HC Deb 19 June 1958 vol 589 cc1315-20
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I now propose to make the statement on the Government's policy on Cyprus which I had intended to make on Tuesday, but which, with the forbearance of the House, I decided to defer at the request of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council.

The policy of Her Majesty's Government in Cyprus has had four main purposes:

  1. (a) To serve the best interests of all the people of the island.
  2. (b) To achieve a permanent settlement acceptable to the two communities in the island and to the Greek and Turkish Governments.
  3. (c) To safeguard the British bases and installations in the island, which are necessary to enable the United Kingdom to carry out her international obligations.
  4. (d) To strengthen peace and security, and co-operation between the United Kingdom and her Allies, in a vital area.
These are the aims which Her Majesty's Government have consistently pursued and which have guided their efforts in recent months to find common ground on which an agreed settlement might be reached. It is deeply regretted that all attempts in this direction have hitherto proved unsuccessful.

In view of the disagreement between the Greek and Turkish Governments and between the two communities in Cyprus, and of the disastrous consequences for all concerned if violence and conflict continue, an obligation rests with the United Kingdom Government, as the sovereign Power responsible for the administration of the island and the wellbeing of its inhabitants, to give a firm and clear lead out of the present deadlock. They accordingly declare a new policy which represents an adventure in partnership—partnership between the communities in the island and also between the Governments of the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey.

The following is an outline of the partnership plan:

Cyprus should enjoy the advantages of association not only with the United Kingdom, and, therefore, with the British Commonwealth, but also with Greece and Turkey.

Since the three Governments of the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey all have an interest in Cyprus, Her Majesty's Government will welcome the co-operation and participation of the two other Governments in a joint effort to achieve the peace, progress and prosperity of the island.

The Greek and Turkish Governments will each be invited to appoint a representative to co-operate with the Governor in carrying out this policy.

The island will have a system of representative Government with each community exercising autonomy in its own communal affairs.

In order to satisfy the desire of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to be recognised as Greeks and Turks, Her Majesty's Government will welcome an arrangement which gives them Greek or Turkish nationality, while enabling them to retain British nationality.

To allow time for the new principle of partnership to be fully worked out and brought into operation under this plan in the necessary atmosphere of stability, the international status of the island will remain unchanged for seven years.

A system of representative government and communal autonomy will be worked out by consultation with representatives of the two communities and with the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments.

The essential provisions of the new constitution will be:

  1. (a) There will be a separate House of Representatives for each of the two communities, and these Houses will have final legislative authority in communal affairs.
  2. (b) Authority for internal administration, other than communal affairs and internal security, will be undertaken by a Council presided over by the Governor and including the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments and six elected Ministers drawn from the Houses of Representatives, four being Greek Cypriots and two Turkish Cypriots.
  3. (c) The Governor, acting after consultation with the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments, will have reserve powers to ensure that the interests of both communities are protected.
  4. (d) External affairs, defence and internal security will be matters specifically reserved to the Governor acting after consultation with the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments.
  5. (e) The representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments will have the right to require any legislation which they consider to be discriminatory to be reserved for consideration by an impartial tribunal.
If the full benefits of this policy are to be realised it is evident that violence must cease. Subject to this, Her Majesty's Government intend to take progressive steps to relax the Emergency Regulations and eventually to end the state of emergency. This process would include the return of those Cypriots at present excluded from the island under the Emergency Regulations.

A policy based on these principles and proposals will give the people of the island a specially favoured and protected status. Through representative institutions they will exercise authority in the management of the island's internal affairs, and each community will control its own communal affairs. While the people of the island enjoy these advantages, friendly relations and practical co-operation between the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey will be maintained and strengthened as Cyprus becomes a symbol of co-operation instead of a cause of conflict between the three Allied Governments.

Her Majesty's Government trust that this imaginative plan will be welcomed by all concerned in the spirit in which it is put forward, and for their part they will bend all efforts to ensuring its success. Indeed, if the Greek and Turkish Governments were willing to extend this experiment in partnership and co-operation, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared, at the appropriate time, to go further and, subject to the reservation to the United Kingdom of such bases and facilities as might be necessary for the discharge of her international obligations, to share the sovereignty of the island with their Greek and Turkish Allies as their contribution to a lasting settlement.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Gaitskell.

Mr. Gaitskell rose

The Prime Minister

Perhaps I might be allowed just to add one or two words. That is the statement of policy which I had intended to make last Tuesday and I have arranged for it to be published. It will be available in the Vote Office shortly. I would just like to add these words.

I have myself sent a personal appeal to the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey asking them to approach this policy in a spirit of co-operation and moderation. I have given the House the main outlines of the plan. There are, of course, many details which will require to be filled in after discussion. We are, therefore, not asking for immediate acceptance of our policy in every particular. While I recognise that some initial reactions may be unfavourable, I believe that further consideration will lead to the recognition of the genuine merits of this policy.

Meanwhile, it is a great support to the Government in discharging their heavy responsibilities in this matter to have the good will and understanding of the North Atlantic Council. Its assistance in the process of conciliation is proving, and I feel sure will continue to prove, of the highest value. Finally, I trust that our efforts, which are constructive and fair, will commend themselves to the House and to the country.

Mr. Gaitskell

The Prime Minister has given us a very full, detailed and important statement of the Government's plan, a statement which, in any event, would need to be very carefully considered by the Opposition before we expressed our opinion upon it. The statement is made at a very tense moment when there is, unhappily, danger of civil war in Cyprus. We cannot, unfortunately, rule out altogether the danger of conflict between Greece and Turkey. In those circumstances, I feel that we must all be keenly aware of the responsibility that rests upon us in anything we may say. Anything we say here on either Government or Opposition benches might affect that situation.

That being so, and in view of the fact that there is to be a debate next week, I do not feel that it would be wise for me to put questions to the Government at this stage. There will be opportunities next Thursday for putting questions and for putting our position clearly to the House and to the country. That being the case, I prefer to leave the matter there, and I would urge upon all my right hon. and hon. Friends the greatest possible restraint at this point in our proceedings.

Mr. Clement Davies

I would wish to be allowed to associate myself with what has just been said by the Leader of the Opposition. There is a very heavy responsibility upon all of us in this matter. We are only anxious for one thing, namely, for a proper settlement to be arrived at for the future of Cyprus.

Sir Roland Robinson

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be aware that it will be the hope of hon. Members on all sides of the House that this plan, which, obviously, has imagination and inspiration, will be accepted and adopted by Turks, Greeks and Cypriots alike and that it will succeed. Nevertheless, would my right hon. Friend care to say what would be the position if the new policy were not accepted, or failed?

Hon. Members


The Prime Minister

The policy which I have described deals with the next seven years. Of course, if in the long run all these hopes are dashed and all fails, then the British Government will stand by their pledges; but I do not want us to think in terms of failure. Let us think in terms of success and, starting from today, of a new approach. Perhaps the example we give here may have its effect on our allies, both Greek and Turk.