United States Forces who commit such offences in this country are subject to the jurisdiction of United States military courts, unless the United States authorities waive their jurisdiction in any particular case.

Mr. Silverman

May I first ask a supplementary question with regard to Question No. 48? Does my hon. Friend appreciate that the arrangements made during the war worked perfectly satisfactorily, and that justice was generally done, but that that arrangement has been terminated and that since then His Majesty's Government have taken on additional obligations in this matter? Is he aware that it is not really very satisfactory that foreign Governments should accept a smaller degree of responsibility than would be accepted by His Majesty's Government in the same circumstances?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is not satisfactory that the matter should be left where it is. That is why we are engaged in negotiations the result of which, we hope, will be that all the nations concerned in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be in the same position in respect of each other's Forces.

Mr. Silverman

In regard to Question No. 49, are we to understand from my right hon. Friend that it is hoped that the result of the negotiations now proceeding will be to render members of foreign Forces here liable to our own courts for offences against our criminal law?

Mr. Younger

That is obviously one of the points we have in mind, but I would not like to anticipate what it may be possible to agree in this particular case.

Mr. Eden

Can the hon. Gentleman give us his general assurance that the Government mean to make arrangements comparable with those which worked so smoothly and well during the war?

Mr. Younger

Comparable arrangements, yes, so long as I am not tied to their being in precisely the same terms. This is a peace-time arrangement and there should be certain differences.

Mr. Pickthorn

How many cases of waiver have there been, and has there been any considerable proportion of cases of waiver?

Mr. Younger

So far as I am aware there has only been one case of waiver.

Mr. Vane

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the rights of British citizens will in no way be reduced where it can be shown, for example, that the driver of a United States Service vehicle was not on duty, as has been argued in the past?

Mr. Younger

I do not think that, without notice, I can deal with technical points of that kind.

Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper

Will the hon. Gentleman point out to his hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who has a well known antipathy for all things American—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I do not think that that point arises out of the Question. Moreover, to ask one Member to point something out to another Member is hardly correct.