HC Deb 30 November 1955 vol 546 cc2283-4
7. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Defence what tasks have been assigned to the units of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force at present stationed in Cyprus.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

In addition to performing their strategic rôle as part of the British forces in the Mediterranean, the forces now in Cyprus are employed where necessary on internal security duties in aid of the civil power.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, but does not the Minister think it lamentable that these troops, most of whom are trying to do a most unpleasant job as best they can, in a very commendable way, should be tied down in fighting what is rapidly becoming a civil war in Cyprus and be made utterly useless for any other task?

Mr. Lloyd

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that our forces in Cyprus are discharging a very difficult task with courage and humanity, and I think they deserve our thanks. However, the first duty of a Governor is to preserve law and order, and the responsibility for the present situation lies upon those who try to secure their aims by violence.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the Minister tell us what proportion of the troops there—I do not ask for numbers—is engaged in strategic rôles, and what proportion is engaged in holding down the local population?

Mr. Lloyd

If the hon. Gentleman will put down that Question, I will try to answer it.

Mr. Strachey

Is it not a fact that all the troops there now are completely engaged in their security rôle, and that the original purpose of stationing troops there, which was to have a force available in the Middle East, has come to nothing? Is it not desirable, therefore, even from a purely defence point of view, that we should reach a political settlement?

Mr. Lloyd

I agree with the right hon. Gentlemen that it is desirable that a political settlement should be reached, but under present circumstances, and even taking account of all these disturbances, Cyprus is a vital strategic necessity to us.

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