HC Deb 07 December 1953 vol 521 cc1593-4
9. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet been informed by Her Majesty's Ambassador that the United States Congress has passed legislation giving effect in the United States of America to the international agreement regarding the status of forces belonging to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Mr. Nutting

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Status of Forces Agreement was ratified by the United States Congress last July. The Agreement thus became part of the law of the United States. I understand that the only point on which further legislation is contemplated concerns the claims procedure under Article VIII of the Agreement. I am informed that this legislation is likely to be presented to Congress in the New Year.

Mr. Fletcher

May we take it that in view of the great feeling that exists about the privileged position of American Armed Forces in this country, the Government will pursue the matter until full reciprocity exists under the law in the United States?

Mr. Nutting

I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Gentleman that, as regards reciprocity, the position is this: the United States having ratified the Agreement, once the Visiting Forces Act comes into force in this country full reciprocity will be given as regards treatment as between the Armed Forces of the two countries.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

In the light of subsequent events would it not be better now to initiate negotiations for the repeal of the Visiting Forces Act? Surely one who is in a particular country should be subject to the laws of that country and not be placed in a privileged position, as United States Forces are in this country at present.

Mr. Nutting

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will look up the report of the debate which took place on the Visiting Forces Bill when it was going through this House he will realise, I am sure, that the Visiting Forces Act will put the criminal law of this country in a much better position in regard to offences committed by members of any visiting Forces.