asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how soon he anticipates that British women who have married soldiers from the U.S.A. or elsewhere overseas will be afforded facilities for joining their husbands; and if, in view of the fact that such women cease to draw allowances when their husbands are demobilised, he will expedite their departure.
:As explained in reply to a Question put by the hon. Member for North Blackpool on 23rd August, the subject of British women married to United States soldiers is continuously occupying the attention of the competent American authorities with whom the responsibility rests and who are fully alive to the hardships involved. According to a statement issued by the American Embassy on 5th October the entire problem is now under study by the American Department of State at the request of the American Ambassador in London. It is understood that the United States officials assigned to this duty have now arrived in Great Britain to investigate.
Could my hon. Friend say, meanwhile, what action is being taken by the American authorities to assist cases such as those referred to in the second part of my Question, where there is some hardship?
As my hon. Friend knows, we have already made representations to the United States Government on this point, but I cannot, at this stage, give him any further information.
:Could we have an assurance that no preference will be given to these women until all British prisoners of war have been repatriated, and British wives of Canadian soldiers are sent out to their husbands in Canada?
Without taking sides on this subject at all, I want to say that it is, of course, primarily a matter for the United States Government.
But they are still British subjects.
Did not these women take on their husbands for better or for worse when they entered into the matrimonial state, and are there not many more important people and things claiming our attention?
I also hope that they took on the obligation to obey when they did that.
asked the Minister of War Transport if he will take steps to provide transport to enable British women who have married American soldiers who are now demobilised to join their husbands in America.
the Minister of War Transport how many British wives of American and Canadian soldiers are desirous of joining their husbands in North America; what priority is granted to these women for passages; and how soon he estimates they will all have rejoined their husbands.
I understand that at the end of September there were some 32,000 wives of Canadian soldiers awaiting passage, and that this number is increasing at the rate of some 2,000 per month. There are about 42,000 wives of United States soldiers awaiting passage. Wives of Servicemen can be transported in appreciable numbers only at the expense of the movement of Servicemen, which includes ex-prisoners of war, Dominion, Colonial and United Kingdom troops being repatriated from overseas Commands for release, Python and leave and also the occupation forces. It has been decided that such movements of Servicemen must be undertaken first, and I regret to say, therefore, that it will be some considerable time before the wives of the Canadian Service personnel can be transported from this country to Canada. The American Authorities here accepted responsibility for dealing with the problem of transport for wives of American soldiers, and I understand that a mission is on its way from America to consider ways and means.
Did I understand the Minister to say that Canadian wives are increasing at the rate of 2,000 a month? Can he say how many Canadian troops there are left here?
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is a great likelihood that a large number of these wives will be deserted if they are not returned to their husbands? Does he not also realise that it would be an appreciable contribution to the housing problem in this country if 85,000 of these women concerned were given facilities for going to America?
I am sure we all desire husbands and wives to be joined together as quickly as possible, but I do feel that this matter must be kept in its proper perspective. The vast majority of the wives of British soldiers have been separated from their husbands for a far longer period. We naturally desire to give all the facilities we can, but we must carry out our own programme and get our own men back to this country.