HC Deb 17 March 1958 vol 584 cc914-6
36. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance approximately what payments have been made in family allowances and other National Insurance benefits, respectively, since 1946, to members of the United States forces and all other aliens, respectively, in the United Kingdom; and what corresponding benefits have been received by members of Her Majesty's Forces serving in the United States of America.

37. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware that, although United States Service men do not have to pay British Income Tax or any social insurance contributions, their wives are entitled to claim family allowances; how many wives are drawing these allowances; what is the total cost; and by what authority this procedure is permitted.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I regret that the detailed information asked for in the first part of Question No. 36 is not available. As, however, members of the United States forces do not pay National Insurance contributions they do not receive National Insurance benefits; and in view of the residence conditions for family allowances and the length of the normal tour of duty the number of those who qualify for these allowances cannot be substantial.

The second part of my hon. Friend's Question is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. The answer to the last part of the Question of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) is the Family Allowances (Qualifications) Regulations, 1946.

Mr. Johnson

Cannot my right hon. Friend do a little more to help us to know whether we are getting a good bargain in regard to these reciprocal arrangements with other countries? Surely the House is entitled to know how much this is costing?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The question of reciprocal arrangements does not apply to the subject matter of my hon. Friend's Question, because we have no reciprocal arrangements with the United States of America. I shall be answering a Question about another reciprocal arrangement shortly. As to the main point of the supplementary question, I am endeavouring to ascertain the number involved, but the effect of the information that I have been able to get is that it is very limited.

Mr. Lewis

Has not the Minister's attention been drawn to reports that a number of wives of these Service men are drawing £30 or £40 a week in Service pay and are, in addition, drawing 8s. a week family allowances? Photographs have appeared in the Press showing these ladies queuing for their family allowances. It seems very unfair to our own British boys, who are paying taxes, that these wives should receive family allowances while their husbands are earning three or four times as much in salaries.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the period of residence of an alien before he or she can qualify is three years, and as that is the normal tour of duty for American Service men in this country, in the majority of cases in which the wife of an American Service man receives this payment she is a British-born girl who has retained her British citizenship—as she can do—or, alternatively, even although she is now an alien, she has retained the right to draw the payment because, having been born and brought up here, she has lived here for more than three years.