HC Deb 03 May 1944 vol 399 cc1312-4
33. Mr. Mathers

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will cause police discrimination against trade unionists in Cyprus, of which he has been advised, to be discontinued and the sentences upon accused persons cancelled; and will he order an inquiry into the causes of recent troubles with a view to having them remedied.

Colonel Stanley

With the honourable Member's permission I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full statement about the incident to which he has drawn my attention. The statement will show that there has been no police discrimination against trade unionists in Cyprus and that there are, therefore, no grounds for an inquiry.

Mr. Mathers

In view of the very disturbing incidents which have taken place in Cyprus, does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think that the time has arrived when an investigator with a fresh mind should go out and see the conditions in the Island, and endeavour to bring about a remedy for these difficulties?

Colonel Stanley

No, Sir. Many of these difficulties arise from statements which are inaccurate and fallacious. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read the statement when it appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Gallacher

Would the Minister consider withdrawing repressive measures in Cyprus, and reinstituting the rights of the people to govern themselves?

Colonel Stanley

An experiment was made last year with the reintroduction of municipal government.

Following is the statement:

Following a strike at a factory in Limassol, hand grenades were thrown at the houses of the manager of one of the leading shareholders and of certain employees of the firm. The outrages caused considerable apprehension amongst law-abiding citizens, and the Government early in April considered it desirable to call up a number of special constables to assist the regular police in the protection of life and property and the prevention of further acts of violence. The special constables, who were enrolled between 5th and 8th April, were drawn from all sections of the community. Out of 111 men called up, 39 are known to have been trade unionists, a few being union officials. On 6th April, 23 of the special constables presented a petition requesting that a larger number of special constables should be enrolled, equal numbers being taken from different political parties; that each special constable should be accompanied by a regular policeman; and that clothing should be issued to each man. The Superintendent of Police replied that it was not his duty to consider matters of party politics; that, as the purpose in view was to secure additional guards and not still further to disperse the existing force, the second request could not be granted; and that additional clothing was not available. (It was later found possible to issue additional clothing where necessary). Thirty-seven special constables, after being enrolled, absented themselves from duty, of whom 25 were trade unionists. Disciplinary action was taken against those who absented themselves without adequate cause, including 23 trade unionists, and sentences varying from one day to nine days' imprisonment were imposed by the Superintendent of Police under the Police Law. After the enrol- ment of the special constables there was no further serious incident. By 15th April the situation had so improved as to permit the discharge of all special constables except 17 (none of whom were trade unionists) who volunteered to continue in service, and in view of the Greek Orthodox Easter Festival, all special constables still serving sentences were released and discharged on 15th April, in time for them to return to their homes before Easter Sunday. The effect of this measure was to reduce the actual period of imprisonment in the cases of 15 of the men sentenced for being absent from duty from nine days to six days.