HC Deb 19 December 1956 vol 562 cc1267-79
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

Lord Radcliffe's report on a Constitution for Cyprus is being published today as a White Paper in the United Kingdom and in Cyprus. It is a statesmanlike document, and the whole House will, I am sure, be grateful for the vigour with which Lord Radcliffe has carried out his task and the wisdom which he has shown.

The Report is in two parts—the recommendations for the Constitution and a covering note which explains why Lord Radcliffe has preferred his conclusions to other possible arrangements.

Lord Radcliffe recommends a single chamber Assembly with 6 seats reserved for members elected by voters on the Turkish Cypriot roll, 24 for members elected by the rest of the population, and 6 for members nominated by the Governor. Very careful arrangements have been devised to protect the interests of all communities. There will be a Cabinet, with a Chief Minister, respon- sible to the Legislative Assembly. These arrangements will give to the people of Cyprus the widest possible measure of autonomy compatible with the reservation to the Governor of defence, external affairs and public security.

Her Majesty's Government have brought these proposals to the attention of the Greek and Turkish Governments, and, as the House knows, I have just visited Greece and Turkey for discussions on them.

Her Majesty's Government, after consultation with the Governor of Cyprus, accept, as a whole, the proposals which Lord Radcliffe has made. In our view, they represent a fair balance between the different and often conflicting interests which are involved.

Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to introduce such a Constitution as soon as we are satisfied that a situation exists in Cyprus in which genuine elections can be held free from violence and intimidation. A start is at once being made with the drafting of the necessary constitutional instruments so that elections may be held as soon as conditions allow.

As the House knows, the terms of reference given to Lord Radcliffe envisaged a Constitution for a self-governing Cyprus under British sovereignty. As regards the eventual status of the island, Her Majesty's Government have already affirmed their recognition of the principle of self-determination. When the international and strategic situation permits, and provided that self-government is working satisfactorily, Her Majesty's Government will be ready to review the question of the application of self-determination.

When the time comes for this review, that is, when these conditions have been fulfilled, it will be the purpose of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that any exercise of self-determination should be effected in such a manner that the Turkish Cypriot community, no less than the Greek Cypriot community, shall, in the special circumstances of Cyprus, be Oven freedom to decide for themselves their future status. In other words, Her Majesty's Government recognise that the exercise of self-determination in such a mixed population must include partition among the eventual options.

Her Majesty's Government will keep in close touch with the Greek and Turkish Governments on the international aspects of the problem.

I hope that we are on the eve of a new and happy chapter in the long history of Cyprus. It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to do all that they can to bring this about.

Mr. Callaghan

While we can all join with the Colonial Secretary's hopes that this will open a new chapter, may I ask whether the reports are true that the Constitution provides what might be called built-in guarantees for the Turkish people? if that is so, why has he thought it necessary to introduce at this stage, to "throw into the pot," this irritant of partition? Would it not have been better to have kept the position as far as self-determination is concerned where it stood —namely, in accordance with the statement made by the Prime Minister earlier?

May I also ask whether the Government regard this Constitution as being negotiable? Although it is acceptable to them as a whole, would they be willing to discuss modifications of it with other persons interested?

Finally, can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the position of Archbishop Makarios? Is he not an essential feature here? Would it not be wise to permit him to see persons and the documents concerned so that he can consult them, as he has such great influence in this matter?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman is, indeed, right in suggesting that the Constitution provides very careful built-in guarantees for the Turkish community and other communities in Cyprus. I was able to explain this in considerable detail to the Turkish Prime Minister two or three days ago. But I think we must recognise the natural anxiety of the Turkish people in the longer-term future of the island if the principle of self-determination is applied. I cannot see how it is anything other than logical to grant a community with such close interests with Turkey, and only 40 miles away, the same rights as we are prepared to recognise should go to the Greek community.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me about possible amendments of Lord Radcliffe's Constitution. While, of course, as I explained to the Greek and Turkish Prime Ministers, we would pay the greatest possible attention to any suggestions which may be made, and the same will apply, of course, to suggestions from the people of Cyprus or from hon. Members of this House, Lord Radcliffe's proposals represent a balanced whole, and it would be difficult to disturb that plan in any very considerable way without spoiling the plan as a whole.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me about Archbishop Makarios. The constitutional proposals and the statement that I have just made are being shown this afternoon to Archbishop Makarios. Tomorrow, Lord Radcliffe's secretary and a senior Greek-speaking officer of the Government of Cyprus will arrive in the Seychelles to explain the proposals to him. Should he wish to talk to someone from Cyprus or from Greece, Her Majesty's Government will provide the necessary facilities.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Clement Davies.

Mr. Hector Hughes

On a point of order. As the Colonial Secretary's statement was obviously in reply to my Question No. 76, am I not entitled to ask—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The statement was not so expressed.

Mr. Clement Davies

May I say that we all sincerely hope, with the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that this is the beginning of a new and a happier chapter in the history of this island. May I also say that I am sure that all of us will welcome the statement that there is to be an approach to Archbishop Makarios, even at this stage?

May I ask this question? I realise that this matter will have to be considered and debated. There has been consultation between the right hon. Gentleman, the Turkish Government and the Government of Greece. Did Lord Radcliffe have any discussions with any responsible person among the Greek community in Cyprus before drawing up and issuing his Report?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The right hon. and learned Gentleman must not read into what I said about the Archbishop anything more than I did say. I did not say that there was any question of Her Majesty's Government or the Governor reopening negotiations with the Archbishop. What I said was that the Archbishop would be free—and that we would provide the necessary facilities if he wanted to do so—tc consult with representatives from Greece or Cyprus.

In reply to the second of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's questions, though there were obvious difficulties in the way, Lord Radcliffe did manage to have some consultations in Cyprus, and, of course, he was left in no doubt at all, through much reading and a great deal of study of the matter, of the views of the Cypriot people on these various problems.

Mr. Bevan

We are unable to express any view about the nature of Lord Radcliffe's recommendations because we have not seen them, but may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he found it absolutely essential to make his reference to the possibility of partition in the island in relation to those recommendations? Is there not a danger that that addendum will once more poison the atmosphere and prevent a settlement in the island?

Is there not a danger that in winning the acquiescence of the Turks the right hon. Gentleman will once more lose the support of the Greeks and we shall once again be where we were? Would it not have been far better to have left it where it was—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in the sense of self-determination, where we had originally stated it? That is what I meant. I am referring now to self-determination.

Furthermore, in view of the experience which we have had with Cyprus as an effective base, ought not the whole situation to be reconsidered? Ought we not to reconsider it with our N.A.T.O. allies? In other words, do we really want Cyprus as a base? Do we, the British, want it? Could we not have a base on Cyprus with our N.A.T.O. allies without any of the political difficulties involved in the present situation?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is still our view, very strongly, that our strategic position in Cyprus remains vital for the performance of our defence obligations in the Middle East.

I hope that there is no misunderstanding about partition as an eventual possibility, an eventual solution among the possible solutions. I made it quite clear, I hope, that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that there should be this Constitution in Cyprus. After the Constitution has been shown to be working satisfactorily, and when the international and strategic situation permits, then we are prepared to consider the application of self-determination, but during the intervening period there will be a chance for this Constitution, with, I hope, the good will of both sides of the House, to get well under way.

Then, at that later stage, when those circumstances arise, and when the conditions have been fulfilled, there would be a test of the public opinion in Cyprus. If that test was in favour of a change of sovereignty, there would be a second test of the views of the Turkish population, and they would be entitled to the same right to choose their destiny as the majority of the island. I believe that this is the logical consequence of the pleas for self-determination raised on both sides of the House. I cannot believe that any responsible statesman, faced with having to find a solution to this intractable problem, could have come to wiser decisions than have Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Would my right hon. Friend say something about the Governor's powers in the proposed Constitution? Am I right in thinking that there are reserved to him only the three topics my right hon. Friend mentioned, or has he wider powers than that?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As the House will see when it reads the Report—it is a very carefully and skilfully presented Report and easy to understand—the powers of the Governor are clearly defined. Any laws made by the Assembly need the Governor's formal assent, but it is formal, given automatically, save in two cases. The first is where a Bill passed might deal with a reserved matter, and the second arises where a Bill is repugnant to the Constitution, provision being made for a reference to the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the Governor's powers are very, very restricted. Indeed, as Lord Radcliffe says, the Ministers responsible to the legislature are intended to be masters in their own, the non-reserved, field.

Mr. Bevan

The only thing we can do at the moment is to consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said in his statement. We can make no comment about Lord Radcliffe's Report; we have not got it. The question I put to the right hon. Gentleman was this. Was it absolutely essential, in order to obtain the best possible reception that he could obtain for Lord Radcliffe's proposals for a new Constitution, at this stage to make a statement about the character of a future plebiscite which, while it might reconcile the Turks, would offend the Greeks? Would it not have been much wiser to have taken the recommendations on their merits, leaving the future of the island with respect to sovereignty where it was left by the original statement of the Government? Has the right hon. Gentleman not once more prepared the worst kind of atmosphere for the reception of his own proposals?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I must repeat that I cannot see how it could be regarded as unfair to grant to a very important community, only 40 miles away from the Turkish coast, the same rights as we are prepared to recognise for the Greek population. I beg the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), if he ever has any ambition to have to cope with problems of this kind, to study the matter with a sense of responsibility and not with the abandon which can come with opposition.

Mr. Gaitskell

May I ask the Secretary of State whether the partition proposal was discussed with the Greek and Turkish Governments?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

There is no proposal for partition. I am not suggesting that at this moment there should be the partition of Cyprus, and I think that none of us would regard partition here, or in many other parts of the world, as the best solution of the many problems there. This situation will arise only when the international situation permits, and when the Constitution, the terms of which will be issued this afternoon, has got properly under way. I did, of course, bring to the attention of both the Greek and the Turkish Governments the gist of the statement I have made, and that includes the reference to partition.

Mr. Gaitskell

Was that discussed with them?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In accordance with normal practice, it was arranged that I should make a statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, and the Greek and Turkish Governments, if they so wish, will make their own statements; but I think that it would be very unwise for me to say what form their statements are to take.

Mr. Elliot

Have we not been repeatedly pressed to state whether self-determination would eventually be applied, and would it not have been impossible to bring forward any proposal which did not answer that question? While all of us, in every part of the House, would deplore partition in itself, surely self-determination is obviously one of the solutions, or one of the ends, to which the statement must lead. Our attitude towards that is implicit in any authoritative statement by the Government. As I understand—my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—what is being envisaged is, in fact, the full concession of Enosis with Greece of a large portion of Cyprus and, in those circumstances, a statement as to the position of the minority was inevitable if a full and authoritative statement was to he made here.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, Sir. I think that my right hon. Friend has expressed the situation.

Mr. Philips Price

Does not the Secretary of State realise the extraordinary difficulty of partitioning the island of Cyprus in such a way as to have the Greeks in one part and the Turks in another? While entirely agreeing with him about the necessity for protecting and guaranteeing the position of the Turkish minority there, may I ask him whether he has considered other methods besides partition? Has he not considered the possibility of keeping the island a unit, say, under United Nations mandate, with this country, Turkey and Greece taking part in the administration, or something like that? Has he not considered that, rather than committing himself right away now to partition?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I hope that the hon. Member, whose interest in these problems I recognise and whose knowledge of Turkey, in particular, has been of great assistance to me, as, also, to the House, will realise that partition is envisaged as one of the possible solutions, so to speak, at the end of the tunnel. It is not a suggestion that there should be partition now. If the Constitution works very well, and the people of Cyprus find in it an opportunity to express themselves as a unit, then, when the chance comes to ask them what they want to do, they may well decide to continue as they are. I would beg all hon. Members who know the seriousness of this problem to encourage in every way the chance to give this Constitution a fair start, and then, it being given a fair start, quite surprising results may happen as a result of the eventual exercise of their right of self-determination.

Mr. Teeling

Will my right hon. Friend remember a small but very loyal community in Cyprus, not Turkish and certainly not Greek, but which comes from Asia Minor? I refer to the Maronite community. Can he say whether the six members reserved will include one with responsibility for the protection of the Maronites? In view of the fact that they are scattered all over Cyprus, what will happen to them if there is to be partition?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, Sir. Of the six members who will be nominated by the Governor to the Assembly, one will be specially charged with representing and looking after Maronite interests.

Mr. Dugdale

Will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is of the utmost importance that there should be a full discussion of these proposals in Cyprus? Does he, therefore, agree that one of the best methods for such a discussion is through the Press, and, if so, will he see that the freedom of the Press is restored in Cyprus at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I hope that the House noticed that yesterday the Governor of Cyprus was able to make very considerable relaxations of the Emergency Regulations. I detest being responsible, and so does he, for Emergency Regulations of any kind. The sooner we can see them all swept away the better pleased we all shall be, the Governor and Her Majesty's Government. Among the regulations which we dislike intensely are any limitations of freedom of expression. If this Constitution is given a fair chance, and the people of Cyprus respond as we hope they will, and they are encouraged from outside to do so, then we can, I hope, very soon bring Ito an end all these symbols of emergency.

Major Wall

Is not the statement we have just heard a great act of faith in the good sense of the Greek Cypriot cornmunity, who will form the very large majority of the Assembly? May I ask my right hon. Friend to pay a little more attention to the Turkish minority? For instance, are they to have a Minister? Further, could he say something about the British minority, whether they are to be represented on the Legislative Council? Finally, may I ask him about the British schools, the teachers' training college and the technical schools which are now going up? Under whose control will they be?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I was told, when talking to the Archbishop and, incidentally, in this House, that the only thing really seriously dividing people was the question of the Greek elected majority. No hon. Member from the other side of the House has commented on the fact that the inescapable consequence of Lord Radcliffe's recommendations, as I read them, is that there will be a Greek elected majority. It would, I think, have been consistent with a desire to find a settlement if some hon. Member opposite had referred to that fact.

The Turkish rights are very carefully defined. They include provision for a Turkish Minister, who will be a member of the Cabinet; they include six members of the Assembly, and the most rigid protection of their interests both against discrimination by law and discrimiation in administration. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will read those provisions very carefully.

As regards the rights of the by no means inconsiderable or unimportant English population, one of those nominated members will be chosen by the Governor to represent that very important interest.

Mrs. L. Jeger

While welcoming the fact that one of the obstacles to the previous settlement—the question of the Greek majority—is met by these proposals, may I ask whether it is not true that the biggest stumbling block all along has been the question of self-determination? Does the statement that we have had this afternoon really take the matter any further? Is it not still left with Her Majesty's Government alone to be the judge of when this principle may be put into effect? Can we not have some hope that Cyprus will be considered as part of a new policy in the Middle East and the ending of what we have shown to be an impossible unilateral Middle East policy?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As I said, when the international and strategic situation permits, we will review the application of self-determination. If the situation has obviously and dramatically changed, it would be quite impossible for any British Government to pretend that it had not changed.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

My right hon. Friend has rightly, in my view, and in the view, I think, of many hon. Members on this side, stressed that if and when the application of self-determination takes place, it obviously follows that we should, in advance, take the necessary protective steps concerning the Turkish minority. Can my right hon. Friend also say that it will equally be a fundamental purpose at that time, after the application of self-determination takes place, also to safeguard British interests in the island, both strategic and otherwise, afterwards?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes. Sir, most assuredly.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

May I ask the Secretary of State three questions? First, is he taking any new initiative to try to secure a cessation of acts of violence, on both sides, in Cyprus now as a preliminary to discussions on Lord Radcliffe's proposals? Secondly, while welcoming this very belated recognition of the fact that the Archbishop of Cyprus is an indispensable factor in any political situation, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman where the consultations with the Archbishop will take place, whether he will give the names of the emissaries whom he has sent to meet him and whether he will now lift the ban on communication with the Archbishop, which appears to have applied to everybody, except officials of the Colonial Office, including hon. Members of this House?

Finally, is the Secretary of State aware that his threat of possible partition in the future may be interpreted as meaning that the British Government are not really convinced that Lord Radcliffe's proposals are the basis of a possible settlement? In this respect, did Lord Radcliffe consider the possibility of partition? If so, what were his recommendations as to the feasibility of any form of partition in Cyprus?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member asked me what was Her Majesty's Government's initiative in this matter to help to bring an end to the bloodshed. The statement I have made this afternoon should represent a very considerable contribution towards that end Secondly, the hon. Member asked where the consultations with Archbishop Makarios would take place. The answer is that they will take place in the Seychelles, where the Archbishop is now detained.

As to communications, I have myself told the hon. Member that I am quite prepared to pass on his Christmas greetings to the Archbishop, but other letters —long letters and letters which when they are received may mean quite different things from what some of them might generally be thought publicly to mean—not by the hon. Member—must clearly be subject to censorship in the ordinary way.

Thirdly, the hon. Member asked about Lord Radcliffe and partition. When he reads the Report, he will see that Lord Radcliffe expressly says that he was asked to draw up a Constitution for Cyprus under British sovereignty. He was not asked to consider or envisage the possibility of an eventual change of status.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the Colonial Secretary go a little further concerning the status of the Archbishop in this matter? It is all very well to send him Christmas cards, or even a copy of the Radcliffe Report. What is surely of value to Her Majesty's Government and to public opinion, in Cyprus, in Greece and in this country, is that we should know the Archbishop's views. Can we be quite clear that there will be a two-way traffic in this respect, and that the Archbishop will be free to express his opinion upon Lord Radcliffe's proposals?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Certainly, Sir. It would be rather fruitless and a waste of time for all concerned if either the visits of Lord Radcliffe's secretary and the officer of the Governor of Cyprus, who will arrive there tomorrow—

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Who are they?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

—or any later visits by anybody else, should result in the Archbishop not being able to say what he thought about the proposals. It is, however, quite another matter for me to say, which I am not prepared to say, or to accept, that we—either the Government or the Governor—should restart negotiations with the Archbishop.