HC Deb 28 March 1957 vol 567 cc1355-61
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

With permission, Sir, I rise to make a statement on Cyprus.

On 20th March I informed the House that Her Majesty's Government accepted the offer of the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to use his good offices for conciliation on the Cyprus question. At the same time I said that, if Archbishop Makarios would make a clear public statement calling for the cessation of violence by E.O.K.A., a new situation would have been created and Her Majesty's Government would be ready to bring to an end his detention in Seychelles.

The Archbishop has now made a statement, copies of which will be available in the Vote Office when I sit down. While Her Majesty's Government cannot regard this statement as the clear appeal for which they asked, nevertheless they consider that in present circumstances it is no longer necessary to continue the Archbishop's detention. I have accordingly instructed the Governor of Seychelles, with the full agreement of Sir John Harding, to cancel the orders for the detention of the Archbishop and his three compatriots and to arrange passage from Seychelles by the first available vessel. I must repeat that there can be no question at this stage of their return to Cyprus.

In order to promote a rapid return to normal peaceful conditions in Cyprus the Governor of Cyprus is prepared to offer immediately a safe conduct out of Cyprus to the leader of E.O.K.A., Grivas. If he decides to avail himself of this offer, the Government of Cyprus will make the necessary arrangements with any member of the Consular Corps in Cyprus who agrees to act for him. This offer of safe conduct is open also to any other foreign nationals who are members of E.O.K.A. and are at large in Cyprus. It will be extended to any British subjects who are members of the organisation and still at large, provided they give an undertaking not to enter any British territory for so long as the legal State of Emergency continues to exist in Cyprus.

I should add that Her Majesty's Government cannot accept the Greek Government's interpretation of the United Nations Resolution which, as the House will see, the Archbishop has adopted in his statement. There is nothing inconsistent between the terms of that Resolution and conciliation by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Finally, I must make it clear that there can be no question of an immediate abolition of the State of Emergency in Cyprus. As and when the Governor of Cyprus considers that it is safe for relaxations of the Emergency Regulations to be made, they will be made, and the House, of course, will be informed.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that on this side of the House there will be no dissent from the decision to release the Archbishop? As his proposed reference of the dispute to N.A.T.O. has already run into difficulties with the Greek Government, can he say what is the next step in pacification which he proposes to take? Has not the situation changed in these two respects: that the Government have given a pledge that they adhere to the principle of self-determination, so that there can be no objection by the Archbishop to discussing the implementation of the Radcliffe Report, and that the island has now lain quietly without violence for fourteen days, so that there can be no objection, therefore, by Her Majesty's Government to discussing the implementation of the Radcliffe Report?

Is not the next logical step, in the policy upon which the Government have now embarked, to invite the Archbishop and other Greek Cypriots to London, together with representatives of the Turkish-Cypriot community, to discuss the next steps in the pacification of the island?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is, of course, true that a considerable factor in the decision which I have just announced has been that the security forces have recently had definite successes and that there has been virtually no recrudescence of violence. Incidentally, even the distribution of leaflets in Cyprus has stopped, at least for the moment, and, let us hope, for all time.

I have made it clear that the Radcliffe constitution can and should be discussed and so can other internal matters, but it will be difficult to reach final decisions on the internal problems until there is an understanding on the international status of the island. It therefore seems to the Government that the most important immediate requirement is to press on with the N.A.T.O. exercise. When we see more clearly how their work of conciliation is going, we shall be better able to turn our attention to internal problems with more hope of success. Then, of course, there will be talks and it will be necessary for Greek and Turkish-Cypriot representatives to be chosen. The representation should be broadly based. As head of the Ethnarchy, the Archbishop would obviously be one of the representatives of the Greek-Cypriots.

Mr. John Hall

If the Archbishop's statement is not quite as clear as we might have liked, in what way is it not clear? What are the present circumstances which led to the decision to release the Archbishop, despite the fact that his statement is not as satisfactory as we wished?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The statement was very long and I would refer my hon. Friend to it. He will see in it the reasons for the sentiment I have expressed.

My hon. Friend also asked me what the present circumstances were. The first is the very definite success of the security forces and the fact that there has been virtually no recrudescence of violence. The second is the statement of the Archbishop which, although conditional, includes an appeal for the end of violence. The real, overriding reason is the view of Her Majesty's Government that the conjunction of these two events enables us to take this further positive step towards a peaceful solution.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the Secretary of State clarify a statement which he made in reply to a supplementary question from my lion. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)? He said that he thought that the international status of the island should be clear before talks on the future constitutional position of the island began. What does he mean by "international status"? Who is to decide it? Is it not clear from pronouncements made by Her Majesty's present and previous Governments that matters of the internal constitution of a Dependency are matters between Her Majesty's Government and representatives of the people of that territory? Now is the opportunity to begin discussions, whatever may come out of the N.A.T.O. intervention, on the basis of the Radcliffe proposals.

Further, as I understand that the Archbishop is now free to go anywhere, except to Cyprus, I presume that he is free to come to London. If he does so, will it not be an opportune moment to reopen discussions on the basis of the Radcliffe proposals, to try to carry this matter a stage further towards a final settlement?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As far as the right hon. Member's question related to future talks upon the internal situation, I think that I have dealt with that matter. In so far as it related to the international aspects of the problem, it is the view of the British Government, as I explained to the House last week, that we should explore the international aspect, which concerns relations between the three countries most concerned, through the forum of N.A.T.O.

Mr. Griffiths

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the international status first, and he now talks about the international position. While discussions are taking place there is nothing to prevent Her Majesty's Government from entering into discussions and negotiations with the Cypriot people on the basis of the Radcliffe proposals. Will not he consider that, particularly now that we have reached this stage, so that we can carry the matter a further stage towards a final settlement?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

If the right hon. Gentleman reads carefully the considered answer I gave to his hon. Friend he will see how important it seems to us to proceed by a carefully arranged plan in this matter. I do not think that I can help matters by adding further to my answers at this stage.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the question of Cyprus is a very special case, and that the willingness of Her Majesty's Government to accept the good offices of N.A.T.O. on the international aspects of the question in no way forms a precedent for the intervention of foreign Powers or international organisations in the affairs of territories over which Her Majesty has sovereignty?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, Sir. I must make it clear that there is no question of arbitration in this matter; it is a question of the good offices of a conciliator. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear when he was Foreign Secretary, at the time of the tripartite talks between Greece, Great Britain and Turkey, it is because of the particular aspects of this problem that we were ready to have some form of international machinery to discuss it.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Minister make it quite clear that it is for the Archbishop to choose where he goes, and that he can come to London or go to Greece, or anywhere else, and will be free to see people— even if the Government are not at the moment willing to enter into negotiations about the future internal position of the country— and will be free to carry on negotiations?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

He is perfectly free to go wherever he likes except to return to Cyprus, at this stage.

Sir R. Boothby

My right hon. Friend has made it quite clear that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that what he describes as the N.A.T.O. exercise should have precedence over any other exercise at the moment. I do not think that anybody would dispute that, but it may last a very long time, and I should like an assurance from my right hon. Friend that the N.A.T.O. exercise, by its very existence, does not necessarily and permanently preclude direct negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and representatives from Cyprus, on the basis of the Radcliffe proposals.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Talks with representatives from Cyprus itself will relate to the Radcliffe proposals and other internal problems of the island. I made it clear in my answer to a supplementary question that when we see more clearly the way in which the work of conciliation by N.A.T.O. is going we shall be able to see the next step. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Has the Archbishop indicated where he intends to go, and will the Secretary of State not only cease to obstruct, but facilitate, communications with him by people in this country with whom he may wish to be in touch? Secondly, he referred to discussions with representatives— broadly based— from Cyprus. Will he give an assurance that that does not mean that he intends to choose whom the Cypriot representatives shall be?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have no information as to what the Archbishop's intentions are. He will be an entirely free man to go wherever he likes except to Cyprus— as will his three compatriots. As for what the hon. Member calls obstructing communications with the Archbishop, when the Archbishop is a free man anybody can get in touch with him anywhere, except in Cyprus.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear beyond a peradventure that the internal affairs of Cyprus and the maintenance of law and order there are matters for Britain and not for outside parties?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, Sir. I entirely agree. I would point out that the initiative that I have been able to announce today is almost entirely due to the courage and persistence of the Governor of Cyprus and the security forces.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

On a point of order. It appeared to me that the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) prevented the Secretary of State from answering the second part of my supplementary question, Sir. May he now be allowed to give that answer?

Mr. Speaker

I do not remember that.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

To the best of my recollection, the hon. Member asked who would choose the representatives. If we are to have talks in London, Her Majesty's Government will have a considerable responsibility in stating who is invited to take part in these talks. I have made it quite clear that, as head of the Ethnarchy, the Archbishop would be a suitable person to be included.

Mr. Paget

I want to ask about the question of an amnesty. Is the Minister aware that frequent statements by the Governor have said that the Archbishop was implicated in a number of acts of violence for which people are at present undergoing long sentences of imprisonment? Are these underlings to go on being punished when their chief is released, or are we to expect a general amnesty?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is for the Governor to see how far there can be a relaxation of the Emergency Regulations. He has been away from the island for ten days. Naturally, I have discussed this matter with him, but the timing of any possible relaxation will be for him to decide in the light of the developing situation.