HC Deb 28 November 1955 vol 546 cc1932-5
Mr. Donnelly

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement regarding the announcement on Saturday by the Governor of Cyprus declaring a state of emergency.

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

As hon. Members are aware, there has recently been an increase in terrorist outrages and widespread acts of disorder in Cyprus leading to loss of life and serious damage to property. In these circumstances, the Governor decided, with the full authority of Her Majesty's Government, that further steps were necessary to safeguard the normal life of the community and, under powers conferred by the Emergency Powers Orders in Council, 1939 and 1952, proclaimed the existence of a state of emergency on 26th November.

The consequence of this Proclamation is to enable the Governor to make such regulations as he thinks fit to maintain public order. He has accordingly made certain Emergency Powers Regulations which he intends to apply immediately or as and when circumstances require.

I am sure that the House would wish to express its sympathy to the relatives of those members of the British Forces and the Cyprus Police Force who have been killed and wounded by these terrorist attacks.

The declaration of a state of emergency is, as Her Majesty's Government fully recognise, not in itself a solution to the problem that faces us in Cyprus. It has not been possible for me, from the very nature of these affairs, to keep the House informed of the various efforts Her Majesty's Government have been making in their endeavours to find a constructive solution on the political plane to the tangled problem in Cyprus.

I still cannot make a statement on this, by far the most important, aspect of the matter, and I would ask hon. Members not to press me on this today, in the interest of finding a solution. I am very conscious of the restraint and understanding which has been shown on all sides of the House in these recent weeks.

Her Majesty's Government hope very shortly to be in a position to make a full statement and I promise the House that the report will not be delayed for any longer than the imperative needs of the situation demand.

There is also the question of a debate for which a request was made last week. Although perhaps this might not prove to be the most opportune moment for it, Her Majesty's Government recognise that it would not be reasonable to ask the House to delay discussion and so arrangements are being made for a debate next week.

Mr. Attlee

I should like to associate hon. Members on this side of the House with the sympathy expressed by the Secretary of State with the relatives of those who have been killed and wounded in the attacks in Cyprus.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise that there is a very great interest on both sides of the House about the steady deterioration of the position in Cyprus and of the need for the very full discussion? On the other hand, we shall want to do nothing that would hinder the possibility of finding a solution. While, in other circumstances, one would, perhaps, have asked for the Adjournment of the House today in view of the making of these Emergency Regulations, I ask that the statement promised by the right hon. Gentleman should be made at the earliest possible moment, with a debate as soon as possible next week.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am most grateful, as I am sure my colleagues are, to the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has suggested that this matter can best stand over for a full debate next week. I can assure him that I am definitely serious in the statement I made.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a widespread body of opinion both here and in Cyprus that supports him and the Governor in trying to bring about accord there and to restore order?

Mr. Bowles

May I ask the Colonial Secretary how much compensation will be paid to the widows or parents of soldiers killed in Cyprus?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

That is a matter with which I would propose to deal in the course of any debate.

Mr. Donnelly

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable concern about the terms of the declaration of the Governor regarding the state of emergency, which appears in The Times today? Will he give an assurance to the House that those powers will be used with the greatest care and circumspection?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I can assure the hon. Member that those powers have been very carefully considered and will be used with the utmost discretion consistent with the needs of the situation. I am making arrangements to place in the Library of the House copies of the Regulations as soon as we receive them.

Mr. Beswick

There is one other aspect which, perhaps, the Secretary of State will bring to the notice of the Secretary of State for War. National Service men with only 10 weeks' training are being sent to Cyprus. Does he not think, in view of the worsening situation, that it would be better if men with considerably more training were sent out there? Is it not unfair to send these young men in the present circumstances?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Matters of that kind can more properly come up in the course of the debate next week.

Mr. Paget

Has not experience in Ireland, Israel and now in Cyprus taught the Government how embarrassing capital offences are in circumstances of this sort? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the dilemma that, on the one hand, there is the choice of not enforcing one's own law and, on the other, of creating martyrs and that in both events one is creating an emotive situation in which other people will be killed? Is it not a fact that it is a capital charge which has triggered the present situation? Is it not crazy to fill up one's death cells at the very time one is trying to make peace?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. and learned Gentleman had better very carefully read the Regulations before he comes to sweeping conclusions. If hon. Members want the best possible statement of the unique Cyprus problem, I commend to them that made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) himself at Strasbourg recently, on that very theme.

Mr. Paget

Why muck it up?

Mrs. L. Jeger

While appreciating the promise of an early debate, may I ask whether the Secretary of State can confirm the news that has reached London that the three-point plan put forward by Archbishop Makarios has been rejected by the British Government and that, in fact, no negotiations at all are being conducted in Cyprus at present.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I would ask the hon. Lady in view of the great importance these problems, seriously to read my statement which, of course, deals with the political aspect of these problems.