HC Deb 26 October 1955 vol 545 cc169-72
4. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on developments in Cyprus and particularly on the outcome of the conference with representatives of Greece and Turkey.

16. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on Cyprus.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Since his arrival in Cyprus on 3rd October, the new Governor, Field Marshal Sir John Harding, has had three discussions with Archbishop Makarios, and has also met Turkish-Cypriot representatives. The Governor explained Her Majesty's Government's policy as put forward at the tripartite conference for the introduction of a new and liberal constitution to the Archbishop. These talks ended without agreement, though in a friendly spirit.

The Governor broadcast to the people of Cyprus on 9th October. He referred to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government at the recent tripartite conference. He pointed out that they held out the promise of freely elected representatives of the people of Cyprus taking the main responsibility for the management of their internal affairs. He said that the proposals looked forward to a time when, self-government having been effectively established, elected representatives of Cyprus would be in a position to express their views on the future of the island.

The Governor also announced that he would be putting forward specific proposals for economic and social development.

The security forces in Cyprus have been reinforced, to ensure the maintenance of law and order, and the Governor has strengthened the arrangements for coordination between all security forces in the island.

As regards the outcome of the tripartite conference, I would refer to the White Paper which has just been published—Cmd. 9594. Any questions in regard to international aspects of those discussions should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that no settlement of this problem can possibly be reached so long as the British Government stand by their view that the right of self-determination is not a universal right and is to be withheld in this case? Has not this attitude already brought them into conflict with the draft Covenant of Human Rights now being discussed in the Third Committee of the General Assembly and so lowered our status in the eyes of the United Nations?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The attitude of Her Majesty's Government was clearly explained by the Foreign Secretary at the opening of the talks and is spelled out in detail in the White Paper. As for the conditions precedent for a happy solution in Cyprus, I put, first of all, the return to law and order.

Mr. Grimond

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that we have moved from the quite untenable position which we took up that at no time would Cyprus be allowed to unite with Greece? Will he make it clear that it is now open to them, possibly after a period of self-government, to unite with Greece if they still desire to do so?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman's attention should be drawn to the White Paper, in which the Government's attitude is clearly stated. If my memory serves me aright, paragraphs 10 and 11 answer his question.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The right hon. Gentleman has told us what the Government suggested and proposed to Archbishop Makarios. Could he indicate to us what proposals, if any, were put forward by the Archbishop? I have not read the White Paper, which may cover the point. It would be of interest and value to the House if, before we have the debate, we could be given an indication by the Secretary of State of the proposals which were put forward by Archbishop Makarios in his talks with the Governor.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The talks between the Governor and the Archbishop were informal and confidential, and no written record exists of the precise way in which they went. I will certainly consider the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion before we have a discussion on Cyprus, if we have one—and the Leader of the Opposition suggested that a debate might be desired. That appears to me to be a better way in which to ventilate the respective views than by question and answer.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his appointment of Sir John Harding has been very widely welcomed in the Island of Cyprus, and that public opinion there definitely looks to a restoration of law and order and is eager to co-operate to that end? Is he further aware that the public hopes that the contacts between Sir John Harding and the Archbishop will be renewed with a view to a reconciliation of the Commonwealth interest, strategic and otherwise, with the people's aspiration toward national sovereignty?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I should like to take this opportunity, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, of thanking the late Governor, Sir Robert Armitage, for the very fine work which he did under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. In view of the strategic importance of Cyprus, its position as a vitally important base, our membership—together with Greece and Turkey—of N.A.T.O. and the serious threat to law and order, the Government felt that a military governor was desirable in present circumstances. I join with my hon. Friend in agreeing that Sir John Harding's personality and liberal approach to modern problems have already endeared him to those who have met him in Cyprus.

Mr. Dugdale

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his statement will have given very great satisfaction to those people who think that Sir Robert Armitage was very badly treated indeed? Will he say whether any different instructions have been given by the Government to Sir John Harding from those given to Sir Robert Armitage or whether Sir John is simply to pursue the same policy as that which Her Majesty's Government insisted that Sir Robert Armitage should follow?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Like previous Secretaries of State, of course I cannot give in public, even to the House of Commons, the instructions which from time to time are given by the Government to various governors. The reason for the change was as I explained: because of certain military circumstances it seemed desirable that there should be a military governor, although not military government, in Cyprus. Nothing which can be said about the propriety and wisdom of this appointment should in any way belittle the real contribution made by Sir Robert Armitage.

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