HC Deb 13 June 1956 vol 554 cc578-83
Mr. K. Robinson

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what grounds he has deported Father Kallinikos Macheriotis, the Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Church in London, and whether he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

Mr. Kallinikos Macheriotis was born in Cyprus in 1908 and was, therefore, at one time a British subject. He lived in Greece between 1936 and 1951 and acquired Greek nationality by naturalisation in June, 1948. He returned to Cyprus in 1950, where he held the appointment of Archimandrite of the Limassol Metropolis, and in 1952 was allowed to come to the United Kingdom to take up an appointment as the priest in charge of the Greek Orthodox Church at Pratt Street, Camden Town.

Acting under a power of attorney given by Archbishop Makarios on 5th January last, authorising the establishment of a committee for the collection of funds in England "for the Cyprus national struggle", Mr. Macheriotis, as Chairman of the Committee, has taken a leading part in the issue of an appeal for subscriptions directed to the "patriotism and religious feelings" of the recipients of the appeal.

Collections for this purpose have been raised among the community attending the church, which has been used under the auspices of Mr. Macheriotis as a centre for the dissemination of anti-British propaganda. Concern has been expressed by some loyal Cypriots and Greek nationals living in London at the pressure brought to bear upon them.

Her Majesty's Government decided that in the circumstances Mr. Macheriotis should be required to leave this country forthwith. The deportation order was executed by police officers who called at Mr. Macheriotis' flat at approximately 8 p.m. on Monday evening. He was given every facility to pack and to communicate with his friends before being taken to London Airport, where he embarked for Athens shortly after 1.45 a.m.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Home Secretary aware that his action—which he has totally failed to justify—has not only further embittered Anglo-Greek relations, but has deeply affronted a religious minority in this country, some thousands of whom are my constituents? Does not he agree that the Cypriot community in London has so far conducted itself with complete propriety and restraint, but that provocative actions of this kind, coupled with the barren policy of the Government in Cyprus itself, might well lead to serious trouble over here?

I should like to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman one or two specific questions. Was Father Kallinikos Macheriotis given any warning that his activities were giving offence to the Home Office, and was he further told that there might be serious consequences? Secondly, can the Home Secretary say why the Greek Embassy did not receive any formal notice of the deportation of a Greek subject, and why no communication was made to Archbishop Theotira, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Western Europe, whose headquarters are in London?

Major Lloyd-George

Rightly or wrongly, I thought it in our best interests that Mr. Macheriotis should not be allowed to stay longer than necessary to carry out the activities which led to his being asked to leave. Her Majesty's Government are absolutely determined, as far as in their power lies, to see that people in this country, whether British subjects or otherwise, are allowed to go on doing their ordinary day-to-day work free from the kind of thing for which Mr. Macheriotis was responsible. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I must answer in my own way. The hon. Member's supplementary was a long one and my answer will be a long answer. Mr. Macheriotis was given permission to come here as a priest, and if he had continued to conduct himself as a priest he would have been here today. It is only because he indulged in activities entirely outside his functions that he had to go.

I think that is perfectly fair. After all, if a person comes here as a foreigner he is welcome here as long as he behaves himself. The fact is that the church was the centre of anti-British propaganda. I think that it is quite intolerable at this stage—considering what is happening in Cyprus—that people should be using the church to gather money to finance action of this sort.

Captain Waterhouse

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that his firm action in this matter will be applauded throughout the whole of the country? Will he consider the advisability of making it a criminal offence for funds to be collected in this country—by an individual or by an organisation; British or foreign—which are to be transmitted for the benefit of an organisation which is carrying out actions against and murdering British soldiers?

Major Lloyd-George

I thank my right hon. and gallant Friend for what he has said. I will certainly look into the point which he has raised.

Mr. Bevan

Will the Home Secretary, either in the OFFICIAL REPORT or by means of a White Paper, set out the charges against this priest, so that we might judge the justification for what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has done? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not replied to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). Why did the Minister not inform the Greek Embassy of this action? The fact that he did not must serve to embitter Anglo-Greek relations still further. Further, is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware, from his background, that if priests had to eliminate all social and political content from their sermons some of his illustrious countrymen would have been in gaol long ago?

Major Lloyd-George

I probably have as much knowledge of the priests—as he calls them—in my country as the right hon. Gentleman has. I have never had any recollection of any minister appealing for funds for the killing of British soldiers. As for giving a warning to the Greek Embassy, I should have thought it quite unnecessary. A priest coming here to carry out his priestly functions should have confined himself to them.

Mr. Bevan

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman answer my first question? He stated that this man was collecting funds for assisting in the murder of British soldiers. Will he please place the evidence before the House?

Major Lloyd-George

I should have thought there was no need to place the evidence before the House and that what is happening to British soldiers in Cyprus was sufficient evidence. If the right hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy to read my Answer, he will find there is nothing that it is necessary to add to it because the church to which I referred was where the appeal was made, among other things, quite apart from the anti-British propaganda. This priest was given power of attorney by Archbishop Makarios to collect funds for the Cyprus national struggle. Surely that is sufficient proof of what I said.

Major Wall

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the Cypriot community in this country has been subject to increasing pressure from highly paid agents of the Ethnarchy and others, that the majority of the community are loyal and do not want Enosis, which they fear would deprive them of British nationality, and that they are entitled to protection against this type of sedition?

Major Lloyd-George

I endorse what my hon. and gallant Friend says about Cypriots in this country being loyal subjects who object most strongly, as I have been told by some of them, to the pressure being put upon them.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

The Home Secretary has made a lot of charges which will shock many people in this House and elsewhere. The daily Press has made a series of rather less responsible charges which are even more shocking. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I shall ask my question in my own way. I want to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, first, whether he can say whether one penny of the money collected by this priest ever left the United Kingdom. Secondly, I want to ask him whether he can produce any evidence to show that there was any connection between the activities of this priest and the murder of British Service men in Cyprus. Thirdly, I want to ask him whether he is aware that the deportation of this priest and various other police activities that have recently been affecting Cypriot friends of mine in London have given the impression to other Cypriots that they are part of a deliberate campaign to intimidate Cypriots who might otherwise be complaining about British Government policy. Finally, may I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he is aware that, however convincing to him the case put before him by the security authorities may be, a great many people are worried by what appears to them to be an arbitrary exercise of authority against those who are thought by most of those who know them well to be harmless and law-abiding citizens?

Major Lloyd-George

I have nothing to add to what I have said. I have made it perfectly clear that the money was collected for the purpose of the Cyprus national struggle—

Mr. Noel-Baker

Where has it gone? Has it gone abroad?

Major Lloyd-George

Never mind where it has gone. It was collected for that purpose.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has it gone?

Major Lloyd-George

I am not prepared to say at the moment. The fact is that it was collected for that purpose.

Mr. Noel-Baker

It was not.

Major Lloyd-George

Yes. It was collected—I am quoting: for the Cyprus national struggle.

Mr. Noel-Baker

That has nothing to do with attempts against British Service men.

Major Lloyd-George

What is the national struggle in Cyprus at the moment? What is going on there? The hon. Gentleman must acquit me of the desire to intimidate. This action was not taken without very careful consideration and a great knowledge of the facts. I cannot repeat more than two things, that the money was collected for the national struggle and that this church was the centre of anti-British propaganda.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I gathered from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's original Answer that this money was, so he alleged, collected for anti-British propaganda, but in reply to supplementaries he said there was evidence that it was used to help terrorists who are killing British troops. In view of the change made in his replies to the supplementaries from his first Answer, may I ask whether he is now prepared to lay before the House the evidence on which he has taken this action? Since Greece is still a friendly ally in N.A.T.O., at what stage did the right hon. and gallant Gentleman or his servants discover that this was taking place? Did they have any discussions with or make any representations to the Greek Government, or was the first that the Greek Government knew about the deportation that it had taken place?

Major Lloyd-George

I did not inform the Greek Government for reasons which I think I have made clear. It was not appropriate to give very long notice to this man, because it would have enabled him to continue the work which really made it necessary to send him out of the country. I am quite prepared to put in the Library the document which refers to the collecting of funds for the Cyprus national struggle, because it makes plain what they were doing. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to complain of my touchiness about where the money is going, but, after all, I am supported by a great number of branches of the E.T.U.

Mr. Donnelly

On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker? Is it not a fact that within the privilege of the House the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had made serious charges against an individual? That being so, is there not a tradition of this House that those sort of charges should be substantiated? Can we have some substantiation of the charges made by the Home Secretary?

Mr. Speaker

There is no point of order in that.