HC Deb 24 March 1952 vol 498 cc30-1
Mr. Paget

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make about the situation in Trieste.

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir.

I regret to inform the House that serious disturbances broke out in Trieste on 20th March, and, according to my information, are still continuing.

The disturbances developed during a demonstration organised by Italian political groups in Trieste to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the tripartite declaration of 1948 about the future of the Free Territory. The local city police were forced to intervene, and the situation was subsequently aggravated by a general strike which was called in protest against their allegedly brutal action.

I have received reports on the matter from General Sir John Winterton, the Zone Commander, who is solely responsible for the maintenance of order. I am satisfied that the allegations against the police are unfounded. The House will realise that these police are drawn from the predominantly Italian population of Trieste, and act under orders from the Anglo-United States Allied Military Government. All reports indicate that they behaved with exemplary restraint in the face of considerable provocation. Tear gas and fire hoses had to be used, but there was no shooting. Unfortunately, many persons, including policemen, have been injured, but there have so far been no fatal casualties. There has also been some damage to military vehicles and establishments. All British and American troops were confined to barracks as soon as the disturbances began.

A number of rioters have been arrested and the majority have been found to be members of the Neo-Fascist Party.

General Winterton has been in constant touch with the local Triestine authorities and with the Italian Government representative.

I myself propose to discuss the situation later today with the Italian Ambassador and am in communication with the United States Government who share with us the responsibility for Zone A of Trieste.

In the circumstances, I should prefer not to say anything further at this stage beyond urging upon all concerned the need for restraint and a due sense of responsibility.

I am sure that the House will be as anxious as I am myself to see these disturbances brought to a speedy end in the interests of the future of the Territory itself and of that friendship between Britain and Italy by which we set so much store.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.