HC Deb 20 March 1947 vol 435 cc112-3W
Mr. Peter Freeman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to make a statement about the arrangements made for legal aid for the dependants of U.S. Service and ex-Servicemen.

Mr. Ede

Arrangements have now been completed for giving legal aid to wives of U.S. Service or ex-Servicemen who are unable to meet the cost of proceedings and who either are cited as defendants in matrimonial proceedings in the United States or who, if resident in the United States, desire in approved cases to initiate matrimonial proceedings there. The test of ability to pay will be substantially that now applied in Service divorce cases under the Poor Persons procedure in England subject to an under- taking to repay so far as means may permit; but, in addition, where a litigant can pay the costs incurred in the United Kingdom but cannot pay the costs incurred in the United States, such latter costs will be dealt with in the same way.

In the United States these arrangements will he operated by selected lawyers in each State, in England and Wales by the Law Society, in Scotland by the General Council of Solicitors in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Law Society.

Provision will be made as far as possible to ensure that a wife of a United States Serviceman or ex-Serviceman is notified of the initiation of matrimonial proceedings by her husband in the United States courts in sufficient time to enable her to be represented at the hearing of the case.

These arrangements will operate forthwith. Anyone desiring further information should communicate with one of the bodies I have indicated.

Owing to the requirement in the majority of American States that a complainant in affiliation proceedings should be personally present in court, it is not possible to apply the arrangements for legal aid to these cases. In a few States, however, it may, it seems, be legally possible for these proceedings to be brought in absentia. Before deciding whether the scheme should apply in such instances the Government are considering whether such proceedings could be brought with a reasonable prospect of success.