HC Deb 12 November 1931 vol 259 cc254-6
32. Mr. MANDER

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is able to make a statement about the present position in Cyprus?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)

The answer is a long one, but, in view of its importance, I think I ought to read it rather than circulate it.

As the House is aware from the official communiqués which have been published in the Press, on the evening of Wednesday the 21st of October a large procession, led by three Greek Elected Members of the Legislative Council, demonstrated for more than three hours before Government House at Nicosia. Stones were thrown, the police were kept at bay with missiles, and finally Government House was set on fire and burned to the ground. The Governor telegraphed for assistance to the Naval Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, and to the General Officer Commanding the British Troops in Egypt. As a result two cruisers and two destroyers were despatched, and, with the co-operation of the Royal Air Force, troops were sent by aeroplane from Egypt. Vessels and troops reached Cyprus on the 23rd of October. An additional cruiser was subsequently despatched. Meanwhile, outbreaks occurred at Limassól, Lárnaca, Famagústa and Paphos; and, later, in Kyrenía led by the Bishop of that place.

The situation is now fully in hand. There are in the Island two companies of troops, in addition to the normal garrison of one company, and the naval parties which were temporarily landed have been withdrawn. The ringleaders have been arrested and 10 of them have been deported. Many other arrests have been made.

The casualties reported among civilians are six killed and 30 wounded. There have also been 39 cases of injuries to the police. The comparatively small number of casualties is a gratifying tribute to the restraint exercised by the naval and military forces and by the police. The damage which has been done, in addition to the burning of Government House at Nicosia, comprises the destruction of the Commissioner's house and the burning of a plantation at Limassól, the destruction of a bridge and the cutting of some telegraph wires in the Famagústa district, and the burning of the Customs sheds in the village of Pissouri. Damage has also been done to a number of village police stations and certain other Government property. The Governor has been informed that the building of a new Government House should be put in hand at once, and that all Government buildings should be rebuilt as soon as possible. Approval has been given to the principle that parties found responsible for damage to buildings and property should be made pecuniarily liable.

Letters Patent have been approved under which the Legislative Council of Cyprus will cease to exist and power to make laws is granted to the Governor. These Letters Patent should be regarded as an emergency measure. It will be necessary hereafter to review the whole question of the constitutional future of the Island.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether compensation in respect of damage has been demanded from a section of the population, or is it to be distributed among the whole of the population?


I should like notice of that question. The details of the administration, of course, must rest with the Governor on the spot, with whom, I am sure, the whole House will sympathise in what has happened. In short, authority for the principle to which I have referred, that those who are responsible should be made pecuniarily liable, has been given, and I have no doubt he will give effect to that principle.


Can my right hon. Friend say whether British officials, including the Governor, who lost very valuable property, will be compensated even if it is not found possible to obtain compensation from the rioters?


I shall be very glad if my right hon. Friend will give me notice of the question, so that I may communicate with him by letter.


Can we be assured that compensation will be obtained from the ecclesiastical funds, seeing that the Bishops took rather a prominent part?


The principle is clearly laid down that those who are responsible for damage shall be made liable, and I am sure that every effort will be made to ensure that that liability is enforced irrespective of who the persons may be.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether His Majesty's Government, the Colonial Office, and the Governor were unaware of all the discontent in the island until the Governor's residence was burned down?


I am rather sorry that that question has been put, because I think it is undoubtedly clear from the reports that have been received that a great artificial agitation was fomented by certain persons in the island.

Viscountess ASTOR

Is it not true that the present Governor in Cyprus is one of the most able, sympathetic and intelligent governors we have had?


Yes, Sir. I think it is particularly deplorable that these outrages should have taken place by people who found that their agitation was being countered by the very sympathetic attitude of the Governor in securing co-operation in the island.


There is something wrong somewhere.