HC Deb 21 December 1955 vol 547 cc2023-9

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will now make a statement about the progress of negotiations with regard to the future constitution of Cyprus.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the situation in Cyprus.

At the end of Questions

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Lennox-Boyd. Questions Nos. 79 and 82.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

Since the debate on 5th December, Her Majesty's Government have continued with their efforts to reach a political settlement in Cyprus. Last week my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary had discussions in Paris wth the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs and with the Secretary-General of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The question is still under close examination. I am sure the House will share my anxiety that nothing should now be said which might affect adversely the results of these continuing discussions.

As regards events in Cyprus itself, I regret to say that terrorist outrages have continued, involving further loss of life and casualties. During the last week three members of the security forces were killed and seventeen wounded. One terrorist has been killed and nine captured.

The security forces have achieved some positive successes. A terrorist "hideout" was raided in the caves at Spilia near Mount Olympus and, though a number of the terrorists escaped, a quantity of arms and ammunition was captured. Following an ambush of an army vehicle and the shooting of its driver, Major B. J. Coombe, who was with him, gallantly engaged the ambushing party and shot dead one of them, a terrorist with a price on his head, and captured two others. On the following day a car containing six armed terrorists was captured.

On 14th December the Governor proscribed the Communist organisation AKEL and, following this, a number of Communist leaders were detained. The proscription of this subversive organisation has been effected without any major incidents.

Recent successes have been encouraging. The Governor is satisfied that the security organisation has now been set up on sound lines on a three-member team basis, namely, civil administration, police and Armed Forces working together, served by a properly co-ordinated intelligence system and a unified publicity section.

Plans for improvement and expansion of the police force have been completed and a start has been made at putting them into effect. But much remains to be done both as regards improving resources in men and equipment—and that is being dealt with as rapidly as possible—and as regards training of the security forces for their peculiar tasks in current conditions. The Governor has reported to me that he is fully satisfied with the support he is getting from Her Majesty's Government over building up the security organisation and making good its deficiencies.

Mr. Griffiths

Does the Secretary of State realise that we are deeply concerned at the way in which these negotiations seem to be dragging on? Before we part for the Christmas Recess, will he now tell the House what precise negotiations are proceeding at this moment, and between whom? Are the negotiations going on between the Governor and Archbishop Makarios? Will the right hon. Gentleman also tell us whether, in the course of the meeting of N.A.T.O. last week, the United States was brought into these negotiations—and if so, for what purpose or reason?

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate what is the difference which prevents the settlement which we all hope for and desire? I hope that he will realise that we have exercised great restraint and patience in this matter. Before we rise for a very long time, we would press him, in view of the serious situation in Cyprus, to be more precise and give us more information. Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman again consider the suggestion that I made in our recent debate—this seems an opportune time to do so—that the Governor might ask Archbishop Makarios to join him in an appeal for quietness and the end of violence, so that there can be peace in Cyprus whilst these negotiations are pending? Indeed, such a gesture might create a new spirit in which the negotiations might succeed.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's last point, I do not think that it would be disclosing what took place between the Governor and the Archbishop at various meetings which occurred some time ago if I said that, quite clearly, requests that the Archbishop should condemn terrorism were made more than once by the Governor. I recognise how extremely patient and understanding the whole House has been, and I am very sorry if I cannot give answers to the questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman on this last day before we rise for the Christmas Recess, but I am afraid that it would not be possible to do so, and I cannot add to the Answer that I have given. It would, of course, be possible to bring an end to what are long-drawn-out negotiations, but to do that while there is still a hope that they might be successful would, I think, be a most unwise thing to do. I am afraid that I cannot say at this moment who are taking part in these negotiations or what stage has been reached.

Mr. Griffiths

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform us now whether, since our last debate, the Government them-selves have put forward any further proposals with a view to ending these negotiations in a settlement? Is it true that, as has been reported in the Press, the United States has been brought into these negotiations?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is for the United States Government to answer about their own actions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It would be contrary to all practice and precedent if, in the middle of negotiations in which a number of people are concerned, premature announcements were made. I know that, upon reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will realise that he would give the same sort of answer if he were in my position today.

Mr. Gaitskell

We all recognise the great importance of bringing these negotiations, such as they are—we have not heard much about them—to a successful conclusion, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: since, as is evident to us all, one of the difficult features of the situation is the problem of laying down conditions which are acceptable to Turkey—and, indeed, the whole question of Greco-Turkish relations—can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any discussions have taken place within N.A.T.O., or with other members of N.A.T.O., about the whole situation, or are the negotiations being conducted simply upon a basis of being between ourselves, Greece and Turkey alone?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Despite the rather ingenious way in which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to elicit further information—which I believe would really be harmful to the progress of the talks—I am afraid that I cannot meet him. I can say that were it not for the fact that Turkish interests were involved, and that this was more an international than a colonial problem, a way out of this difficulty could have been found long ago. Clearly the Turks are very much concerned in the problem, but the Turks also have interests and problems in the Middle East which extend far beyond N.A.T.O.—and they are interests and problems with which Greece is not directly concerned.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Is it not the case that one of the difficulties is that on 7th December Archbishop Makarios issued a statement going back on his three-point demands of 13th October, even though they had been accepted in a House of Commons debate on 5th December?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

That is so.

Mr. Strachey

Will the Colonial Secretary confirm or deny that in fact there has been no meeting between the Governor and the Archbishop since 21st November last? Does not he agree that the tragedy of this matter is that the Government have been behind events at every stage? Will they now come up to the situation and bridge the very small gap which exists between the Government's terms and the Archbishop's latest proposals, which are pretty clear and would form an acceptable basis if the Government would go just that further step which they have come very near to taking?

Mr. Maitland

Would not my right hon. Friend say that the gap is getting wider?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am sure that whether it is a very small gap or a wider gap it certainly will not be closed by any premature statement by me in the House.

Major Beamish

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we have the very greatest confidence in the way in which he has been handling these extremely difficult negotiations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We fully appreciate the difficulties about the making of a full statement today. May I ask him a question on one small though important point? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the broadcasts from Athens radio, coming as they do from a country with which we have—and wish to maintain —the very friendliest relations, have caused very deep resentment in the House?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, Sir. That is indeed the case. It would be a major contribution to a calming of the situation if those broadcasts were called off. The Greek Government cannot disclaim considerable responsibility for them.

Mrs. L. Jeger

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that he is putting many hon. Members of this House in an impossibly unfair position by asking them, over a long period, to be moderate and not to press him? Is he aware that in the Press we have seen reports on behalf of the Archbishop that no negotiations are taking place; and that many of us are deeply suspicious of this continuing talk about negotiations? Is he not aware that the position in Cyprus is deteriorating fast? Is that not perhaps the reason why the right hon. Gentleman is so bashful in not bringing his policy before the House?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, Sir. I am quite prepared to bring my policy—or the Government's policy—in this matter before the House at any stage save this, because while discussions are going on of an extremely delicate nature it would be mad in the extreme prematurely to disclose them.

Mr. Griffiths

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate, as he must, that from the very beginning our anxiety has been not to hinder but 'o help the negotiations? Before we rise for this long Recess we are entitled to press him to tell us that there are negotiations proceeding between Her Majesty's Government and the Greek Government and between the Governor and Archbishop Makarios, and that these negotiations are continuing. We are entitled to ask him between whom these negotiations are now proceeding.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am afraid that I cannot add to what I have said. There are discussions of various kinds going on but these may not be the only discussions. It might be that I would mislead the House if I gave an emphatic answer one way or the other now. It is our hope to use whatever machinery seems most suitable to try to bring an end to the present distressing deadlock.

Mr. Gaitskell

Could the right hon. Gentleman try to be a little more explicit? I appreciate his difficulty. All we are asking is a very simple question. Will he 'give us an assurance that there are talks, discussions, negotiations—I do not mind which word is chosen—going on between, on the one hand, Her Majesty's Government and the Greek Government, and, on the other hand, Her Majesty's Government and the Turkish Government? Simultaneously, are there talks, or is there any possibility of talks, between the Governor and Archbishop Makarios in Cyprus?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The right hon. Gentleman this time has asked a different question: whether there is any possibility of talks between the Governor and the Archbishop. To that I can certainly give the answer that I very much hope there will be talks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I said that I very much hope that there will be further talks in the future. I ask the House, in the interests of the common desire of all of us to arrive at a settlement, not to press me further. It is extremely difficult on matters of this kind to be absolutely certain that a chance observation may not do enormous mischief.