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United States Servicemen (Debts)

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of a small number of cases where members of United States forces in this country have contracted debts which they have left unpaid on returning to the United States of America and have thus left the creditors without redress, whether he will seek to make an arrangement with the United States authorities to secure the payment of such debts.

No, Sir. I would, however, add that, provided the man concerned is still in the forces, and provided the debt is admitted or has been reduced to judgment, it is always open to the creditor in this country to seek the assistance of the U.S. Service authorities here or in the United States in obtaining satisfaction.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this has been done in some cases, and that, although I am sure the military authorities are anxious to help, they confess they can do nothing because the defaulter has gone back to America and sometimes cannot be traced but, where he can be traced, simply refuses to pay? And because this is a cause of friction between some Americans and some British subjects, to heal that, will he not look further into this question?

I do not think that I can give such an undertaking. It is a difficult question, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that wilful failure to pay an undisputed debt, or a debt which has been reduced to judgment in this country, is an offence under U.S. military law and that anyone who is still a member of the U.S. military forces can be subject to disciplinary action if he still refuses to pay that debt.

Not where they have ceased their service, but Her Majesty's Government would lend assistance where necessary. These are private matters, but there is no difference of principle here between an American serviceman going back to America without paying a debt and any other foreigner who leaves this country without paying a debt.