§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
The last debate that we had on Cyprus in this House was on 15th July last year, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have already expressed our gratitude to the House for the restraint that has been shown ever since. It is true that since that date I have had 160 Questions addressed to me on Cyprus, but there has not been a debate, and for the opportunity to discuss matters informally internationally we are very grateful. The problems of Cyprus can only be settled in one of two ways: either by co-operation or by conflict, and it is very doubtful indeed whether a settlement by conflict would last for long.
Throughout the period of tension we have been fortunate in Cyprus in having two remarkable Governors, Lord Harding and Sir Hugh Foot. Each of them has made, as Sir Hugh is still making, his own unique contribution of courage, imagination and devotion to an island where history and race, geography and 612 strategic needs confront us with formidable difficulties.
As the Committee knows, the legal sovereignty of Cyprus is vested in the British Crown by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. Under Article 20 of that Treaty Turkeyhereby recognises the annexation of Cyprus proclaimed by the British Government on 5th November, 1914.This is the operative Article relating to Cyprus in that Treaty, and in recognising our sole sovereignty over Cyprus the Treaty legally and implicitly permits us to do what we think best in and with the island. It gives us the right, among other rights, to decide what other countries we choose to consult about the status of the island.
I do not think that it would be profitable to go over the many efforts that have been made over the last few years to find a settlement for Cyprus—continual diplomatic approaches, visits to Cyprus, Athens and Ankara by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and myself, the Tripartite Conference, the Radcliffe Constitution, and in many other ways. One day the whole story can be told. Then, patient efforts, opportunities taken, opportunities lost, all can be considered, and praise and blame can, we hope, then be fairly allotted.
However, I am sure that today it is to the future that we should direct our thoughts, for the opportunity is now at hand to bring to an end the disputes over Cyprus, which have disturbed Western unity, and to turn Cyprus from an island of controversy between Allies into an island where we can demonstrate to the N.A.T.O. alliance and to the world what friendly co-operation and partnership can achieve.
I owe it to the Committee to say something briefly of the efforts which have been made since the last debate to find a settlement. In the last debate, though, of course, many differences of view were expressed, a good deal of common ground was found. We were all desperately auxious to find a solution and to reach an agreement in compliance with the United Nations resolution of the previous February. We carried on attempts at international agreement and tried to find a settlement as a result of the resolution that had been passed by the United 613 Nations the previous February. Earlier attempts at international agreement had shown that the positions of Greece and Turkey were too far apart to make it possible to get a settlement on the basis of a detailed agenda.
The best way of making progress seemed to us to be by private talks between Governments. We suggested a conference for that purpose, without a fixed agenda and with freedom to discuss, without prejudice, every solution that had been previously mooted. The purpose of that conference would have been to find an acceptable solution of the international problem and so to pave the way for a subsequent settlement of the internal problem by direct discussions with the representatives of the two main island communities.
The Turkish Government accepted this suggestion, but the Greek Government, while not rejecting the idea of a conference, preferred that the basic outlines of a solution should first be agreed among the Governments concerned. At that time, there was also a problem of timing. We suggested a conference in September, but it was felt that it could not usefully take place before the Turkish elections, which were timed for the end of October, or until after the forthcoming discussions at the United Nations had taken place.
During those months of diplomatic discussion, E.O.K.A. resumed activity, it is quite clear, to maintain its grip on the Greek-Cypriot community. In this, Left-wing Greek-Cypriot trade unionists were among the victims and the Turkish-Cypriot organisation, T.M.T., came to the fore at the end of August. Sir Hugh Foot arrived in Cyprus as Governor in early December. As the Committee will remember, there were riotous demonstrations during the United Nations discussions when the Greek resolution failed, in the plenary Assembly, to get the necessary two-thirds majority. That, incidentally, left the resolution of February, 1957, as the last substantive resolution by the United Nations.
The new Governor returned to London on the first day of this year to report to Ministers in the light of his experience during his first month in the island, and to make recommendations to us for future policy. At that time, it was still our intention to try, through confidential 614 diplomatic exchanges, to reach agreement with the Greek and Turkish Governments on a course of action before any statement of policy was made.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary was due to visit Ankara at the end of January for a meeting of the Bagdad Pact Council. He decided to stay on for an exchange of views with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Turkey, and he afterwards visited Athens for a similar exchange of views with Greek Ministers. After the Foreign Secretary's return to London, there were further exchanges of views through diplomatic channels.
I do not want to give an account of those discussions, or to mention the ideas that were put forward on one side or the other, because, as I think the Committee as a whole will agree, it is essential for these confidential exchanges between friends and Allies that they should be able to take place under the mantle of secrecy. I can only say that it became unmistakably clear to us that it was not possible to secure agreement on a course of action to be pursued in Cyprus.
Meanwhile, the situation in the island itself was deteriorating very rapidly. It became urgently necessary to announce a policy and to carry it through. We therefore abandoned the search for a course of action that had been agreed in advance among the three Governments, and we set out minds to working out a British plan of action, to be put forward on British responsibility, which would be fair to all and in which all concerned would be invited to co-operate.
I said that the situation in the island at that time had been steadily deteriorating. Murders by E.O.K.A. of Greek Left-wing trade unionists began to reach their peak in May, following the Governor's next visit to London. In the weeks before, there had been stirrings among Turkish-Cypriots following the deaths of Turks in January, and the T.M.T. began to get very active. At the beginning of this month, violence took on an openly communal form and the people of Cyprus were given grim warning of the horrors of civil war.
Broadcasts from Athens and from Ankara, distribution of literature calling openly for the storing of arms and ammunition and blackguarding the members of the other race, the migration of 615 hundreds of Greek and Turkish families from their old homes—all the ugly signs of civil war were there, and in the wider field, the withdrawal of Greek N.A.T.O. personnel from Izmir, showed the dangers to the N.A.T.O. Alliance.
As the Governor said, we are not engaged in an academic exercise. We are dealing with a desperately dangerous situation. There have been two lessons to be learned from this period. The first is that Cyprus is on the brink of civil war, which could not be limited to the island, and the second is that there is no possibility of the Greek and Turkish Governments arriving at an agreed solution, either by a conference or by diplomatic means, and that the only hope of avoiding disaster was for Her Majesty's Government to take a new initiative and to adhere to it with resolution. That is what we intend to do.
The Governor came again to the United Kingdom in early May. We then agreed with him on a new policy. As the Committee will remember, the Greek Government was then due to be formed by mid-May and our Parliament was going into recess at the end of the third week of May. We wanted to have consultations with the Greek and Turkish Governments and with other Allies. The statement of policy was, therefore, postponed until last week.
Meanwhile, the security forces, the troops and the police, have faced a grim situation with courage, with patience and with good humour. If, as we believe, the way is now open before us for a constructive settlement of the problems of Cyprus, it will have been made possible by the devotion of those who have striven to keep the peace.
The policy is based on two main foundations. The first is partnership and the second is communal autonomy. It has always been our view that the interests of the people of Cyprus must come first. This policy, we believe, puts their interests first, but it would be very foolish not to recognise that Greece and Turkey have been, are, and must be, interested in Cyprus. How much better it is to turn that interest into practical co-operation.
The second foundation of the policy is communal autonomy. This policy is essentially one for an undivided Cyprus, 616 but it recognises the obvious fact that there are two main separate communities in Cyprus. Hon. Members on both sides who know Cyprus will realise that the principle of communal autonomy, the principle on which a community should manage its own communal affairs, is already widely practised in Cyprus. Indeed, it is one of the few principles in which the Greeks and the Turks are agreed.
The Greek-Cypriots do not want to interfere in Turkish religion, education or social affairs, and the Turkish-Cypriots do not want themselves to interfere with Greek-Cypriot religious, educational or social affairs. The plan provides that each community shall control its own communal affairs. The precise extent of communal affairs and what constitutes communal affairs is a matter which should be discussed. As the Governor has already said, communal affairs might include some aspects of local government.
Those are the two main principles. Under this policy, Cyprus will be associated not only with the United Kingdom and, therefore, with the Commonwealth, but also with Greece and Turkey. We have asked for the co-operation of the Greek and Turkish Governments with us in a joint effort to achieve peace and progress for the island. Our policy provides for the appointment of representatives of the two Governments to co-operate with the Governor, for arrangements for Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots to have, if they wish, Greek and Turkish nationality as well as their British nationality. It provides for the new constitution, with representative government and communal autonomy, to be prepared in consultation with the representatives of the two communities and of the Greek and Turkish Governments. There will be a separate House of Representatives for each community, with final legislative authority in communal affairs.
There will be a Council, presided over by the Governor, which will be composed of the two Government representatives, Greek and Turk, four elected Greek Cypriot Ministers and two elected Turkish Cypriot Ministers, these last four and two being drawn from the two communal Houses of Representatives. This Council will exercise authority over internal affairs other than communal affairs and internal security.
617 To protect community interests still further, there are two other provisions. The Governor will have reserved powers, acting after consultation with the representatives of the two Governments, to ensure protection of community interests and, if this is not enough, the two representatives can have any legislation which they think discriminatory reserved for consideration by an impartial tribunal. Of course, authority for external affairs, for defence and for internal security will be reserved to the Governor, acting after consultation with the two representatives. There will be no change, under the plan, in the international status of the island for seven years. Subject to an end of violence, progressive steps will be taken to relax the Emergency Regulations and, eventually, to end the state of emergency. This process will include the return of Cypriots at present excluded from the island.
Under this policy, the interests of all the peoples of Cyprus are safeguarded. To the Greek Cypriots, this seven-year plan offers participation by the Greeks in the administration of the island, the advantages of dual nationality, the maintenance of Cyprus as a unit, and the fact that the composition of the Governor's Council will reflect their numbers in the island. It holds out the prospect—in-deed, if all co-operate, the certainty—of an early end of the emergency and all that that entails. To the Turkish Cypriots, the policy gives participation by Turkey in the administration of the island, dual nationality, communal autonomy, and an impartial tribunal to consider legislation which might be thought discriminatory.
There are, of course, some very important matters on which we want the help and advice of the Governments of Greece and Turkey and of representatives of the Greek-and Turkish-Cypriots. We want to work out with them in detail a system of representative Government and communal autonomy in consultation with them. Many very important points remain to be settled, on the communal Houses of Representatives, on the definition of communal affairs, on the composition of the impartial tribunal to which legislation can be referred, and on many other matters.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we have not asked for immediate acceptance of our policy in 618 every particular. We recognise that some initial reactions may be critical. But we are convinced that we are on the right lines and we believe, as my right hon. Friend said, that further consideration will lead to the recognition of the genuine merits of this policy.
During these last anxious but hopeful weeks, we have been greatly fortified by the understanding shown by our Allies on the North Atlantic Council. The discussions of our policy in the N.A.T.O. Council have been a very great value to Her Majesty's Government in showing us the attitudes not only of those directly concerned, but also of our other Allies who can look at the Cyprus problem perhaps with more detachment. We have been very struck by the way in which the 12 countries not directly concerned in the problem, and the Secretary-General himself, who has been most helpful in the cause of conciliation, have all regarded our policy as a basis for constructive discussion between the three countries directly interested. It seems to Her Majesty's Government that this general expression of view was well worth waiting for, and we are very glad indeed that the Governments represented on the North Atlantic Council had time to consider our plan.
We stand ready to enter into the constructive discussions on our plan which have been recommended with the Greeks and with the Turks as soon as they are prepared to do so. This, naturally, applies to talks with representative Cypriots. We shall, of course, continue to keep in touch with our other N.A.T.O. Allies on this question and take full advantage of the opportunities for consultation and conciliation which the N.A.T.O. machinery offers. We now have a chance—perhaps it may be the last chance—to heal a wound which is weakening and impoverishing the free world. I ask the Committee, with confidence, to approve the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
The Colonial Secretary said at one point in his speech that the N.A.T.O. countries, our Allies, could perhaps look at this problem with more detachment than could Her Majesty's Government. Having listened to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, I am bound to say that I thought he was a model of detachment. One would have thought that the 619 connection between Her Majesty's Government and this problem and the responsibility which the Government have for a great deal of the situation which has arisen in Cyprus was something upon which he could comment as an outsider.
It is not our desire this afternoon to pursue the subject of the heavy responsibility which we think lies upon Her Majesty's Government. That is something for which, in due course, they will have to account to the British people. I cannot, however, agree with the Colonial Secretary when he says that now, as in the past—that is where my disagreement comes—the interests of the people of Cyprus have been first in the minds of the Government. I do not know what else Mr. Henry Hopkinson—now Lord Colyton—will be remembered for, but he is bound to have a footnote in the history books for his classic reply of 28th July, 1954.
We must face the fact that what forced the issue to the surface, what brought it to the point where violence broke out, was the suggestion not that the interest of the people of Cyprus should be placed first, but that British sovereignty over the island could not be abrogated. Much as I wish to spare the Colonial Secretary a rehearsal of the history of the past, it must be remembered that the Government themselves have played a very active part in the negotiations which have taken place and in the course of events, and I wish to say, straight away, that, in our view, grave mistakes lie on both sides in this dispute.
Here, we have a different approach. Mr. Henry Hopkinson, as he then was, insisted, the Colonial Secretary insisted, the Prime Minister, when he was Foreign Secretary, insisted, that Cyprus was a domestic issue. Now we have a change in the Government's plan, in which they are inviting the Greek and Turkish Governments to join with them in a solution of this problem. This is the second change which has been made in the Government's approach. There is now a belated concession to common sense in the recognition by the Colonial Secretary and members of the Government that representatives of the people of the Island of Cyprus must be brought into discussions on this problem.
We have been pressing for such a step to be taken for a very long time, but it 620 is only now that the Government are willing to discuss with Archbishop Makarios some of the details of the constitution which should be worked out. It is a very great pity that our advice on this, as on some other matters, was not taken at a much earlier stage. The real question, and the purpose of my saying this, is to ask: why is it that it has taken so long for the Government to change their attitude in these matters? This is the question which must interest us before we get down to a detailed examination of the plan.
Why is it, having said, first, that British sovereignty must remain unique, that they are now willing to share it and why, having said that it was a domestic issue, have they invited other countries in and have invited the help and conciliation of N.A.T.O.? Why is it that they are now ready to talk about these matters with the representatives of the people of Cyprus? The reason is that, at long last, Her Majesty's Government have got over the period of indecision and division in their counsels which prevented them from taking the initiative before.
I do not know whether the Committee has forgotten that the Marquess of Salisbury, one of the most important members of the Cabinet, at the time, resigned on the simple issue of whether Archbishop Makarios should be kept in detention or not, three months after the publication of the Radcliffe Committee's Report. How could we expect the Radcliffe Committee's Report to be implemented? How could we expect the Government to put their weight behind it, as they are now putting their weight behind this plan, at a time when the Government, and, indeed, their back benchers, were so divided on the approach to Cyprus that they could not agree? This precipitated the resignation of one senior member of the Government and led to the resignation, in part, of some members of the Conservative Party. I say this because in this matter the Government really cannot escape from their own measure of responsibility.
The plan which is now being produced is not altogether new. I must say that it does, of course, hold some advantages for the people of the island, and I am glad that it should do so. For one thing, it will permit the ending of the Emergency Regulations, under which the island has lain now for over three years. It will 621 permit the return to the island of its leaders. It will enable some form of normal government to be resumed. All of these things are advantages which are bound to appeal to the ordinary people of Cyprus, lying as they are under the threat of terror and under day and night curfews in many parts of the island.
These are great advantages which must be weighed in the balance when considering a plan of this sort. I imagine that it is to some extent these advantages, if not other features of the plan, which have had some effect in adjusting the attitude of the Governments concerned and of Archbishop Makarios to the Government's proposals.
The Government's plan has been published and has been rejected by all concerned. I do not think that the Government should pay so much attention to the rejection of the plan as to the reasons that are given for the rejection of it, and as to the change of attitude which has arisen as the result of the publication of the plan. Let me illustrate what I mean.
Take, first, the Archbishop. He has rejected the idea of partnership, which the Colonial Secretary says is the foundation of the plan. But, just as important, if not more significant, is that in the course of his rejection he said in his letter to the Governor:We do not reject a transitory stage of self-government.This is the first time that the Archbishop has ever, in such terms, put this matter. Hitherto, he has always insisted upon the details of self-determination being worked out before he would consider any measure of self-government. If, as the Colonial Secretary says, this plan is designed to lead to self-government—well, at last, there is at least "a chink of light" here, if I may use the words of the Minister of Labour in another connection; and the Colonial Secretary, I am sure, would not ignore what I regard as a significant change in the attitude of Archbishop Makarios.
Mr. Karamanlis, the Greek Prime Minister, in his letter to our own Prime Minister, seems to acquiesce in setting aside, for the time being, the idea of self-determination so as to consider 622a temporary solution on the basis of democratic self-government under British sovereignty.These major concessions have both come, I ask the Committee to note, from the Greek side. So far, from the Turkish side all that we have had is a statement, so far as I can make out, that the idea of partnership is reconcilable with the idea of partition.
I always understood that when a partnership comes to an end the partners divide the assets and that one cannot have a continuing partnership if the assets are divided. I do not think that the Turkish Government, in their reactions to this plan, have done anything to modify the stand which they have taken up so far. The concessions have come from the Greek side in this controversy.
I would say to Her Majesty's Government that they would neglect an opportunity if they were to seize upon the formal rejections which have taken place and ignore the substantial shift which has also taken place in the attitude of the people concerned. I would hope that they would concentrate on seeing to what extent their plan, which has been introduced, as the Colonial Secretary said, as a basis for discussion, could be amended in such a way as to take advantage of the shift of opinion, which I have tried to outline.
The original Foot plan, which, we understood, was to be published in January, never saw the light of day. It disappeared after the Foreign Secretary had been to Ankara. It has never been published and, therefore, I am not able to comment on it. I think that it is fair to say that if it disappeared after the visit of the Foreign Secretary to Ankara it was because of the fierce Turkish objections to the proposals which he took to them.
In those circumstances, I am bound to say that, looking at the plan as it stands, the Government have gone to the very limits in the concessions they have made to the Turkish point of view; indeed, in some ways they have gone beyond the limits that I should have liked to see. Any modifications which are to be made in working out the details of the plan should, in our view, be on the side of meeting those who have given up a great deal of the attitude which they have adopted up to the present.
623 I come now to the criticisms which lead to this conclusion. The major criticism that can be made of the plan is that it emphasises the separation of the two communities rather than their unity. Is that denied? We have two communal assemblies, each of which is to consider its own communal matters. Above them we have the Governor's Council, in which Greeks and Turks are to be represented, not in the strict proportion that the Colonial Secretary led us to believe but in a proportion of 2 to 1—not that that is a very significant point, but it is not a strict proportion. Then we have a representative of the Greek Government and another of the Turkish Government sitting on the Governor's Council.
All this is an emphasis on division, and not on unity. It is an emphasis on the Greek nature of the people and the Turkish nature of the people. Where is there, in this plan, any emphasis on the fact that these people are Cypriots? That is what I mean when I say that the Government have gone to the very extremes in the concessions that they have made to the Turkish point of view in this matter.
I will quote The Times in support of what I am saying—and perhaps the Government benches will accept its authority even if they will not accept mine. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We never quite know where the party opposide stands in relation to The Times—but at least I think that it will be conceded that both The Times and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite regard themselves as the top people. The Times editorial put it very succinctly. It said:It"—that is, the plan; and I ask hon. Members opposite to note this; especially those who growled just now—involves what is virtually a system of non-territorial partition.When we look at the organs at present in the plan we see that it is impossible for any fair-minded observer to come to a different conclusion.
In the view of hon. Members on this side of the Committee the plan can be justified only if it is a temporary expedient, for the purpose of bringing the people together, and not a permanent feature, designed to keep them separate. I 624 was glad to hear the Colonial Secretary say that the plan is designed to produce unity in the island, because that is certainly our approach to the problem. I am, therefore, entitled to say that in my view these provisions emphasise the separateness rather than the unity that the Colonial Secretary wishes to achieve.
No one that I have ever discussed this matter with—except the late Walter Elliot—ever believed in partition and, as I understand, partition is still ruled out. As I understand from the broadcast of the Governor, his view is that this plan cannot and will not lead to partition. I hope that that is true, but if it is to be made true the organs contained in the plan should provide for the Greeks and Turks to be able to come together. In his reply to our Prime Minister the Greek Prime Minister put his finger on the spot when he said:in examining the outline of your plan from a practical point of view, it is apparent that the whole system is based on an entirely ephemeral situation, that is on tension in the relations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots who have lived for centuries in peace and unity in this indivisible territory.Whatever else we disagree upon we will agree that this has been an ephemeral outburst of communal violence. To what extent it has been artificially fostered it is difficult for us to judge, and they know where their responsibilities lie.
But we ought not to base permanent institutions on what may be a temporary and passing quarrel between the two communities in the island. Therefore, we would like to make a suggestion to the Government which we think they should consider in connection with the plan. We would like to put to them that, as one of their ideas, they ought to propose an instrument of the Constitution that would enable the Greeks and Turks to meet together. As present, there is only one place where four Greeks and two Turks meet—on the Governor's Council. That is not self-government by any stretch of the imagination.
What right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side would like to see is the creation of another larger instrument, ideally based on a common roll—although I suppose that is impossible at the moment—which would form a legislative assembly of the island. As to the details, I would not press the Government now, but it seems to me that there 625 should be a place at which the two communities can meet. It may be that, initially, their authority would be little; it may be that at first they would have little to say to each other, but at least it would be possible for them to come together as passions quietened and their interests grew.
We should like the Government to create such an organ, or propose its creation. At least, we should like the Government to consider it. We do not ask them to reply today. We are trying to put forward a suggestion which we think will be helpful in accordance with our understanding of the Government's aims. We suggest that they might create this organ which would of itself, if it came to life, stop the Greeks looking so much to the Greek representative from Athens for their protection, and stop the Turks looking to the Turkish representative from Ankara. The danger of the plan—and I am sure that the Colonial Secretary must have seen this in preparing it—is that it will encourage both communities in the island to look almost exclusively to the representatives from Ankara and Athens There is no unity that way.
What we want to do is to make it possible to create an assembly to which the Cypriots can look, to divert their eyes from Ankara and Athens. That is the proposal which we make. In due course, as self-government comes, it could be a receptacle into which the reserve powers which the Governor now has could be poured, so that it would eventually become a democratic assembly in the fullest sense of the word. It would enable the people of Cyprus to register their views not merely as Greeks and as Turks, but as Cypriots.
In rejecting the plan all the parties to the dispute have agreed to further talks. We hope that the Government will follow the matter up—as I believe the Colonial Secretary said he intended to do—through diplomatic channels with the two Governments and that the Governor will be empowered to enter into discussions or correspondence with the elected leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot people in the island, so that he can discuss with them the form of the internal constitution.
I now come to the Opposition's attitude to the plan. This, to us, is a particularly frustrating and baffling matter. We are 626 told that everybody is waiting to hear what we have to say. We have responsibility, but we have no power. The power lies with the party opposite. We were not consulted about the drawing up of the plan. I do not complain about that; in our system of Government that is the Government's job. But we had no part in shaping these provisions. We therefore do not feel that it is the job of the Opposition to give a blanket endorsement to the plan. As everybody is assuming that we shall succeed the present Government, I must say that it seems to us likely that there will have to be changes in the constitution.
Everyone who has written about this plan since it was published has doubted whether its provisions can last, so we must hold ourselves free in that respect. I want to make this clear: the situation in the island is of such a character, and in the Middle East generally it is of such a nature, that we would welcome any agreement that the parties to this dispute can come to. We should want to see it run its course. We would not seek to overturn it. We say to all the parties to this dispute, "It is your duty at the present time to go into negotiations and discussions. We beg of you to do so wherever you may be and whoever you are, to see whether this situation can be brought to an end."
That will need flexibility, of course. We cannot go into discussions of this sort, on which the fiercest passions are held on both sides, and expect to retain our first position. That is the only object of putting forward the propositions which I have put forward. I cannot believe that the Government can go into discussions of this sort in present circumstances, private diplomatic discussions in the first place, without some idea that they would be prepared to make adjustments in order to concentrate upon the essential unity of the island rather than to emphasise its separateness.
This brings me to another question, which has concerned us as well as the Government very much, and that is—I speak as a member of the Opposition—our attitude to this question of self-determination. We have to uphold the doctrine throughout the whole of the Commonwealth Territories that peoples are entitled to decide their own destiny. We certainly do not depart from that 627 principle. If we do depart from it, we do so at our peril and perhaps to the peril of the British people at some time in the future. Nevertheless, in saying this we must make it clear that, in our view, self-determination, when it comes, must come with the consent of the people of the island. It cannot be imposed by force. It would be wrong to try to impose self-determination by force and it would not be our intention to do so.
Here is a dilemma. I see that some of the Suez "rebels" on the Government benches below the Gangway are very quick to seize upon it. Of course, pit is a dilemma. I hope that they will be prepared to face it honestly. This can be construed as giving any trouble-maker in the island the opportunity continually, and for an indeterminate period, to hold up the idea of self-determination as long as he can continue to make trouble. That is the real dilemma and I acknowledge it straight away. That is why we now say that it should be the job of the Government, as far as they can, to promote unity inside the island so that the people of the island will themselves come together in due course and determine what their future shall be. That is what we would say is the proper approach to this problem.
In present circumstances it would certainly be impossible to apply the doctrine of self-determination in an atmosphere of civil war, and we have no right to ask British troops to hazard their lives in such an undertaking. It follows that as the consent of the minority is a necessary element, if self-determination is to be lasting, we should endeavour, as far as we can, to create these organs.
To those outside the island it seems as though the rôle of the two communities is being reversed. There has been a feeling for a very long time that the Turks have been the favoured children of the Administration. How far it is true the people can judge, but there has been this very strong feeling. Now it seems that it is the Greeks who are more ready to co-operate and the Turks who have become recalcitrant. I make the request of the Colonial Secretary that everyone in the armed forces, the security forces, and the Administration should deal out the same consideration and the same evenhanded justice to everyone in the island.
628 I have no need to go back over the past and to the allegations that have been made. The Colonial Secretary and other members of the Government will know what I mean. It is vital that this should be the policy of the Administration at present, whatever it may have been in the past. The Colonial Secretary tells us that the Greek and Turkish wireless still pours out incitements to violence and revolt, but Athens radio is jammed and it is the Turkish radio which is not jammed. It is Turkish incitements to violence which are reaching the island at present. When similar irresponsible propaganda was put out from Athens, the Government of Cyprus jammed it. I hope that they will not be reluctant to act again, unless these statements which are incitement to violence from Ankara cease. The Government can do no less in the interests of the people of the island.
We recognise the legitimate fears of the Turks about the safety of their southern ports and of their minorities. As to the second, I believe that the dangers have been over-emphasised and then artificially fomented. As to the first, that is a legitimate and lasting fear of the Turks, but I do not believe that it is impossible to remove that fear. Indeed, it is quite possible to do so and the Government are right in endeavouring to ensure that the Turks have no legitimate cause for fear.
Having done that, the Government equally have the right and the duty to say to the people of Cyprus, "We want you to proceed like other territories have inside the Commonwealth, to determine your own future in due course. This is a holding operation. That is the point of view that we approach it from. Our desire is to create unity and an instrument that will enable you to come together, to live together." If the Government make that approach, I believe that the future of the island may be happier than the past has been.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. James Lindsay (Devon, North)
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) concluded his speech with the hope that Cyprus would be happier in the future than it has been in the past. We are all concerned with the future of the island. Some of the opening remarks of the hon. Gentleman were not quite as satisfactory as I had 629 hoped they would be. He was more happy about the fact that N.A.T.O. is now concerned and has given our plan its blessing.
Of course, there will be difficulties. I do not think that anybody expected that there would not be difficulties confronting a new plan like this. I hope that it will result in something helpful and constructive. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the plan concerned division more than unity, but I assure him that we on this side of the Committee, and, I believe, every right-thinking person in the country, aims at unity on the island.
As for the question of self-determination by force, that is an impossibility. The island must decide whether it wants terrorism or democracy. The two are incompatible and cannot exist together. I am sure that every administration in our Commonwealth and Empire is handing out even justice to all, always has done so and always will do so.
I welcome the proposal. It is a great step forward and I hope that it will lead to peace on the island. We can all approve the aims of the policy as set out so clearly and concisely at the beginning of the statement. I think that is necessary. There has been a great deal of uncertainty and doubt, leading to suspicion as to what our position actually is, and this definition is very helpful. Everyone now knows exactly where we stand, what are our objectives and aims, and that is all to the good.
I hope very much—indeed, there seems a possibility—that this plan will at last break the deadlock from which we have been suffering for so long. All the arguments which have been put forward in the past have cancelled each other out. History, geography, race, religion and many other subjects have been dragged in as evidence, but they have all cancelled each other out, as do the ideas of partition and majority rule. Those two ideas are self-destructive.
Perhaps this last moment, when it appears that there is great fear between the two countries—even the possibility of civil war—spreading further dangers, may be the right moment for this new plan, which, I hope, will be successful. Any new plan has to be different, so different that the past can be forgotten and the violence which has taken place may 630 be forgiven, so that positions which have been held may be evacuated and a new start be made. If this can be taken as a completely new chance, I believe that something may come of it.
I am very glad that this is our plan, that it is a British plan, and that we have not shirked our responsibility nor evaded our duty. It will be salutary that we are taking action and carrying out our duty. I think that will have a good effect on many places in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, at the same time I am glad to know that N.A.T.O. has given us its backing. That will give us confidence and assurance and the conviction that we have the support of many friends. I hope that will make the plan more acceptable to Cypriots. They cannot say that this is a plan of one of an imperialist country trying to dictate to the islanders.
I believe one of the many advantages of the plan is the fact that it is definite and certain. We all know the dangers and trouble that arise from uncertainty and doubt. We all know the saying:Hell is paved with good intentions".Perhaps I might say that the road to war is often paved with vague intentions. If people know where we stand they can make plans accordingly and there is no fear of danger coming from uncertainty. They know what we plan to do and I think that will be of advantage to all the islanders. We shall not be persuaded or frightened out of the island so long as we have a duty to the people of the island and to the Western world. The islanders will now know what is to happen whether they co-operate or not. I believe that, human nature being what it is, sooner or later they will decide to co-operate. They will say, "We might as well be in this, as it will take place in any case."
In the past, that co-operation has been denied to us. All our plans have been rejected, not because of any inherent defects in them, but because of their origin. I think that they have been refused because they were our plans. If we are further denied co-operation, and they will not participate in this plan, I believe that we should pass the initiative to the Cypriots themselves and ask them to do some constructive thinking about how they can reach a proper solution. Whether or not there is co-operation, eventually there will have to be a long-term plan for the island. We ought to give an 631 opportunity to the islanders, and encourage them, to try to work out a scheme which will be acceptable to both parties.
In this case, it takes three to make a constitution. If they really wish to have independence they must show the qualities of independence and, at the same time, develop a sense of responsibility. It is essential that those who want to work a constitution should be able to create a constitution. They cannot rely entirely on blaming and criticising us; they themselves ought to try to work out a scheme on which the two parties in the island can mutually agree.
After all, we are not dealing with a backward people. We are dealing with Greeks and Turks whose self-respect, I should have thought, would encourage them and allow them to work co-operatively in a democratic constitution. I hope that on that we shall get assistance from all the groups in the island. The plan which the Government have produced is a very good one and I believe that it has a good chance of succeeding and enlisting the help and support of the islanders.
I support the plan. I hope that it will receive the support of everybody in the United Kingdom and that we will all do what we can to make it a success. That will be not only for the benefit of the people of Cyprus, but also to the benefit of the Middle East and of the world at large.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I am very glad the Secretary of State for the Colonies began his speech by saying that the matter of primary importance to him was the welfare of the people of the island. I should think we all agree with that. To me the consideration which overrides all others and is the matter of paramount importance is the welfare of the people of this island. Be they Greek-speaking Cypriots or Muslims, we are responsible for their welfare, their social welfare, their economic welfare and, above all, their political welfare.
I emphasise that, for I take it that it is the desire of all of us to see that sometime or other these people shall be able to choose their own Government. They are to decide on and draw up their own form of constitution, to elect their Parliament and choose their Government which 632 they can criticise and turn out if they wish. That has been the policy of this country throughout in regard to other territories.
We have been responsible for these people since 1878. That is a long time—eighty years. I take it that for the first thirty-six years, down to November, 1914, we were in the sort of position of permanent lessees. Nevertheless, we were solely responsbile for their welfare through the whole of that time. Then, since we annexed the island when Turkey saw fit to enter the war against us at that very difficult time, certainly since the Treaty of Lausanne in 1922, we alone have been responsible for these people; nobody else.
Nobody would have questioned our sovereignty and nobody could have questioned our duty to these people, to whichever country they belonged. If any suggestion had been made during the whole of that time we should have scorned it. The responsibility was ours and ours' alone. In the same way as we have guided other people, we have helped these people economically. We have advised them, we have helped them, we have guided them, just as we have done with others. Inevitably, the time will come when they say that they should guide their own destinies and should be released of parental control, however kindly that control has been. That has been the history of every one of the territories, and I take it that it will be the future history of other territories for which we are responsible today.
It is right that we should say, however, that there are moments when we can regret the delay which there has been in meeting the wishes of these people for whom we have been responsible. What agonies, what disasters and what memories of bitterness and rancour might have been avoided if we had taken the right action at the right time. There is a vast difference between an act done willingly and generously and an act which is done by force of events and by pressure of circumstances.
I believe that even in Cyprus none of these troubles which beset us today would have arisen and none of the acts of violence would have taken place had we done a few years ago what the Government themselves considered to be the right thing to do. I think I am right in 633 saying that that is the true view of the Government. I would remind the Prime Minister of his speech in the House on 5th December, 1955, when he told the House what had taken place in the discussions which occurred at the Conference between the Turkish representative, the Greek representative and himself. All had agreed—although the Turks apparently had some reservations—that there should be self-government. The only difference was as to the time of self-determination. The Prime Minister put it in these words: so far as the Greeks were concerned, they said, "Now or very soon." So far as the Turks were concerned, they said "Never." The Government of the day thought there should be self-determination but that it would be "some time". My regret is that that policy was not put into effect long ago.
We must remember that the Greek-speaking Cypriots and the Muslims in the island have lived together in amity and friendliness for centuries. Today, unfortunately, there is hatred, violence and murder. Not only have we quarrels amongst themselves, but apparently there is also a quarrel between the two Governments who claim to represent them—the Greek Government on one side and the Turkish Government on the other side. They are snarling at one another and threatening one another until we are told that we are on the verge of civil war and of the possibility of war in the Middle East between two countries which are also members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
It is in those circumstances that the plan is brought forward. I do not know whether it will work. I do not know whether it will be accepted either by the people of the island or by either of the two Governments. I feel that in many ways I could criticise the plan. I might even disagree with it and doubt it. But the question which I must put to myself at the present moment is, "Will any doubt, any criticism or any disagreement on my part help any one? In particular, will it help the people of the island?" I feel that the Government could not have put forward this plan without the full support of the Governor of the island, who has now had over six months' experience there, and for whom all of us have not only a great admiration but also a very great respect.
634 I do not know whether I have stated the true position. I have to accept, and I do accept, what is said by the Government and by the Governor. If it is true, then it is the duty of all of us to do all we possibly can to avoid bloodshed and to avoid violence and to bring these people together as best we can so that we may reach what is obviously the desire—it certainly was the desire and, I imagine, it still is the desire of the Prime Minister—of all of us, that these people should determine their own destinies and their own form of government.
I should like to support what was said by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in his excellent speech when he urged that there should be a better method than is contained in the plan of bringing the Muslims of Cyprus and the Greek-speaking people together, if only for a short time each year, so that they may realise that they are still islanders, that they have to work together and that the destiny and future of the island is in their joint hands.
I do not know whether the plan would succeed. It is the Government's plan and they should be given every opportunity of putting it into effect and seeing what can be done. If, as we all hope, it brings a settlement of the troubles and disputes, the Government will have done well and will have earned the praise of us all.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peel (Leicester, South-East)
Having had the good fortune to catch your eye, Sir Charles, in rising to make my maiden speech, I must crave the indulgence of hon. Members for any shortcomings and mistakes of which I may be guilty. It has been said that one of the advantages of being married is that one does not make mistakes without finding out about it. I think that this advantage might be said to apply to Members of Parliament, so I hope that hon. Members will make as generous an allowance for me as they have done for my predecessors.
I also understand that a maiden speech should be uncontentious. All I should like to say about that is that the subject which the Committee is debating today is of such grave importance to the Commonwealth, to N.A.T.O. and to the whole free world that we cannot afford to be contentious.
635 I shall certainly do my best to avoid contention, but I wanted to speak on this subject principally for two reasons. The first is that it is very important and involves vital principles of our Commonwealth policy. The second is that there are many students and others from many parts of the Commonwealth who are living, studying and working in my constituency and in the East Midland area. They are most welcome. I think I can say that in the main they have been very much welcomed, and I think that their happiness and welfare is put as much to the fore in my constituency as anywhere else in the country.
I was very interested when the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) mentioned self-determination, because it seems to me that this is not only of vital importance to Cyprus but also to the smaller dependent territories of our Commonwealth. It is, of course, a human right that has been implicit, if not explicit, in our colonial policy for many decades. At the same time, we must recognise that there are other vital human rights, such as the right to peace, to safety and to freedom from fear.
It is not always easy to isolate rights, the problem is how to reconcile them in the right way. I feel that there is quite a lot of rather woolly thinking on this subject, partly, perhaps, because we are passing through a phase in an increasingly materialistic world where the accent seems to be on rights rather than on duties and responsibilities to others.
Those who maintain that self-determination is an absolute right are not being really practical or sensible. There are many difficulties. If one maintains it as an absolute right, is there any logical reason why, say, the Liverpool Irish or the Istanbul Greeks should not set up their own empire within an empire; or, possibly, why the Walloons should not disrupt Belgium, or the Sikhs India, or the Indians South Africa; or, coming nearer home, and very much more up to date, why the different races of Nigeria should not divide that great country?
The fact is that this principle has never been applied logically or indiscriminately. When the American Colonists broke from Goerge III they took the matter into their own hands, but the majority of their descendants denied the 636 Southern States the right to secede. I do not think that a refusal to do as one has been done by is necessarily and universally to be condemned. I should have thought that common sense and the practical economic and strategic realities would show where the line should be drawn.
Balkanisation is not a very happy state of affairs. If Switzerland, Belgium and Canada had allowed their component peoples to secede, I do not think they would have reached their present stage of advancement. I really think that those who maintain self-determination as an absolute right are either blind to history or to present circumstances, or they are mischief makers, because, of course, it is a very useful weapon for our enemies to egg on extreme nationalism in backward and under-developed countries.
Perhaps I may, for a moment, look at this subject in the context of our smaller dependent territories, of which Cyprus is a very important one. It is essential that we should clear our minds on the subject, because our policy for the future development and progress of these territories depends upon our finding the right answer. I cannot admit the inherent right of a part of our Commonwealth to secede, unless it has obtained sovereign status which, of course, these smaller territories have not.
I can conceive of conditions arising, possibly, in which the desires of a small part of the Commonwealth to throw in its lot with a foreign sovereign Power should be granted, not only in the interests of the territory itself but of the Commonwealth as a whole. I think that those cases will be few but, if they do arise, they should be studied not only from the point of view of the territory in question and of the United Kingdom, but from that of the Commonwealth as a whole. In these circumstances, the idea that a non-sovereign territory, however small, has an inherent and absolute right to self-determination should be shown up for the complete fallacy that it is.
In the continuing story of our growing Commonwealth we have recently got, in the proposals agreed with Singapore, the concept of an internally self-governing State as, possibly, the final constitutional set-up for a small territory that is too small ever to attain sovereign status. 637 That offers an idea that should be developed. It is an honourable and a dignified status. I know hon. Members are quite well aware that if dependent peoples are to live and progress in happiness they must be given and must be encouraged to have a proper pride in themselves. That is quite understood, but it is not a new concept in our history. From a close acquaintance with the work of some of our forebears, particularly of some of the great proconsuls of previous generations, I believe that they, too, worked according to that idea; and that, in fact, it was not that they were not quick enough, but that they did not, and could not, foresee the appalling cataclysmic events of this century which have disrupted and quickened the processes.
In applying this particular principle to the case of Cyprus, I am not suggesting that the concept of an internally self-governing State is necessarily the right answer for that island, but in welcoming the very fine proposals—courageous and generous—that have been put forward by the Government, I would ask only two questions of the Committee which, I think, must be considered at the present time. The first question is this. In view of the quite understandable determination of Turkey not to allow Cyprus to fall into weak, uncertain or unfriendly hands, to the extent even of fighting to prevent it, and in view of the very grave situation that would obtain if that happened, is it not the bounden duty of Great Britain to discharge her sovereign rights and duties in the island, not only for the benefit of the people of the island but for the benefit and welfare of the whole of the Western World?
Secondly, in view of the fact that at this time peace depends upon a balance of power between two opposing and antagonistic ideologies in the world, would it be right to allow 100,000 people, or even 400,000 people, to put at very grave risk the safety and freedom of millions of people in the free world?
It is not as though we were imposing an intolerable tyranny upon Cyprus. On the contrary, we have offered a very large measure of constitutional development in the hope that the Cypriots would use it to get some experience of the very difficult work of democratic government. After all, what are seven years, or even for that matter fifteen or twenty years, in the life history of a people?
638 I feel that any policy for our smaller dependencies, of which Cyprus is such an important one, to be either satisfactory or to have any chance of success must have the broad agreement of both sides of this House. It is all very well for us to disagree over internal matters of domestic policy, but here we are dealing with the lives and happiness of other people, and I do not think that their fate should be the butt of party politics here.
I would remind the Committee of I think it was Lenin's statement that Great Britain would never be defeated on the Thames but on the Yangtse, the Ganges and the Nile. I think that in a modified form that is equally true today, and I think it is very necessary that we and our friends should remember this.
There are certain matters in which agreement is difficult, particularly perhaps on the economic side and in regard to a timetable, but I believe that agreement is possible if common sense, a sense of proportion and, above all, patience at this time are brought to bear upon such problems as self-determination. Such agreement would be easier if many people in this country ceased to suffer from a spurious sense of guilt over our Commonwealth, and recognised the undoubted fact that for over three and a half centuries of Imperial trusteeship, despite many mistakes—but he who makes no mistakes usually makes nothing at all—we have done and are doing the greatest civilising job outside the borders of our own country that has ever yet been attempted or achieved in the whole history of mankind.
May I pay a tribute to the outstanding courage, patience and cheerfulness of the British forces and civilians in very difficult times in Cyprus, and recall with pride that the 1st Leicesters have just completed an outstanding tour of duty in that lovely island.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Franck Noel-Baker (Swindon)
The Committee has listened with great attention to the speech which the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) has made. I have no doubt that when he gets back to his constituency he will receive many congratulations from those who will have read what he said. I have no doubt also that after the debate many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will seek an opportunity of 639 congratulating him privately on the effective, sincere and clear way in which he spoke.
We all know what a trial it is to make a maiden speech. We all know how difficult it is to approach a contentious subject, particularly as stormy a one as that which we are debating today, in a non-controversial manner. Perhaps it may be even more difficult for the hon. Member than for some of us, following as he does a vivid and hardly non-controversial Member of the House. At all events, we were very glad to hear him. We shall listen to him again with great attention in the future. I cannot guarantee that we shall always listen to him with the silence which dominated the Chamber during most of his remarks, but we shall certainly enjoy disagreeing with him as well as listening to him.
Perhaps I might start the second section of what I have to say by recalling very briefly an occasion which the Colonial Secretary will remember vividly, about twenty-eight months ago, when he and I for a few weeks were together in Nicosia, I in response to an invitation from Nicosia but, at his suggestion, doing what I could to try to help towards a settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Remembering that, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will believe me when I say that I am desperately anxious that neither I nor any of my hon. Friends nor anybody else in the Committee should be guilty today of saying anything which might make it more difficult to get a settlement of the problem. I might recall that I was the first Member of Parliament, I believe, to appeal for a cessation of violence—an appeal which was followed by far more powerful appeals from many of my right hon. Friends and which, I think, did something to contribute to a cessation of violence from the Greek side for many months.
The Secretary of State knows very well that neither I nor my right hon. and hon. Friends who have taken a special interest in this matter want to do anything but contribute, if possible, to a settlement and ensure that this new plan may be the beginning of discussions and negotiations which may lead to general agreement. We have been constantly preoccupied by a desire to see the end of violence, from 640 whatever quarter it may come, and to see a peaceful settlement acceptable to the people of Cyprus and negotiated with their chosen leaders. I think it can be said that some progress has been made in recent weeks and that there have been some hopeful new developments, in contrast to the many growing dangers that we have seen in the island and in the area around it.
In the first place, the whole Committee, and particularly we on this side, warmly welcomed the appointment of the new Governor, the dramatic change in atmosphere which his arrival produced throughout Cyprus in the first few weeks after he took up office, the relaxation of some of the emergency regulations, and the release of a number of detainees—although many of us on this side felt that it would have been more in the general interest to have gone a good deal further and faster than the authorities thought possible at that time. We welcome the way in which the new Governor broke out of what I might call the "barbed-wire curtain" which surrounds Government House and established, for the first time for many months, personal human contact between himself and the Cypriots whom he governed.
We likewise warmly welcome the formal recognition by the Governor at long last of the position of Archbishop Makarios and his colleagues as leaders of the Greek Cypriot majority on the island and the abandonment of the campaign to isolate or dislodge him from that position. I expect the Secretary of State remembers how often I warned him inside the House and outside that if he wanted to have co-operation and, indeed, any contact with the 80 per cent. majority of the Cypriot people he would, in the end, be obliged to work through leaders whom they themselves freely chose. We welcome the fact that the Governor had talks with the Archbishop some time ago and that, as it seems, the Archbishop is shortly to be allowed to go back to take his place as the leader of the Cypriot people.
Among the recent developments which we welcome are signs of what seems to be a new spirit of willingness in various quarters to discuss and consider realistic proposals for a settlement from most, if not all, of the parties concerned. Certainly, the Colonial Secretary could hardly 641 have expected more from the Archbishop of Cyprus than the phrase contained at the end of his recent letter which my right hon. Friend has quoted. Nor would it have been realistic in present conditions to have expected more from the Greek Government than what Prime Minister Karamanlis said in his letter of 23rd June to the right hon. Gentleman our own Prime Minister, in which he said that the Greek Government would welcomea temporary solution on the basis of democratic self-government under British sovereignty and for postponing the settlement of the main issue until a more appropriate time.In the realities of Greek politics, that was a very bold, courageous and realistic line to take.
Even in another quarter, on the Turkish side, there seem to have been signs in the very recent past of a more flexible and less intransigent attitude which, if that is the case, we warmly welcome on this side of the Committee.
I now turn to the plan itself. The Government, and, indeed, the Governor of Cyprus, have been very free with warnings to the Opposition about the awful responsibility that rests on our shoulders at the present time. I think I would be right in saying that, of course, we on this side of the Committee accept all the responsibilities of an Opposition who are themselves on the threshold of taking office. We are well aware that it will not be many months before we ourselves are dealing with and trying to solve this problem. We have this consideration very much in mind.
At the same time, the Government have clearly been told by my right hon. Friend that we do not accept responsibility either for their policies during the last few years or for this new plan which they have suddenly revealed, but about which, of course, there has been no consultation and which is still full of a great deal of obscurity and omission. At the time of the Radcliffe Constitution, we were told that to produce a workable plan for the future of Cyprus would involve a long period of preparatory work and consultation by a constitutional expert. Indeed, Lord Radcliffe took many months to produce the Constitution.
We on this side of the House know nothing of the way in which the present 642 plan was prepared, but we see that it is only a rough outline of action that might be taken and is in no sense a detailed Constitution.
I propose to put a number of questions, some of them critical, but none of them intended to be hostile, which I believe it would be very much in the interests of the Government that the Prime Minister should answer before the end of the debate, because these questions are not only being asked by myself and my hon. Friends. They are questions the answers to which may very greatly influence those in other parts of the world who are waiting to decide what their attitude shall be.
I start with the background to the negotiations themselves. The Colonial Secretary said that what had happened between January and the production of the plan must remain a secret to the Governments who were concerned in confidential conversations at that time. But I think that something should be said in answer to the general belief that a plan was drawn up at the beginning of the year in agreement with the Governor of Cyprus, that that plan was discussed at Ankara, that under pressure from the Turkish Government and under pressure from riots inside Cyprus organised by the Turkish Government that plan was scrapped and that what we have in its place is the result of a policy of, not to use a stronger term, backing down in the face of Turkish pressure.
If that is not the case and it is really the fact that people closely concerned with the administration of Cyprus think that this is a better plan than the one proposed at the beginning of the year, some of the obscurities about the circumstances in which it was produced ought to be dispelled.
Secondly, I want to ask a specific question. There is a good deal of mystery surrounding what happened during the 48 howls when, last week, the Prime Minister asked us to accept a deferment of the announcement of the plan. It has been widely said that the last paragraph of the White Paper concerning a tridominium was matter added during that 48-hour period. I see that the Colonial Secretary shakes his head, and I take it that that is not the case. I am very grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's answer.
643 Secondly, I think that at some stage the Government's exact position in relation to the principle of self-determination must be defined, because the Government are on record at the present time as being as much committed to the principle of self-determination as we are on this side of the Committee. If there has been a modification of that position, then the Government must frankly say so.
That leads me to the point of what exactly is the attitude of the Government to partition which, very regrettably as we think, the Colonial Secretary himself first publicly put forward in the House in, I think, December, 1956. Has the pledge that partition is among the possible solutions given by the Colonial Secretary been scrapped, and, if it has not, what is its relation to the present plan?
We know that Mr. Zorlu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, has said quite openly that his Government's policy is to achieve partition within a year. The Colonial Secretary knows that that is so. He knows that the Turkish Government have given a kind of qualified welcome to the plan because they think it can be reconciled with partition. It is very important that when he replies the Prime Minister should make plain what the Government's attitude to partition really is and whether they accept Mr. Zorlu's interpretation of the proposals now put forward. The Government must make it plain that if they do not accept that position they are not going to be pushed by threats from any quarter into a further adjustment of their attitude over the question of partition.
Next, I want to ask for more information on what seems to me to be one of the most difficult aspects of the proposal, and that is the plan to associate Greek and Turkish High Commissioners with the administration of the island.
I listened carefully to the Colonial Secretary when he spoke. He said that these High Commissioners—he was referring specifically to the Turkish High Commissioner—would be partly responsible for the administration of the island. I want to ask the Government whether that is so, whether the purpose of having these two representatives of the foreign Governments is to assist in the administration of the island, or whether it is a mechanism for the protection of the 644 various communities, and particularly, of course, of the minority in Cyprus, the Turks. If we could have a clear definition of what the purpose is and what the duties and responsibilities of these High Commissioners would be, it would be much easier for us to comment.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
They would be full members of the Governor's Council, and, in addition, would be entitled to refer legislation which they thought discriminatory to the appellant tribunal.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That, of course, makes it very difficult for us, without a great deal of reassurance, not to be most apprehensive of the position.
Let me take, if it is not too fanciful—which I do not think it is—a hypothetical example. Supposing that the two Governments accepted this part of the plan and that the Turks appointed Dr. Kutchuk as their High Commissioner in charge of 80,000 to 90,000 Turkish citizens on the island, and supposing that the Greek Government were to appoint not Colonel Grivas, perhaps, but at least Archbishop Makarios as High Commissioner, or that persons having views as divergent as the views of Dr. Kutchuk and Colonel Grivas took these positions, would it be possible to make progress? Would not the Colonial Secretary and the Government of Cyprus face an immediate deadlock?
Is it realistic in the present atmosphere to imagine that these nominees of the two foreign Governments would be used for any other purpose than to further their declared policies for Cyprus? Mr. Zorlu has, as I have mentioned, said that the Turkish Government's policy now is to get partition within a year. Of course, if he had a nominee in the Governor's Council his instructions to that nominee would be to work for Turkish Government policy. What would there be to stop the Turkish High Commissioner in every matter which came before the Council or the Tribunal saying that it affected the rights of the Turkish minority whether it did or not? And, of course, his Greek counterpart could play a similar rôle furthering the cause of Enosis.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I can see the point which the hon. Gentleman is making, that there might be quarrels between the two national nominees, but 645 because there is such a divergence of opinion between the two representatives in the island is surely a reason for objecting to the plan put forward by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) for a single national Parliament instead of the two community Parliaments suggested in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am grateful to the hon. Member, for whose opinion I have a very high regard, as have most of my hon. Friends and, I think, hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber.
Surely, the difficulty is this. If one is to include the nominees of foreign Governments, receiving their instructions from outside, responsible not to the Cypriot people but to politicians in Athens and Ankara, are they not likely to find it very much more difficult to co-operate, and to use their positions for the purpose of furthering the policies of those foreign Governments, whereas the Cypriot Ministers in the Council—the Cypriot elected representatives—will at least be responsible to the Cypriot people. They will be dealing with the real problems of the administration of the island. The chances of their co-operating, difficult enough in the present atmosphere, and of co-operation, between the communities, are not easy. But they have a far easier chance than will the nominees of foreign Governments in Athens and Ankara.
There is another point I wish to make in this connection. The proposal, as I understand it, is that at the same time that the High Commissioners take their seats on the Governor's Council we will give the Turkish minority in Cyprus Turkish passports and citizenship and to the Greek Cypriots Greek passports and citizenship. Would that not enormously increase what is already a source of difficulty—the possibility of direction and intimidation over the Greek and Turkish communities in the island from outside? To take my illustration once again, if Dr. Kutchuk was to be the representatives of the Turkish Government with authority over Turkish citizens and Colonel Grivas was to represent the Greek Government with authority over Greek citizens, how very dangerous the situation would become. If the Colonial Secretary's intention is that these two High Commissioners shall be primarily responsible for seeing that the two communities are not victimised by 646 each other, and, more particularly, the Turkish minority, is there not some equally effective but much less cumbersome way of achieving that?
I turn now to an even more serious implication of this proposal to grant foreign citizenship and passports to the inhabitants of Cyprus. If it is the idea, as I understand it is, to grant this concession immediately the plan comes into operation—if it does—does that not immediately provide juridical grounds to justify any intervention in the protection of their own countrymen, either from the Greeks or Turks, and make the possibility of administering the island as a unit and without outside interference relatively impossible? It seems to me that this question of Greek and Turkish citizenship at this stage is perhaps the most dangerous of all the proposals in the plan.
Now I should like to ask for one specific piece of information in connection with the proposals to give the two communities communal autonomy. The Colonial Secretary said that the purpose of that was that he wanted to unite and not divide the people of Cyprus. I find his reasoning difficult to follow. I ask him, as an illustration of what the Government have in mind, if they envisage that the municipal councils in towns on the island, and local government in the villages, shall be one or two. Will there be a unified system, or will there be two municipalities in all the towns and villages of Cyprus? Perhaps the Colonial Secretary is now in a position to answer.
I am asking if, in line with this proposal to separate the two communities and give them separate elected bodies representing them, he is also going to give sanction to a proposal which has already been illegally started by the Cypriot Turks, and allow separate municipal councils to come into operation? If that is so, I cannot see how he can possibly sustain his contention that he is seeking to unite and not divide the people of the island.
On this question of communal autonomy, we need to keep in mind that the field of communal affairs is a very narrow one indeed. It is confined, even at its widest, to education, religion, special land arrangements for the Turkish community and possibly some social services. These 647 are minor details in the life of the island, and the things that are really important in Cyprus are practical questions like irrigation, communications, economic development and day-to-day administration. These are the matters in which it is really important that the people of Cyprus should play a part, and should have the institutions to enable them to control them.
Is the Colonial Secretary satisfied that in setting up this form of communal autonomy there will not be objections from religious leaders on both the Greek and Turkish sides. Will the Evkaf Council and the Mufti in Cyprus welcome having atheist, Communist Turks running these matters? Will the Church of Cyprus like having Left-wing leaders put in charge of purely ecclesiastical affairs? I think there are many pitfalls and difficulties here, other than the obvious ones, in this proposal to communalise some aspects of life in Cyprus.
If the intention really is that this plan shall be a prelude, not to a condominium but to a tridominium, the experience we have had of that in other areas is not very hopeful. The Colonial Secretary knows only too well what a nuisance and a constant source of irritation and trouble was set up when we began sharing the administration of the New Hebrides with the French, and he knows that the condominium in the Sudan only worked at all because the Egyptians were sleeping partners. In any foreseeable atmosphere in the Eastern Mediterranean that seems likely at present, tridominium is about the most unworkable solution that could be found.
I turn now to my final and most important question about this plan. Will the Prime Minister, when he replies, tell the Committee quite clearly whether these proposals are subject to modification and, if so, to what extent? Is the plan to be a basis for discussion and negotiation in which concessions and adjustments can be made, or is it simply another "take-it-or-leave-it" proposal, so many of which have led to failure in Cyprus in the recent past? If the Prime Minister shuts the door on modifications and changes and discussion and negotiation, then the plan is as good as dead.
I do not want to give the impression that I am hostile to anything that may 648 lead to a settlement in Cyprus, but I am bound to say that I have the duty to look at this plan in the light of my own familiarity with the area to be affected by it and to say what I honestly think about it. As it stands, I do not think it can either be accepted or can work, but if, on the other hand, the Government are to be generous enough and flexible enough to make it a basis for discussion and negotiation, then there is very great hope indeed that something may come out of it.
I should like finally to ask the Colonial Secretary and the Government to remember what they have already told us: that this debate is being watched very carefully outside the House. What we say is, in fact, far less important than what the Prime Minister says in answer to the points made. I beg the Colonial Secretary, even at this late stage, to use all the influence he has with his right hon. Friend to see that we get answers that will give hope to the people of Cyprus, so that this may be the beginning of negotiations leading to a solution of their tragic problem.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The last occasion on which I took part in a debate on this subject was on the date which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) mentioned in his opening speech, 28th July, 1954, at which time I was not a member of the official Conservative Party. I understand that others who I thought might have taken the same action as I took at that time are in the process of following me back into the fold, or attempting so to do. I mention that because, rather naturally, I have looked at what I said on that occasion. I have also looked at what was said on that occasion by Lord Colyton, or Mr. Henry Hopkinson as he then was, to whom the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred. Certainly, regarding anything connected with the economic development of Cyprus I cannot find anything inconsistent with what Mr. Hopkinson then said and what the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) said he would like to see happen.
The big change which seems to have taken place since that day, and which is involved in this new plan, is the putting to the top of the list the interests of the 649 people of Cyprus specifically set out in words, instead of what I always thought, certainly up until 28th July, 1954, was the top priority, namely, defence and military security. It has always been an agreed principle, it was particularly embodied in the Haley Report on Africa that the paramountcy of the interests of indigenous populations was unquestionable in the whole of our colonial policy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel), whom I should like to congratulate on a splendid maiden speech, made clear that if we follow an argument to its logical conclusion, sometimes we can finish up with an absurd situation. I still feel that what dominates the Cyprus issue is that no matter how fast progress is made towards self-determination, there is a limit to the length at which it can be taken with safety. However far we go along the road to self determination in Cyprus, there comes a moment when if Cyprus chose to become, or was given the opportunity to become, completely independent, I am quite certain that the island would not be in a position to protect itself militarily. This White Paper makes no difference to that because it is a fact.
On the earlier occasion when I spoke on this subject, I did so because I had spent six months in the island during the Second World War; and I warned both myself and the House that ever to assume that one knows anything about the politics of a country when serving in it as a soldier, especially in time of war, is a very dangerous assumption. Today, I still should not like to pretend that I know all the political situation there. But of this I am absolutely convinced; if we look at the history of Cyprus since the time it was first ceded to us we must realise that we cannot possibly allow Cyprus ever to fall into enemy hands so long as we remain a maritime Power.
Cyprus was first ceded to us in exchange for an undertaking that we would assist the Ottoman Empire against Russia were it ever attacked. We have now come the full circle and we have N.A.T.O., which is partly designed to do the same thing. Whether it is now a question of using Cyprus, or whether it is a question of denying Cyprus so that it can never fall into the hands of a potential enemy of ourselves, of Turkey or any 650 other member of N.A.T.O., I do not think matters nearly so much as the fact that the principal importance of Cyprus to the Eastern Mediterranean, to N.A.T.O. and to world peace, is its strategic position. We cannot get away from that.
There is one problem which has disturbed me a great deal ever since we decided to evacuate the Canal Zone and to put G.H.Q. in Cyprus. It is that so long as we were in Egypt the importance of Cyprus was comparatively small, so long as we denied its possession to any potential enemy. The moment we left Egypt—and do not forget we were not in Egypt when Cyprus was ceded to us—the importance of Cyprus became infinitely greater.
If we study the writings of those responsible for arranging the ceding of Cyprus to us, it becomes clear that what was in the mind of Disraeli, the principal architect of that transaction, was that we should have a tripod, or at least a bipod, of establishment in the Middle East. He described Cyprus as the key to Western Asia. We should have one foot in Cyprus and the other on the mainland. The Lebanon, he said, was the key to Asia as a whole and in particular to Syria. Of course, in those days Syria included Palestine.
However, I do not wish to get diverted on to that theme, beyond saying that I believe that, militarily, so long as we are relying on Cyprus alone in that part of the world, we are in an unnecessarily dangerous position. It is quite as important, now we have turned our front and are looking north, as it was in the days when the principal concern was the land communications with the Indian Empire, which was the position when Cyprus was first ceded to us.
We are now dealing with the hinterland of the Bagdad Pact front. We have a useful lodgement in Cyprus from a military point of view. But surely the lesson that Egypt, Palestine, and a great many other places in the world has taught us is that military lodgements in a hostile population are never as good as they should be from a strategic point of view. The most encouraging part of the present situation—there are many anxious features about it—is that for the first time since, I think, the Second World War village communities, be they Turkish or Greek, or mixed, are welcoming British 651 troops who come to the villages to keep the peace. One may well say that it is regrettable that that situation should ever have arisen where two communities are at loggerheads with each other, and I would agree; but I do not think that hon. Members on this side of the Committee have as much responsibility in that regard as have some, not all, hon. Members opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I knew that would annoy some hon. Members opposite but I feel it intensely, and I will not withdraw what I have said.
However regrettable it is that such a situation should ever have arisen, it is encouraging that now ordinary persons, be they Turkish men or women or Greek men or women, or even the children, are welcoming British troops when they appear on the scene. I think that is conducive at least to some sort of settlement because it shows we now have both the principal populations in Cyprus ready to co-operate with British troops, and that is important. I believe it should help this plan to go forward. I must confess to my right hon. Friend that when this plan was published I wished the policy could have been carried out in another way. I do not propose to dwell on this point, but I personally would have made a condition of any considerable reform the establishment of law and order. This policy has now been published and I hope that something will come of it. I believe, however, that we must make it quite clear that what has been offered will not be withdrawn in any respect unless we are requested so to do by both the two parties concerned.
I still believe that the looser we can make the conception we have in our minds at this moment, the better. It would be a great pity to get tied down to too much constitutional detail at this stage before even bipartite talks had taken place, let alone tripartite talks. I am very much of the view that if one looks back over the situation, one of the most unfortunate features is the assumption that we could possibly get the constitutional reform which is now envisaged before law and order, and that is a question which will confront every democratic government that has any overseas possessions. It is bound to 652 happen. It has happened in the past, and it will continue to happen.
Those whom I have known best before I came into the House and some of those whom I know now and who have had the unpleasant job of trying to keep that law and order have not always been encouraged by the conduct of the British House of Commons. There have been occasions, and I dare say there will be again—I pray that they may be very few—when troops have been put in and were almost getting on top of their job and were about to re-establish law and order, only to be told to hold their fire. What happens? It has happened recently. It happened about six months ago in Cyprus, and it may well be that Grivas would have been dealt with once and for all if the troops had been allowed to go through with their job.
It is easy for us back here, without adequate knowledge, to criticise people on the spot. Sometimes when hon. Members criticise those who are responsible here they may be undermining the position of those who have had to do the dirty work and who are trying to clean up the mess. Our troops are doing an extremely difficult job. They have been doing it with great skill and for many months. But they have been disconcerted when they have been stopped from completing the job that they started. If Palestine has not taught us the absurdity of that policy, even the criminality of that policy, I do not suppose anything ever will.
It is all very fine for hon. Members to praise the troops for what they are doing; but every time they say something which undermines the position of those in authority in Cyprus, then they make it more difficult for them to do the job.
I wish my right hon. Friend all possible success with this scheme. I would have had qualifications to suggest if I had been in a position to be consulted before it was published, but I wish it well, and I wish the Governor well in what he is trying to do. I only hope that we shall never for one minute let up on the undertaking which I take to be implicit by the introduction of this White Paper, and that is that, failing agreement or failing readiness to come to agreement either through bypartite or tripartite talks, we shall not hesitate to 653 maintain law and order in Cyprus. I hope we shall continue to do that and make it absolutely clear that we shall do so if necessary for the full seven-year period. Any wavering in that direction will be fatal to hopes of peace in Cyprus and, I believe, will greatly endanger the whole of the N.A.T.O. structure. Few things could be more disastrous than that.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
I do not propose to waste the precious time of the Committee by following the anachronistic meanderings of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). I do not wish to follow the strategic argument, but I should like humbly to submit that it seems extraordinary, in these days of nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war, that the House of Commons should have to listen to a strategic dissertation based on Disraeli's concept of the last century. If that is the only contribution which an experienced soldier like the hon. and gallant Member can make, I think that it is a poor outlook for the advice which he has given.
Secondly, I cannot agree with the hon. and gallant Member's assertion that we should base our policy in Cyprus on the strategic needs of this country. He has sought to justify what has been happening in Cyprus in terms of the Bagdad Pact and other military commitments. I do not know how hon. Members opposite think we can take the country of another people and use it for our own strategic purposes without consultation with those people. I think that that is the question which most fundamentally divides us, and I prefer to leave that aspect of the matter there.
I have seen our troops at work in Cyprus during some of the most difficult periods, and I must emphasise that, in my view, the Government have during the last few years placed on our soldiers in Cyprus a bitterly unfair and difficult job, and the measure of that responsibility lies with hon. Members opposite Any attempt to suggest that it lies elsewhere is dodging the responsibility.
I want to deal for a few moments with the plan. We would have had a far better plan from the Government had they been able or willing to produce it sooner. I think that this plan is to a 654 large extent a measure of their failure. It has gone back on other proposals which the House has had to consider, such as the Radcliffe proposals, and, to my mind, in many ways it even goes back on Mr. Hopkinson's suggestions.
I think, therefore, that we have to ask ourselves a lot of questions in putting forward this plan to the people of Cyprus and the Governments of Greece and Turkey. But whatever our criticisms of the plan—and I must honestly say that mine are fundamental—even if it cannot form the basis of negotiation, the most important job that we have to do this afternoon in the House of Commons is to use all the influence that we have on both sides to ensure that negotiations are opened and that people start talking with each other. I do not think there is any difference between the two sides on that point.
On the other hand, it is no use our being so relieved that at last the Government have produced this long-promised plan that we fail to examine it really carefully and make any constructive suggestions that we can in all honesty and good faith for its improvement. The whole situation has been overshadowed by the deterioration in the relations between Greece and Turkey. In fact, this plan bears the imprint of that deterioration. The attempts which have been made in this plan to create machinery to meet those difficulties cannot succeed as machinery unless there is an improvement in cordiality and unless there is good will from both Greece and Turkey.
Never before can it be said that Greece and Turkey have needed each other so much as they do now. They are allies together in N.A.T.O. and fellow members of the United Nations. All the developments and circumstances of the modern world make their co-operation essential for reasons of geography and of progress, because both of them have, above all, the overriding need for security, for peace and for reconstruction of their countries. Both of them have heavy tasks to do in raising the standard of living of their own peoples, in seeking to reduce the burden of armaments that rests on both their countries and in coming together in amity.
There were signs and hopes that that was happening in the years before the war, when Kemal Ataturk and Mr. 655 Venizelos seemed to be bringing about a lessening in this traditional historical enmity. I very much wish that we could get something of that feeling today between these two allies, because I am convinced that the trouble in Cyprus is not so much the intrinsic question of Cyprus itself as that Cyprus is being used as a symbol of continuing enmity and difficulty between the two countries. Anything that we or the Government can do to reduce the friction between these two Powers can bring nothing but good, not only to Greece and Turkey and to the whole of N.A.T.O. and the United Nations, but, above all, to Cyprus itself.
We must look carefully at the plan, not from our point of view so much as from the point of view of the people of Cyprus. It is their country that we are talking about. Never in the history of the international treaties which have been referred to this afternoon has there been a single occasion on which the people of Cyprus have ever been consulted. Disraeli did not consult them at the time of the Treaty of Berlin. Nobody consulted them at the time of the Treaty of Lausanne. Anthony did not consult them when he gave Cyprus as a birthday present to Cleopatra. Throughout history, nobody has ever paid the slightest attention to the views of the people whose country this is.
I want for a few moments to look at the plan from that simple starting point. Surely, the people whose country this is must have priority in consideration. I cannot see any other fair and honourable approach. It is they, above all, who suffer from the continuation of the present situation in all sorts of ways which must evoke the sympathy and understanding of all Members. Whatever some hon. Members may feel about the guilt that rests upon individuals in Cyprus, we must all agree that many innocent people have been involved in the suffering which has come to that country.
In the first place, I consider that the plan is misconceived in its attitude to the communal question. I am very sorry that it should seek to establish the two separate houses of representatives on a communal basis, which seems to me to be based on the conception of communal partition. I see no other way of looking at it. I know that the present 656 situation must give many people grounds for thinking that this is the only way out, but I hope that that will not be the last thought of the Government on this question. Communal relations are probably worse now than they have ever been. I hope that this is a transient phase and that we will look forward to a situation in which this tension will ease, instead of enshrining the tension by this permanent division. To do so seems to me to accept that there must be separation between the two communities.
When we have seen Turks and Greeks working together in Cyprus in the administration, in the hospitals and the orphanages, in many forms of social service and, until quite recently, on the municipal councils, when we have seen them talking together and their children playing together, and knowing the social contacts which have existed between the two communities, we should try to seek a way of recapturing that co-operation. I do not consider that to be impossible. If it was impossible, the whole plan would not work either, because tacitly there must be co-operation.
I want to ask the Prime Minister whether it is envisaged that these houses of representatives, which, we are told, will deal with communal affairs, will be limited to those subjects which are usually taken as referring to religious practices. We do not know, for instance, how many people will comprise these rather high-sounding bodies. Is their main preoccupation to be with cemeteries, marriages and the upkeep of church or mosque buildings, as the case may be? If this is so, it seems to me that to have such limited subjects as the only agenda for, the two elected chambers is constitutionally difficult to follow.
It seems to me that we are rather over-weighting the communal subjects. Moreover, this does not make a great deal of contribution to the present situation, because it is precisely in this very sphere that there is at present no argument. In fact, most of these things are already separately managed, either by the Ethnarchy Council or by the Evkaf in the case of the Turks, so that they are not a cause of present friction. These suggestions, therefore, cannot be expected to make for any further advancement.
What is much more important is the common interests of the predominantly 657 peasant population in the welfare of their country. From my reading of the White Paper, it seems that a whole range of important subjects vital to the life and progress of the country will be contained only in the small Governor's Council. Matters of finance, the Budget, allocations of capital and current expenditure, labour conditions, the health service that the Cyprus Government have been trying to build up, and the embryonic national insurance scheme that they have been trying to organise, all of which are questions of vital concern to the prosperity of the island, are to be dealt with in this small Council, on which there is to be a representative from Greece and one from Turkey, with full voting rights.
It may be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) has suggested, that Greece and Turkey may choose representatives even from the Cypriot communities to do this job. On the other hand, they might send to Cyprus people who have no knowledge whatever of local conditions. To have a small council which is the legislature, the executive and, to a certain extent, the head of any judiciary that will be established, all united in one small body, seems to me to be fraught with practical difficulties. Anyone who has had experience of colonial administration must surely feel the deepest sympathy for those who will have to try to work the plan. Therefore, I hope very much that the Government will give careful consideration to the suggestion put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan).
What we must look towards in Cyprus is the establishment of some kind of directly-elected assembly which will be the beginning of a Parliament in the fullest sense of the word and one which will be directly answerable to the people and which will be elected on a common roll, so that we can have in Cyprus a situation in which a Greek can vote for a Turk or a Turk can vote for a Greek. Many of us who know the island know that there could be plenty of opportunities for that to happen. It certainly is not an impossible conception by any manner of means.
It seems to me that the presence in the island, and in this kep position, of the representatives of Greece and Turkey on the Governor's Council will make permanent the ties with Athens and Ankara 658 which we have on so many occasions deplored. It will keep the Cypriot people looking out, rather than looking in towards their own country and the task of building it up. This is a very difficult matter especially for Greek Cypriots. It must be remembered that to them this symbolises bringing back the Ottoman conquerors right into the inner councils of the island. It is a great deal to ask of them. I hope that this will be one of the subjects which will be negotiated, for I cannot see the island settling down to getting on with its own affairs if we put right at the heart of the Cabinet, as it were, these two alien representatives.
Then it seems to me that by making available to the Greeks and Turks in Cyprus Greek and Turkish nationality the Government are abandoning the hope of the two communities settling down together as Cypriots. I know that there may be many reasons for feeling depression about that conception, but it is not a depression which I share. I remain convinced that given the right policy, given the right objective, the people of this island could still look forward to the future.
Dual citizenship is not only a psychological danger, but it seems to me to raise all sorts of problems in international law. It would be a very difficult question if the Turkish liberation army, of which we have read in the Turkish Press, were ever to invade British Cyprus in an attempt by the Turks to rescue people whom they could legally regard as Turkish subjects. If we deliberately create 100,000 Turkish subjects in Cyprus or 400,000 Greek subjects on this little island it seems to me that we shall be asking for trouble.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
Does the hon. Lady equally condemn the activities of Greek nationals and Colonel Grivas in this British island?
§ Mrs. Jeger
Yes, indeed I do. I have done so, and not only from the safety of these benches, but in Cyprus itself at the height of the activities of Grivas.
The overriding consideration, as I said earlier, must be the views of the Cypriot people. I ask the Government to see that those views are given priority. They are much more important than the reactions of the Greek Government or the Turkish Government to this plan. After 659 all, this plan and its predecessors were held up from time to time because there were to be elections in Turkey at one moment or elections in Greece at another. I thought at one time that they might be held up because there was to be an election in this country. I certainly do not think that the Government should base their policy too exclusively on the reactions of two Governments which, on their own showing, are liable to change from time to time.
The one permanent element in the situation is the people of this island. No talks have been held with any direct representatives of those people since Archbishop Makarios was deported in 1956. I ask the Government to make the earliest arrangements they can to come face to face with the Cypriot people, with the representatives of both communities, and to give their views priority over whatever the views may be of the Turkish Government or the Greek Government. I ask the Government to meet those representatives without prior conditions or reservations, and to let them feel that any concessions which they have been able to make, several of which have been referred to today, will be reciprocated by the British Government.
On these grounds alone can we look forward to constructive talks, and we hope that the Government will come back to the House of Commons with a plan for Cyprus agreed by the people who will have to live with it, whose country it is, a plan which will not need 37,000 British soldiers to stay in Cyprus.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I should like to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) upon his maiden speech. I think it is sufficient to say that it shows that upon him has fallen the mantle of his predecessor, whose presence in this Committee we all miss so much.
I listened with keen interest to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who opened for the Opposition. There are certain criticisms which I should like to make of his comparatively restrained remarks which were delivered in his usual competent fashion. First, he argued that Cyprus cannot have unity by division. I do not understand how he conceives or proposes that there 660 should be any unity in the island without some separation of the peoples. Nor did he make any proposal to show how that could be done.
Then he complained that this separation denied the opportunities of both sides to get together. I really cannot imagine which would be less calculated to ensure both sides getting together in Cyprus than a mixed assembly swayed by public opinion. Paragraph VIII (a) of the plan for Cyprus as contained in Cmnd. 455 seems to me to offer a far better opportunity for co-operation upon a higher level of Government.
Later the hon. Member said that the country must have self-determination, but he did not stress the interests of the Turkish population or the strategic importance to Turkey of Cyprus. He continually seemed, as certain other hon. Members seemed to do, to be stressing that the Greek Cypriots were the suffering party in the island. I cannot imagine how anything could be more tragic than that this Committee should seem to be divided on this issue, and that it should be suggested that the Government favour the Turks and the Opposition the Greeks. I hope that whoever sums up the debate tonight for the Opposition will stress more than the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East did that there have been faults upon both sides and that both sides have been and must be considered equally in any solution.
I myself think there are very considerable reasons for welcoming this new move towards the achievement of peace. It is so easy to criticise any scheme as unworkable, but when there is a country torn between two dissenting factions it is unlikely that any solution immediately it is offered will be accepted by both sides. Indeed, even justice itself is unlikely to calm the present irrational excitement. Certainly, neither side is ready to accept anything that it would imagine gave pleasure to the other.
What we have had is an ideological plan put forward against such a stormy background that it is unlikely that in its present state it will be accepted. Nevthertheless, there is one section of these proposals whose wisdom one is inclined to doubt. It is that which deals with the rights of both Turks and Cypriots to appeal to independent tribunals on matters relating to their separate communities.
661 Where such a process as this begins or ends it is difficult to say, but what it means is that we are actually abdicating that complete authority which one might have thought it would be necessary to have upon this island. We can only fear that this concession might be used as an instrument by either the Greeks or the Turks to undermine the authority of British rule if upon some other matter they were not in agreement with our action.
Nevertheless, I would join in welcoming the scheme for there may lie a subtle strength in it—not if it is accepted but if it is not accepted, for we in this country who have been branded for a long time in Cypriot eyes as black colonialists have offered for a period of seven years, alone retaining police and defensive rights, to abdicate our absolute authority and originate an offer of equality of citizenship. Surely, if neither side accepts such reasonability—or something very close to it which we have leaned over backwards to prepare—it must show that there yet remains such differences of opinion in the island that we have no alternative but to continue to govern.
Therefore, I should like to ask the Prime Minister what will happen in the eventuality of this plan not being accepted and if a compromise settlement is not accepted either. A phrase has been coined during the last week that we are going to "soldier on". This surely implies that for a period of years we shall have to maintain, if not the present force, considerable forces on the island. Nor is it unlikely that if eventually we put forward a further plan large-scale violence might once again break out, and once again large forces might have to be recalled to the island.
I should like to know how we are to carry out this policy in the future and how we are to "soldier on" to do it, for it is no use talking about such a policy if we have not the wherewithal to carry it out. We cannot soldier on without soldiers. It seems to me that there is danger that we are going in two directions and that our authority in Cyprus may be a casualty of such diverse policies. For while we have pledged ourselves to the continuance of authoritative rule in Cyprus if this plan fails to be accepted, at home we are engaged upon 662 defence cuts which make it almost impossible to see where in a few years we should find the full-scale forces which might be needed to carry out our pledge to be responsible for law and order on the island. Shall we be prepared to enforce the logical conclusion of non-acceptance of the plan? That really is the point at issue.
Nothing would be worse than that this plan should merely be regarded as a stopgap and as merely a prelude to bringing together the heads of the two Governments, whom we have been taught by experience are singularly unlikely to agree. No one must realise more than the Prime Minister the danger of tripartite talks without the minutest consideration of all the subjects concerned. Unplanned talks at the moment would surely be an encouragement to both sides to think that they can do as they have done in the past and serve their best ends by the encouragement of outrage, for we cannot afford in the Mediterranean now a repetition of the events of three years ago.
I hope that if this plan proves unacceptable we shall insist upon retaining our authority, and I hope that the Prime Minister will emphasise that tonight. A final point which I should like to make is that on the larger scale one cannot be quite certain that the economies in defence are not being so considerable that they are hampering the future policies of our Foreign Office in this and other spheres and putting into jeopardy that which we are pledged to do.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
The noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) talked about the imperative need for us to have some idea of what we mean by "soldiering on." This question is very much in the minds of the Committee this afternoon when we are considering the Government's proposals and what happens if they fail. I should like to come to that in a moment or two. Before I do so, I should like to make clear where I stand with regard to this plan. I look upon it as a basis for discussion, not to be rejected out of hand—because of the consequences that would inevitably flow from that decision—but with certain reservations, and subject to a number of questions which I should like to ask the Prime Minister.
663 The first is about the proposed tri-dominium. How essential is this to the working of the whole plan? Here we are introducing something which is very debatable. It is something which might be unnecessary. It raises a number of problems, inevitably the result of this type of constitutional proposal. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) drew attention to some of the dangers which would flow from it.
The ratio of four Greeks to two Turks is, considering the proportions of the population of the island, substantially balanced in favour of the Turks. A ratio of five to three resulting from additional appointments, each from outside, makes the balance even worse. I wonder whether these two pro-consuls of Greece and Turkey, appearing in a way in which they would be really answerable to Powers outside the island, may not act as cheer leaders for rival factions within the island. Very dangerous results might flow from that. How esential is it to the plan that this proposal should remain?
My second question to the Prime Minister is about the communal assembly. I appreciate the Government's difficulties at the moment in establishing in the island any kind of internal self-government in which Greeks and Turks would actually sit down in the same room. We have already seen this problem where the Greek Government are withdrawing from some of the committees of N.A.T.O. At this stage, the first thing we have to do is to get them to sit down at all, let alone sit down in the same room. Is it the Government's intention that this should be the end of local government proposals or is it only a beginning? If this is a success, can it be made into an island assembly; and do the Government see it in those terms, so that eventually it becomes the means of Cypriot self-government? I want to have some indication from the Government of how they envisage this proposal.
The next question which I should like to ask the Prime Minister is about the court of appeal, the impartial tribunal as the Secretary of State for the Colonies called it today. What kind of impartial tribunal do the Government envisage? Who are these people to be? That really is the important thing. And would it not 664 be better for the Governor himself to be the impartial tribunal as the representative of the British Government? Again I ask the Prime Minister, how absolutely firm are the Government on this point, because if we have external influences again we run into many of the human problems which stem from the kind of passions which are aroused in the island? If the Governor himself exercises the right of final appeal, he is at least in an impartial position between the Greeks and the Turks.
My next question is about the seven years' date line. There is often a lot to be said for a time limit, especially if it is a short one. For instance, there was a lot to be said for saying that we would be leaving India by a certain date. It concentrates a man's mind wonderfully if he knows that he is going to be hanged within a fortnight, but if one tells him that he is going to be hanged within seven years, it only exacerbates his neurosis. I question whether it would not be better to have no time limit, but, at the first point when it is practicable to do so, to have negotiations rather than any fixed time limit. Is it not giving a serious hostage to fortune to settle on an arbitrary seven years' time limit? Why not five, ten, or twelve?
My next question is about the position of Archbishop Makarios. It seems to me that his presence, in the position he holds, is an essential factor in the negotiations which take place with the Greek Cypriot people. Some of us may not approve of the Archbishop, but, nevertheless, we have to recognise the position he holds. It is the legacy of the Ottoman Empire that the Ethnarchy are in this position, and, whether we like it or not, at some stage we shall have to negotiate with him. Would it not be much better to make it as a corollary of the plan to have the Archbishop back within the next few weeks? It would remove one of the main difficulties in negotiating with the Greek Cypriot people.
With those reservations, although I may be wrong, I nevertheless feel, from reading newspapers and talking to people, that, provided the Government are flexible and courageous enough, this plan has a chance of success. Practically nothing else at this moment has a chance of success. The fact that we ourselves do not necessarily endorse the individual 665 terms of the plan, that we raise questions about them, and the specific circumstances in which we are considering it here this afternoon—all that is really the direct result of the responsibility which the Government must shoulder for the vacillations and the hesitations during the last few years.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies said earlier this evening that we should think only about the future. He said, in effect, never mind about the past, let us think only of the future. Every criminal in the dock at the Old Bailey would echo exactly the same sentiment. The value of recrimination about the past, as the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said when speaking in the Chamberlain Government, is to ensure effective action in the future. I say to the British Government that if their nerve fails now, if there are any more vacillations or hesitations, they will have a very heavy accountability before the British nation and also before the world.
The ideal solution to this problem—I do not think this is a contentious point—if it had been possible, would have been to have self-government within the island, moving to self-determination, with proper guarantees for the Turkish minority and for the Turkish strategic position on the mainland. That was the Labour Party's position and it remains the Labour Party's position.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Donnelly
Yes, it does. My hon. Friend has not changed his position at all. The noble Lord completely misunderstood the basis of our suggestions for a wider island assembly.
We all recognise that it is obviously an impracticable proposition for the original conception to be implemented now, and I want to take up first one point made by the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. He said it is often thought that the Labour Party is pro-Greek and that the Conservative Party is pro-Turk, that this is a disastrous situation and that this has always exacerbated the position in discussing any question of self-determination, because it is always discussed in the context of a General Election, in a year or two, and of what, may happen in this country.
I should like to say that there is no 666 question of the British Labour Party being either pro-Greek or pro-Turk. We are pro the British nation and the Cypriot people, and we are completely impartial as regards the races on the island. There is no doubt whatsoever that a British Labour Government would be just as fair in dealing with the Turkish people as any other Government which this country may have.
On the other hand, the Greek people must realise clearly that the statements made by my hon. Friends and myself in supporting self-determination are based on the hope that conditions will prevail which will enable self-government ultimately to move towards self-determination in the island. But there can be no question of self-determination, as my hon. Friend said, being conducted in an atmosphere of civil war. The best vehicle for anybody who believes in self-determination is peace, and the best way of achieving the things which some of the Greek Cypriots want on the island is to avoid a return to violence.
That brings me to the question of what would happen if the plan were to collapse completely. This is very much in the minds of all of us in considering this question today. First, there is a possibility of what the noble Lord said, which is colonial rule, of soldiering on. The question arises whether we have the adequate means for that, and what would be the political situation in this country, quite apart from what would happen in Cyprus, if we were to find ourselves in a worse and bloodier Palestine, and where it would end. Voices may be raised to say that we should leave the island and let the Cypriots fight it out—just that.
This would be a disastrous situation. But if people exacerbate the situation in the island then they may be creating just that very situation. And who would be suffering most of all if that were to happen? In the first place, it would be the Greek Cypriot people, because they are close to the Turkish mainland. The possible alternatives which would be imposed upon them would be either partition, which I would regard as disastrous, or Turkish annexation, and that would lead quite possibly to war between Greece and Turkey, to the destruction of N.A.T.O. in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to grave damage to 667 the Bagdad Pact. And at the end of it all, it would be the Greek Cypriot people on the island who would suffer. That warning must be clearly given.
On the other hand, a warning ought to be given to the Turks as well. We all recognise the special position of Turkey as the hinge between East and West, between N.A.T.O. and the Bagdad Pact. We all recognise the special, isolated position of Turkey vis-à-vis the Communist world. However, I beg the Turks to understand that if they push their claims so far that they lead to a political revolution in Greece and to a Communist Government in Greece, then the Turkish nation will be the one most vulnerable in that situation. The Turkish nation will have the most to lose. I do not think that there is a danger of Greece going Communist at the immediate moment, but twelve months from now there could easily be a very ugly political complexion in Greece, and the Turks should consider their own position in that situation. We should suffer, but they would be infinitely more isolated than we should be.
That brings me to my last point, the strategic implications of Cyprus. This matter has been mentioned only in passing by one or two hon. Members in the course of the debate. I do not want to widen the debate too far, or to explore a new idea at this stage, but I suggest that we may now be entering on a new era of defence strategy in which this base may be necessary for the fire-extinguisher squads—not as a base for the hydrogen bomb and nuclear deterrent—but, possibly for fire-extinguisher squads in different parts of the world. It does not matter whether they are British-owned and controlled, or controlled by treaty organisation or by the United Nations; the principle remains.
In that respect, Cyprus may be one of the most important bases. We cannot lightly cast aside its military significance and importance at this moment. That brings me to the conclusion that this problem is much more complicated than that of India. It is much more complicated even than that of Palestine. It will tax to the uttermost limits everybody who is involved in future negotiations.
This, may be, is the last chance for the Greeks; it is the last chance, may be for the Turks to avoid a worsening of relations with the Greeks; it may be the last chance 668 of the island to avoid civil war. It is certainly the last chance of the British Government to produce a successful policy for Cyprus.
In the House of Commons we are sometimes members of political parties and at other times citizens of Britain. It is because I am a citizen of Britain that, whatever may be my reservations, because we are all inevitably associated with the success or failure of the Government of the day, I wish this plan every success.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I listened with considerable interest and agreement to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), and I very much agreed with what he said about the disasters which will overtake the inhabitants of Cyprus, Turkey and Greece, and to a limited extent ourselves, if this plan for Cyprus is not accepted and fails to work.
If the impression has gone abroad that members of the Labour Party are pro-Greek, that is because until now they have seen the solution of the Cyprus problem on the lines of self-determination. If the two communities could be induced to live together amicably, I have not the slightest doubt that self-determination would be the sort of solution of which we should all approve. However, it is not the case that they will live together amicably, and so we cannot blame the Turks if they think that self-determination may be a very serious matter for them.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Has not it been established that the tension between the two communities is of comparatively recent origin and that it may well be temporary?
§ Mr. Kershaw
I agree that it is of comparatively recent origin, but the reason that tension has grown up is that self-determination seemed to be a policy which was to be imposed on Cyprus, and so the Turkish community in Cyprus became increasingly anxious about it, which is why the Turks have been behaving recently in the manner which we have all deplored.
669 However that may be, I welcome, as I am sure does everyone else, the expressions of non-partisanship, fairness and equality which have come from both sides of the Committee today. I am certain that if these words are considered in Cyprus, they will add very much to the chance that this plan will be accepted.
Outside the House of Commons, it is sometimes asked whether it is worth our soldiering on in Cyprus. It is asked why we should stay in Cyprus. In the first place, we must discharge our responsibility to the people living in Cyprus. It is perfectly obvious in the present situation that, if we were to leave, the most immense disasters would fall upon them. Secondly, as the hon. Member for Pembroke has just said, we must not underrate the military value of Cyprus. It is essential to N.A.T.O. in that part of the world, it is very necessary to the Bagdad Pact, and it is very useful as a staging post for our Far Eastern commitments. It is also very useful and even essential for the radio broadcasting, and so forth, which we have to undertake in order to present our case in the Middle East.
It is quite clear, as the past years have shown, that this is not a colonial issue. I imagine that there is hardly any hon. Member who does not wish that it were possible to settle this problem peacefully simply by getting out of Cyprus, but I am certain that that would be a way which would bring irremedial disaster to that part of the world.
The criticism has been made that this plan, while possibly a good one—and I think that it is a good one—has come too late. It has been asked why it has not come earlier. The answer is that if at an earlier stage there had been a plan giving the Turks so much authority in this island, the Greek Government would never have accepted it. It would also have been impossible to sell it to the majority of Greek people on the island.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I do not know whether they will, but we can only hope that they will accept it now because of the obvious disaster which lies around the corner. Before there may have been time to spare 670 and there may have been some latitude in which to move, but it is now quite clear that this is the last plan. It may not be a very good plan—I think that it is—but even if they say that it is not very good, it is the last plan, and if they do not accept it, they will go down in this disaster which lies around the corner.
I am bound to add that the support from this country for the Greek cause has given the Greeks reason to believe that if they held out longer and longer the time might come when, by a General Election or some reversion of opinion in this country, they might get everything they wanted. That is now clearly not to be, and because of that I believe that they will see the necessity of accepting the plan.
Finally, what are the alternatives? Certain it is that we cannot remain in our present posture in the island with all these troops tied up there and with a very large proportion of our strategic reserve undertaking police duties. We cannot impose self-determination by force. That is implicit and has been agreed by every hon. Member this afternoon. I am bound to say that the communal council, as proposed by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), is very unlikely to work in present circumstances and I believe that it would contribute not to the pacification, but to the exacerbation of present relations in Cyprus.
I welcome the separation of the communities in function to some extent. It is rather like living with relations whom one does not especially like, the sight of whom one may even hate, although one has to have them in one's house. It is far better to have the relations living side by side but in different houses, rather than have them trying to share the same kitchen.
We come then to the possibility that the plan may fail. What do we do then? I suppose that we could walk out and abandon the place, but I hope that I have already indicated that that course is not one which we could in honour pursue. Next, I suppose that it would be possible to withdraw the British troops, whom we cannot permanently spare all over the island, into some sort of enclave, a bridgehead, as it were, whence we could operate so far as that was possible. That is a proposition one can think about, but I am bound to say that I fail to see how it would work. 671 The idea of British troops sitting happily behind a wall with the racket of communal fighting going on outside does not, I feel, present a picture which could possibly survive close scrutiny.
In effect, therefore, I believe that this plan is the only one which has the slightest prospect of succeeding. I believe that it is right not to define too closely what is to happen at the end of seven years. If we did define what we thought would happen, or even exactly when any future plan might be developed, then this plan would have no chance of acceptance, for the eyes of the two communities would then be fixed on the future. They would be manœuvring for advantage, to see how they could take up what they thought would be their best position in order to take advantage of the next plan which they would see coming along. I feel that the only way to make this plan work is to assume that it is to go on. For myself, I wish that the plan might go on for longer than seven years. I see no reason for putting a term to it. In that way would be given, at least, a guarantee that this plan would be sincerely worked and that both the communities would do what they could to make it work.
If the system in the island should ever be changed, I believe that it will be necessary, so far as one can see now, to preserve British sovereignty. We cannot, at the moment, envisage handing over sovereignty to any other single Power. The White Paper foresees that it might be possible to hand over to a tri-dominium. Whether that will work very well it is impossible now to say. Certainly, the disappearance of this country from sharing in the sovereignty or having sole sovereignty in Cyprus would be an absolute disaster, and I very much hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will indicate that there is no intention of allowing that to happen.
There is one point of detail on which I should like clarification. It is the same point as that which troubled my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton). In paragraph VIII (e) of the White Paper there is a reference to an impartial tribunal. If the Governor is to govern, as I imagine he is, because he will not be able to operate by a majority vote in that Coun- 672 cil, it will surely be necessary for him to decide what affects the communities and what does not. If there is to be some form of court to which every action he takes is to be submitted, certain difficulties will be introduced. I should like some clarification about this, if possible tonight.
I very much welcome this very imaginative plan. It will be a disaster if it does not work, and I hope very much that the people of Cyprus will do their very best to make it a success.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) showed a certain lack of understanding of the Greek ethos when he said that the Greeks would choose to accept this plan because the alternative was disaster. When the Greeks have a choice between agreement or disaster, they choose the latter.
Some two and a half years ago, that is, before the E.O.K.A. rebellion, the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) and I went to Cyprus, and we made a report on the island. On rereading that report, the hon. Gentleman and I were amazed at our prescience. We had prophesied almost everything which has happened. We had also come to the conclusion that, heavy burden though it was, there was then no alternative to British rule. I am afraid that, for all that has happened since, that is still my opinion, and I shall try to give the reasons for it.
It is said that Cyprus was once a peaceful island. That is perfectly true. But it has never been inhabited by Cypriots. It has been inhabited by Greeks and by Turks, totally separate peoples, educated at different schools, with school masters coming from different nations, speaking different languages, having different religions, with not only no inter-marriage between the communities but with separate marriage laws for each community which did not provide for the possibility of marriage between the two communities. The two communities were totally separate and, indeed, our failure to provide a secular Cypriot education is, I think, the major criticism of our administration. They were separate people who lived happily at peace, for one reason and one reason 673 only. Each had confidence that British rule would frustrate the ambitions of the other. Once that belief was challenged, the peace disappeared.
Enosis was always there as an aspiration, but it was an aspiration. It was like heaven to the Greeks. Everybody wants to go to heaven, but not today or tomorrow. As an aspiration, it satisfied the Greeks and it did not seriously worry the Turks. Therein lay the tragedy of Lord Colyton's "Never". That was an affront not only to the manhood of the Greeks. It was an affront to their Greekness. Where an aspiration had previously served, now action was demanded. They owed it to themselves, to their self-respect. That is why that single word changed the whole situation. Since that time, we have passed from blunder to blunder and the situation has gone from bad to worse.
I do not wish to discuss in detail the present proposal. My approach is quite simple. I regard the present proposal as a non-runner, and I am not particularly interested in whether a non-runner is lame in three legs or four. The real difficulty is that we are faced here with an emotional problem and a solution is provided which may save everything except face. No Greek Government which owes anything whatever to popular support can conceivably accept Turkish participation in the government of what it regards as historically a Greek island. It could not do so and live.
People do not understand the intensity of the feeling here. A proposal which involved the acceptance of Turkish participation is inconceivably more objectionable than the existing situation and acceptance of British rule. That is what one is up against. But I would say further that it is not much use negotiating about it. The Greeks certainly will not negotiate about it or produce an alternative to the Ethnarchy Council. I do not think that negotiations are at all practicable in this atmosphere.
I would illustrate that a little by saying this. If the Under-Secretary were to ask me what he could say about the Cypriots which would be most generally acceptable within the island. I think that I would say to him, "Well, Jack, I think I would say simply 'All Cypriots are murderous, treacherous thugs.' The Greeks will then say 'Splendid chap, at last he under- 674 stands the barbarous Turks', and the Turks will say, 'Splendid chap, at last he understands the treacherous Greeks'. Anything else which you might say would I fear be considered controversial and partisan."
If hon. Members think that I am exaggerating let them try the converse, as I have done, and say to any of their Cypriot friends, how charming, delightful, and friendly they find all the people of Cyprus. The immediate reaction—and I have tried it several times—is an outraged denunciation of the race to which the person to whom one is talking does not happen to belong, and he tells one how wrong one was. In that atmosphere it is very difficult to negotiate.
There is a rule of physics which says that every action promotes an equal and opposite reaction. Unfortunately, that does not apply in Cyprus. It produces an opposite and larger reaction. For instance, we hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) a commendation of the very gallant actions of the Governor in, as he says, breaking out of the enclave of Government House and visiting the Greeks. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) who gave him the accolade of the statesman of the year for those actions; and, undoubtedly, they pleased the Greeks. But then we get the opposite and greater reaction of the Turkish riots. Whenever we move one way, the other side goes further off. I am a great admirer of Sir Hugh Foot, but, so far as these actions were concerned, I believe that the balance sheet was an adverse one.
I would summarise by saying that we cannot negotiate between people who are more concerned to frustrate the interests of the other than to advance their own. That is really the situation which we are up against in Cyprus.
While on this subject I should like to say something about self-government, because we are told that the Greeks are now in favour of self-government. In this context, I am reminded of the famous phrase Timeo danaos et dona ferentes—I fear the Greeks when they come bearing democracy.
The Greeks have never wanted self-government. They rejected self-government when it was offered them by the Labour Government in the days of my 675 right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones). They do not want self-government for themselves. What they are concerned with is Church government. They have been governed as a community by their Archbishop for a thousand years. They are solid for the Archbishop. If we ask them to elect a Government they will say, "No, we want the Archbishop." The only interest which the Greeks have ever evinced in self-government in Cyprus is in so far as it provides them with an opportunity to govern the Turks, and the Turks are totally aware of that.
So I give a warning on this occasion. Be a little careful about self-government as a prospect because the attitude with regard to it is not altogether sincere and it does not mean the same thing in Cyprus as it means to us.
What, then, are we to do? The first thing which I urge upon the Government is this: do not go on with these proposals once they are finally refused. Do not go on saying when the Greeks refuse to form a council, when the Turks refuse to form a council and nobody will send anybody along. "This is still our policy and we are going on," because if we do that we may inhibit any Greek in the island from collaborating with us.
If we are firm about our intention to go on, and as the Turks and the Greeks have had a great fright, there may well be an atmosphere, if we can guarantee the future of our rule, in which we will get collaboration, but no Greek can collaborate with this plan because it contravenes his whole ethos. Therefore, while we have these negotiations hanging about we shall not get anyone to work with us in the island. Personally, and very firmly, I urge the Government to put a term to these negotiations, and say that if this is not agreed, then we have no alternative and for seven years Britain will rule, and she will rule as a colonial Power.
Frankly, I believe that such a declaration would give the maximum satisfaction in the island, because it would assure each that the other was not to get his way, and that is what concerns each most. Let us remember this. Cyprus has been a very peaceful, happy island. We are not the only people who know that; the Cypriots know it, too. They remember 676 when it was a happy island, they remember the conditions that made it happy. They have not been enjoying this situation and if those conditions are afforded to them again there would be a very big inclination for them to say, "We have been fools enough. This time we will co-operate".
It is very significant that British troops have been welcomed in those villages racked with communal fear. I believe that we can stop the trouble now, and if we are firm and provide a sufficient future guarantee of English rule the people will dare to come out and work with us without fear of being shot as collaborators.
If we do that I do not think that it will be necessary to keep 30,000 or 40,000 troops there. I think that in a year or so it will be enough to have one battalion. That is my own view. I think that on this point there is a chance if we are firm. If that does happen, the one thing which I would urge on the Government is not to be stingy. The all-important consideration in my mind is to create in Cyprus a secular university, which provides first-class education and an opening to secure professional qualifications, and to provide schools to give a secular education to enable admission to the university. It is only in that way that we can get Cypriots. It is only when we have got Cypriots that we can give self-determination to Cypriots. Self-determination as a principle is applicable only within a homogeneity.
This will be a long pull and it will be difficult and dangerous. I think that we have to try it because the alternative is a most horrible massacre, which there certainly would be. The alternative to our rule is civil war, which the Turks would certainly win, and that is a very dreadful prospect to those who, like myself, love the Greeks, who are a most charming people. The alternative is dreadful. I think that we should try this way and the future depends more on our determination than on our forces.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has injected a good deal of realism into this debate. He is one of the few hon. Members opposite who, throughout this period of difficulty in Cyprus, has consistently understood the 677 Turkish point of view. I agree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about education. The Cyprus problem has been debated many times here. It has been debated many times in the United Nations and somewhere there must be acres of print recording all the speeches made and the newspaper articles written on the subject. I have often wondered whether the story might have been very different had a British Government, in between the two world wars, spent £2 million, or £1 million, perhaps even less, on building a university in Cyprus, not only for the benefit of the Cypriots but to serve all the communities of the Middle East. However, it is no use harking back to what might have been.
It is absurd to allege that, because we are living in an atomic age, Cyprus no longer has any strategic value. Of course it has a strategic value. I do not see how, without having bases in Cyprus, a United Kingdom Government, of whatever colour, could discharge their obligations in respect of N.A.T.O., the Bagdad Pact or the Tripartite Declaration, or in respect of treaties or other arrangements in the Persian Gulf. But we are here discussing something even more complicated than that. What we are really discussing tonight is an island in which the embers of the age-old conflict between Greek and Turk, between the Muslim and Greek Orthodox are smouldering. Feeling over these matters can be very easily fanned into flames, and indeed that has been done recently by two quite different sorts of blowers.
First, this antagonism was fanned through the rather astonishing tendency of hon. Members in this House and people outside to underestimate the strategic interest of Cyprus to Turkey. And, secondly—I must say to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—that it was fanned by their attitude in the past, an attitude which has diminished today—whether they meant it or not, I do not know—that caused the Greeks to believe that they would get Enosis from a Labour Government.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
It may be. I do not know what they meant to say, but they certainly gave that impression to the Greeks.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am coming to that later on, and I will then deal with the comment of the right hon. Gentleman.
I have looked through the debates two years ago last May on this question, when the speeches of the two speakers from the Opposition Front Bench amounted to a period of about one-and-a-half hours. In those speeches there was only a brief and passing reference to the Turks, and that was only in relation to the Turkish minority in Cyprus. I have never quite understood why people should underestimate or write off the importance of Cyprus to the Turks from a strategic point of view. Unless one refuses to look at the map, or looks at it upside down, or unless one cannot measure distance at all, it seems to me incontestable that Cyprus should be of absolute strategic interest to Turkey.
This was put extremely well and briefly by the Turkish Foreign Minister at the Tripartite discussions in August, 1955, and with the permission of hon. Members, I will read one extract which could not put it better.Strategically the vital interests of Turkey and the requirements of defence and logistics made it imperative that the Island should belong either to Turkey or to a country which is closely interested in Turkey and in the fate of Turkey's Eastern neighbours. In the case of war Turkey could be supplied only through her southern ports, and whoever controlled Cyprus was in the position to control those ports.Nothing more need be said about the importance of Cyprus to Turkey.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
The old proverb about sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind could be applied with more truth to Cyprus than to almost any other issue of modern times. Much as I love them, I must say that the Greeks thought they could stampede us. There was the propaganda from Radio Athens which was condemned by hon. Members on both sides of the House. There was the terrorist campaign in Cyprus, and the less said about its sponsorship the better. Murder is normally regarded as a crime by the State and a sin by the Church. 679 Murder by proxy comes in the same category. At any time Archbishop Makarios could have turned off the tap and denounced terrorism. He did not do so, and according to today's Press reports of a television interview by the Arai-bishop of Canterbury, the reason why Makarios did not do so was because he said he would lose influence with his own people.
The more the emotions of the Greeks ran away with them, the more the Turks first became stubborn and then actually hostile, and, as a counter to the Eoka terrorist organisation, a Turkish terrorist organisation has been built up. That is a perfect example of sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.
I must here say a word about the responsibility of the party opposite. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) seemed to think that all the responsibility for the trouble in Cyprus lay on this side of the House. I do not think that the memory of everyone is quite so short as that. I do not think that the attitude of the party opposite is altogether commendable.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am trying to put it moderately. That is something which would not appeal to the right hon. Gentleman.
When hon. Members opposite were in office, there was, of course, to be no change in the sovereignty of Cyprus. But when they became the Opposition there was a marked change in their sense of responsibility. I will repeat what I have said before. Throughout many debates in this House, in many newspaper articles and broadcast discussions, in this country and outside, hon. Members opposite have created the impression in the minds of the Greeks that if the Labour Party won a General Election, the Greeks would get Enosis. As a result, the Greeks said to themselves, "If the British Labour Party wins the next Election not later than 1960 we shall get what we want 100 per cent. So why on earth should we settle for anything less now?" The Turks, being equally nervous, demanded partition now as a minimum safeguard. That is the position in which we have been placed by what I regard as the grave irresponsibility of the party opposite.
680 We should all pay tribute to the astonishing efficiency, discipline and forbearance of British troops in Cyprus during the incredibly difficult period of the last three or four years. I do not suppose that troops of any other nation could have behaved as they have done. From time to time there have been allegations about rough treatment of prisoners, of brutality and things of that kind, but for the most part those allegations were wildly exaggerated and usually completely false. This has been proved where individual cases have been carefully examined.
I find it difficult to understand why people in certain quarters are so unwilling to concede the benefit of the doubt to British troops of their own kith and kin in situations of that kind, while being willing to concede the benefit of the doubt to Archbishop Makarios and other evildoers.
I believe that the people of Cyprus, whether Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot, are heartily sick of all this terrorism and counter-terrorism and want to live as they used to live, in peace and increasing prosperity. Those who condemn off-hand the imaginative plan which the Government have introduced will have to ask themselves, when they say that the plan is unworkable, whether they can put forward anything better.
I quite agree with a remark made from the Opposition benches that the plan envisages a separate communal system, that the two communities in Cyprus would not live together and that it is desirable in the long run that they should live together. The plan is designed to deal, as it were, with two patients whose temperature is very high. They cannot be expected to live together amicably until a period has elapsed, when the heat has been taken out. That is why I hope that both Greeks and Turks will decide to have conversations on the basis of the plan.
The reaction to the plan shown by Mr. Karamanlis, the Greek Prime Minister, has been a little unhappy. He has not actually condemned the plan hook, line and sinker, but he has taken a strangely legalistic point of view, judging from the text of the letter which he sent to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and which has been sent to me and, I suppose, to other hon. Members 681 by the Greek Embassy Office of Information. The letter contains one very strange passage, which reads as follows:Cyprus is a British Crown Colony by virtue of international treaties. Turkey has relinquished all rights and titles on the island. Greece, supporting the right of the Cypriots to self-determination, has declared that she does not aim at the annexation of Cyprus. Those entitled to determine the future of the island are, therefore, principally the people of Cyprus and the United Kingdom since, according to the Treaty of Lausanne, this right was reserved to the 'interested parties'. Turkey is certainly not an 'interested party', having relinquished her rights of whatever nature by the same treaty.If the Greek Prime Minister wants to make a very neat international legal point there is a comeback. It is true that under the Treaty of Lausanne Turkey renounced all interest in the legal sense in the island, but so did the Greeks. The Greeks have no legal status there, either. Indeed, under the Treaty of Lausanne, the Greeks made certain reservations with regard to the Dodecanese, as the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) will know, but no reservation was made about Cyprus. It is, therefore, no good taking this narrow legal view, because neither Greeks nor Turks have any legal interest in the strict sense in Cyprus. In fact, of course, both sides have ethnic interests while the Turks have a very intimate strategic interest.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I would not deny that the interpretation which the hon. Gentleman has given to the Treaty of Lausanne is correct, but I would point out that all the legal rights of the Turks were relinquished to such an extent that we made a condition that if any Turk desired to retain Turkish nationality he could do so, but must go to Turkey and leave the island within two years.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
That is precisely the point I wanted to make. It is no good the Greek Prime Minister attempting to argue a very narrow legal point against Turkey, because exactly the same point can be argued back against Greece if necessary. I want to get away from legal argument. I admit that both Greeks and Turks have an ethnic interest in Cyprus, but, in addition, Turkey has a very intimate strategic interest.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman admits that it follows from that that the Greeks are not claiming a legal right, but are only saying that, according to the practice of the Commonwealth, some day the people of Cyprus ought to have self-determination?
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
The Greeks seem to be saying that the Turks need not be consulted at all because they have no legal interest. I hope that both the Greek and Turkish Governments will accept the invitation and will enter into conversation on the basis of the plan to try to compose their differences and work together with us for the future of Cyprus. Then both communities, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greeks who live in Greece and Turks who live in Turkey, as well as all the other peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean, can join in achieving the two essential conditions of civilisation—security and prosperity.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
In view of the fact that the Government appear to be anxious to get bipartisan support for their Cyprus proposals, we have just listened to a very curious speech from the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). Not only did he go over all the ground which has been gone over religiously in every Cyprus debate by Government supporters in trying to fix responsibility for the failure of Government policy upon the Opposition, but he said something else which has become familiar in these debates. He said that it was a tragedy for Cyprus that the Opposition appeared identified with the Greek Cypriot cause and the Government with the Turkish Cypriot cause and then went on to chide the Opposition for supporting the Greek cause. He then went on to repeat exactly the same arguments in support of the Turkish solution to the Cyprus problem that we have heard so often from Government benches. I cannot think that his speech was helpful in any way.
In the twelve months since our last debate a great deal has happened in Cyprus. One of the most important things was the arrival as Governor of Sir Hugh Foot. I welcomed his appointment warmly, and described it as one of the Government's few imaginative actions. I admired the way in which he managed, 683 in his first few weeks in the island, to transform the situation by his courage and his friendly understanding of the people of the two communities. It was all the more tragic that that new atmosphere was allowed to evaporate by the Government's delay in introducing their plan for solving the Cyprus problem.
It is because I have this great respect for Sir Hugh Foot, and had such high hopes of him and his concern for the welfare of the people of Cyprus, that I was predisposed in favour of the plan, of which he was author or part author. Perhaps on that account I am all the more disappointed with the plan now that we have seen it. It seems to me to be a plan which puts the Turks on an almost equal footing with the Greeks in the Island of Cyprus and which totally ignores the fact that, numerically, the Greeks outnumber the Turks by four to one. The only factor in this plan which in any way recognises the numerical disparity is the relationship of five Greeks to three Turks on the Governor's Council.
It is a great disappointment to me that I cannot support this plan. I think it necessary to say why I find it objectionable. First, it seems to make permanent, to petrify, the present wide division between Greeks and Turks in that island, a division which I think all of us in this Committee hope is only a transient phenomenon. I would prefer to remember the generations during which Greeks and Turks have worked and lived side by side in the Island of Cyprus in amity. This plan, instead of aiming at repairing the damage that has been done to the bridge between the two communities, the damage done by the communal disturbances, appears to sweep away the very foundations of the bridge itself.
It envisages a total separation of responsibilities for administration and government in the two communities. In my view this plan was correctly described by The Times as a form of non-territorial partition in itself. I should say that it makes self-determination virtually impossible and partition of the island almost inevitable. Although I freely accept that that is not the intention of the Governor, and, I presume, not of the Government, I cannot see that any other long-term outcome could result from the plan.
684 My second objection to it is that it does not provide any representative government for the people of Cyprus. In that respect it is a far less liberal constitution than that proposed by Lord Radcliffe. I think that the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) did the Committee a service in saying so frankly why he supported the plan. He made it quite clear that he liked it because it preserved British sovereignty in permanent or semi-permanent form, because it meant that the Governor would govern and that there would be no possibility of government by majority rule. I have a suspicion that those are two of the reasons why this plan is reasonably popular on the benches opposite. Though this purports to be an interim scheme of self-government, it seems to me that the instruments under the plan do not permit that in any way.
The association of Greek and Turkish High Commissioners with the Governor's Council, I imagine, would make the job of the Governor almost impossible. I deplore very much this retrograde stop of trying to associate the Governments of Greece and Turkey with the Government of Cyprus itself. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras South (Mrs. L. Jeger), I think that the essential thing to do in this delicate stage is to get the Cypriot people not to look outwards towards Athens and Ankara, but inwards towards their own affairs in the island.
One of the biggest dangers of this plan is the proposal to give Greek and Turkish citizenship to Greek and Turkish citizens in the island. This point cannot have been thought out very clearly by Her Majesty's Government. By creating Greek and Turkish citizenship in that island we shall be giving the Governments of those two countries rights under international law which they certainly do not possess at the moment—rights of intervention, even military intervention, in respect of their own citizens. That would be a constant danger and a standing threat to peace in that part of the world. The financial provisions, and provisions for responsibility for communal affairs—which were in no way defined by the Colonial Secretary in his opening speech—will lead to difficulties and confusions which will make this plan quite unworkable.
685 It has been suggested in some quarters that if the Opposition fail to support this plan we shall bear responsibility for its rejection, if it is rejected, and for the violence and bloodshed which might follow such rejection. Of course, it is always convenient for a Government to seek to find a scapegoat for their own failures. Indeed, the hon. Member for Windsor repeated that point again this evening in respect of past failures. The responsibility for this situation in Cyprus rests very fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government. It is no good their trying to escape that responsibility for the past.
I do not believe that in any way that charge could be levelled against the Opposition and the Labour Party in respect of this current plan because it has been turned down already. It has been turned down in quite unequivocal terms, not only by Mr. Karamanlis, the Greek Prime Minister, but by Archbishop Makarios, the spokesman for Greek Cypriots. I do not want to waste time by quoting the precise terms, but I do not see how anyone could suggest that the plan has not yet been turned down by the Greeks. It was also turned down by Mr. Menderes, four days before it was announced, but I gather that there may be second thoughts on the way from Turkey.
Those decisions have been taken by the Greek Government and by Archbishop Makarios during the period of a week or ten days in which not only has every hon. Member on this side of the Committee been silent on the merits of the plan, but when practically every informed political commentator has been saying that the Labour Party broadly supported the plan—a statement made without evidence, but, nevertheless, made and repeated. Despite that, this plan has been turned down by the Greeks and the Greek Cypriots. Nothing we can say today will kill this plan because it was stillborn. The most the Government can hope to do now is to embark on a bit of artificial respiration.
I agree with the Governor that co-operation between the two communities in this island is an essential preliminary to any final solution. It is essential for the welfare and prosperity and peace of mind of everybody who lives in the island and 686 for economic and political development there. Certain things must be said if we are to get that co-operation. I should say to both the Greeks and to the Turkish minority that it is not in the interests of either to continue violence nor to attempt to provoke civil war.
I believe both sides of the Committee could give a pledge that no solution to this problem would allow Cyprus to become a military threat to the Turkish mainland. It could also be stated that no political solution would be envisaged which did not fully protect and guarantee the legitimate rights of the Turkish minority.
Having said that, however, it must also be said that partition is out, and out for good. I believe that no sane person has ever believed that partition was feasible in this island, and it is time that that fact was faced and stated clearly. On this we should say that our mind is finally made up and that no threats, no violence, nothing at all will shake us on it.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I have been following the hon. Member's speech very closely. Could he enlighten us a little futher? If partition is out and Enosis is out and this plan is out, what is in?
§ Mr. Robinson
I was very interested to hear it said that this is the last plan and that there can be no other plan. I want to know why. There are plenty of other solutions. Many have been put forward in the course of the last two-and-a-half or three years from these benches which the Government would have done well to heed. There are far better solutions which could be put forward even in the present situation. Of course this is not the last word. It cannot be the last word.
The Governor believes passionately that this plan provides an opportunity for the kind of co-operation which will be necessary in the future. Against all the evidence he has faith in the plan. It is an act of faith, and one in which presumably the Government share. But I cannot possibly share that faith. I wish I could, because, like other hon. Members, I am very apprehensive about the immediate situation in the island.
I do not say that the Government have wasted their time in putting the plan forward. I do not believe that it can be a basis for negotiation, but I believe 687 that the publication of the plan has provided an opportunity for negotiation which did not exist before.
These are the questions which I want the Prime Minister to answer when he winds up the debate tonight. How far is this plan negotiable? In view of the concessions which have been made by Archbishop Makarios following the publication of the plan, and in view of the modified attitude of the Greek Government, will Her Majesty's Government now enter into direct negotiations with representatives of the Cypriot people? I have always believed that that is the only way to solve this problem. It was a fundamental mistake ever to try to treat it as an international problem. I believe that it is the fact that it has been treated internationally and not basically as a Colonial problem which has led to the difficulties which we are in today.
I hope that the Prime Minister will make it very clear that the Government are flexible and do not stand rigidly upon any of the main planks of this plan if, as I expect, it is turned down flat by both sides.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) began his speech by criticising as unhelpful the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). I do not know how the hon. Member gauges unhelpfulness, but in view of the attitude adopted by his Front Bench, judging from the opening remarks, he himself would not gain very many marks for helpfulness if we are looking for a constructive solution based on trying to make the plan work. My only other criticism I intend to make of what he said is that he was wholly unrealistic in his appreciation of the emotions which are at play. He was just as unrealistic about them as his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was aware of them. There could hardly have been a bigger contrast between two speeches.
Whenever there is a great international controversy of this sort it is very difficult for one, even subconsciously, not to show a degree of partiality one way or the other. Most of us have friends in Greece or Turkey; some have more friends on one side, some have more friends on the 688 other. I shall do my best to maintain a strict impartiality in what I say, in marked contrast to at least one or two speeches from the benches opposite this afternoon.
I confess, however, that I have very strong personal ties with Turkey, because almost, if not uniquely, my late father was, as an Englishman, an officer in the Turkish Army and fought for them against the Italians in Libya. When I last went to Turkey I found that his name was remembered even to that day, and I was certainly given a much better welcome than I should have deserved had those circumstances not existed. On the other hand, after the last war I had the opportunity to go as an observer to Greece during the Communist crisis, when the Greek Army was fighting against the Communists in the mountains on the borders of Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia and I formed strong friendships there. Hence, as for many hon. Members, this has been a particularly painful episode for me, for like hon. Members on both sides, I have so many links with both our allies.
In contrast with the criticism that the new plan is bound to fail because nobody seems to like it very much, I feel that this is almost the best thing that could be said for it. One thing is certain. Had it been enthusiastically accepted by one side, it would have been just as enthusiastically turned down by the other. As soon as I heard that the Government were to announce a British plan, I thought that the best thing that could happen was for there to be a rather cautious, tentative expression of dislike on both sides, while both parties studied it. That is what has occurred. I believe that time and study will show both contesting elements in this issue that this plan represents just about the best that they can expect out of the present situation.
I thought that the criticisms by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) of the Government were, in general, not justified, but perhaps one could be forgiven, as a humble back bencher, for saying that some of the suggestions incorporated in the plan are not exactly new and do not spring from a genius in recent weeks or months, and could perhaps have been put forward earlier. In fact, from time to time they have been put forward by those who have 689 not quite the expert experience at their disposal which is available to Her Majesty's Ministers.
On the other hand, to say that we hold the sole responsibility for the way in which the situation has deteriorated is not fair. I have no wish to introduce a note of party controversy. I wish only to defend my party and our Ministers in this respect. We have today been criticised heavily. Lord Colyton has come under heavy fire once or twice this afternoon for the damage alleged to have been caused by his use of the word "never". In retrospect, one might think of it as a phrase which could have been a little more happily worded, although it is only fair to say that if one reads HANSARD carefully it becomes clear that that remark cannot fairly be interpreted by the interpretation commonly given to it.
One must say—and this was brought out in earlier debates—that the Opposition have adopted a sanctimonious attitude in saying that we began the use of the phrase about no self-determination. This suggestion is nonsense. It has been said clearly in the House, and never denied, that on no fewer than two occasions before they left office the Labour Government turned down the Greek Government flat about the future of Cyprus. They did so in no uncertain terms, both by telegram and verbally. For them now suddenly to suggest that the recalcitrance of the Greeks sprang only from the time that the present Government came into office is simply not in accord with the facts. The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) was a member of the Government at the time that these telegrams were sent saying that the question of the future sovereignty of Cyprus was not a matter for discussion between Britain and Greece.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
The hon. Gentleman will, of course, remember that the Communist invasion of which he has just spoken was then going on, and that made a very great difference indeed to the whole situation. We offered them a constitution, which would have led to self-government if they had accepted it—and I regret that they did not—but I really would put it that, even if we then made a mistake, that is no reason for adhering to it now.
§ Mr. Bennett
It may not be a reason for adhering to it now, but it may well 690 be a reason for not being so unfair now as to neglect to say that that attitude was not taken up. This is the first time that I have heard a Labour spokesman admit that a mistake by them too may have been made. As for the Communists having been at war in Greece at that time, this, indeed, is a novelty, because we have been told that this sort of thing should be settled on a moral basis. Now we have a Labour spokesman saying that strategic reasons are also very important in Cyprus. We therefore cannot blame the Turks very much for what they say about that.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made one practical suggestion of which I should like my right hon. Friend to take account—the suggestion of a third assembly. In the atmosphere of tension now obtaining in Cyprus, I do not think that the creation of a third joint assembly could do anything but harm. We shall have enough difficulty in making the present suggested bodies work without our adding to them.
There might, however, be a case for my right hon. Friend to consider in due course, whether on certain specified matters there might not be joint sessions of these two communal assemblies to see whether it is possible to discuss even the most mundane issues in a non-communal atmosphere. Without creating a new body at this stage, I suggest that such a provision for a joint body might be included experimentally in the constitution. I should like my right hon. Friend to consider that suggestion.
Why ought the two Powers concerned, other than ourselves—Turkey and Greece—accept the plan? In the first place, I should have thought that it offered Turkey the maximum protection of her interests. To some extent, it would be possible to argue that it would be better for the Turks even than partition, because, if the plan succeeds, they will have representation in the highest councils of the island as a whole, which may, for many reasons, be better for them than would total sovereignty over only a small part with a hostile section of the population occupying the other part. I should have thought that, for that reason alone, Turkey should welcome the plan.
A second reason for her welcoming the plan is that self-determination, against 691 the minorities consent, is now, I think, forever out, because if the plan goes through, what is now a question of fact will then become even more difficult to override, in that it would be quite unfeasible, when dual citizenship obtains and there are separate communal councils, to imagine that in seven years' time it would be practical to have overall self-determination leading to Enosis. I should have thought that that would have been really quite unthinkable.
I presume that it was with that consideration in mind that the Prime Minister said the other day that, whatever happened, the pledge that had been given earlier by the Secretary of State that self-determination without the consent of the minority would not be granted by the United Kingdom; and I should like some reassurance on this point.
Why should Greece accept the plan? Short of Enosis, I should have thought that from her point of view it was the best possible available solution. The last thing that Greece wants is partition, which, quite frankly, if this thing is driven to its logical conclusion and away from any more sensible solution, is what will come about, whether we like it or not, or whether or not we want to bring it about. Surely except for Turkish annexation, nothing could be more distasteful to the Greeks than partition.
This plan would give them complete control over their own affairs, a majority in the council for the whole country, and would give them, if only they could forget their emotions for a moment and start thinking rationally, the best solution possible in the present conditions. For the Greeks in Athens now to imagine that, whatever we may do in the House, self-determination leading to Enosis is any longer a practical project, is like living in a world of dreams.
Here, I may say that, Whether or not one agrees with the Turks, the state of affairs in that part of the world is such that it would be quite impossible practically for Greece to obtain Enosis for Cyprus, even with the help, which God forbid, of British troops driving the minority to consent to a solution to which they would violently object, and contrary to pledges already given in the House.
692 It has been asked several times today, "Why is it necessary to go for this sort of plan? Why cannot we have self-government"—leading, presumably, to ultimate self-determination—"but with safeguards for the minority interests written into the constitution?" I should have thought that history had taught us that once sovereignty passes to a country it is impossible to enforce such safeguards.
Hon. Members opposite have often pointed out—and I sympathise with them on this—how useless now are the safeguards for coloured minority rights written into the South Africa Act after the Boer War. At that time, those safeguards were firmly written in, but as time has passed we have found that, however carefully embodied they are in the original constitution, if a sovereign body is determined to get rid of such safeguards it will do so—
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
There is a difference, surely, between an entrenched Clause in a constitution which can be amended, as in the South Africa Act, and an international minority Statute that is registered with the United Nations.
§ Mr. Bennett
As my hon. Friend says, no difference comes in the practice.
Finally, there is the British position. When we are discussing all this trouble about what the Greeks, the Turks, the Cypriot Greeks and the Cypriot Turks feel, we should surely spend a little time in studying what are Britain's interests in this matter. I am not ashamed to endorse what has been said by my hon. Friends. Apart from anything else that I have said, I welcome this plan because it seems to offer the most effective safeguards for Britain's future essential needs and rights in the island.
It is no good saying that in an atomic age all ideas on strategy and where best our troops should have bases have to be amended. For instance, hon. Members opposite spend a good deal of the time of the House trying to bring about a situation in which the manufacture and use of atomic bombs will be banned forever. If the policies that they advocate were to be adopted and we were to return to conventional weapons, the strategy that 693 they now seek to dismiss as being of no account in the atomic age may enter into its own again. As we have learned, too, in Korea and elsewhere, there are local conditions in which remedies, short of nuclear war, can be used and prevent even worse effects. Thus we must have bases for our troops to carry out our responsibilities.
In a leading article in The Times the other day, I read a passage to the effect that Britain's strategic rights were to be safeguarded only for a period of up to seven years. I did not understand that from what the Prime Minister said. Nor do I understand that from the White Paper. But in view of the fact that in that responsible newspaper that statement has been made that our national strategic rights are to lapse after seven years, I should like an assurance that that is not so and that, whatever else the seven-years period applies to, it does not apply to that.
At this moment it is impossible for anyone to exaggerate the gravity of events in that part of the world, not only in Cyprus but elsewhere in the area. If ever there was an occasion when we all ought to try to make a plan work, even though we may not agree with all its particulars, this is that moment.
Up to now, whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, the impression has got abroad that if the Greeks can only hang on until the party opposite gets into power they will get a better deal than they will get under this Government. That has been denied today. It has been said that the pledges which could give such an impression have never been made. I can only assure hon. Members that that is the impression which obtains in Athens today. For example, any hon. Member on the opposite benches who was with me last spring at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, will have had this fact proved only too decisively, and not by a British Tory, but by the Greek representative who, with tears in his eyes, thanked the Labour Party representatives for the promise of self-determination which they would have when the Labour Party was returned to office.
§ Mr. Bennett
We now have an endorsement of that proposition. I can assure the hon. Gentleman who said "Hear, hear" that earlier in the debate many of his hon. Friends were saying that no reasons have been given at any time for the Greeks to believe that they would get a better deal under the Socialists than under the Conservative Party, and I was only seeking to dispel the idea.
§ Mr. Brockway
The Labour Party decision at its annual conference, which has been endorsed repeatedly by the party, is that when we come to office we shall proceed to self-government for Cyprus, and that after a period of self-government, when the passions of the two races have died down, we will endeavour to reach self-determination. That is our decision, and that decision stands.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland
In order to elicit information on a point that has been made by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), which does not altogether clarify the situation, will the hon. Gentleman say whether self-determination for the majority means also self-determination for the minority?
§ Mr. Bennett
Perhaps I should get on with my speech. Perhaps the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) was not in the Chamber at the time, but we had a very clear undertaking from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East that, in fact, self-determination was no longer a practical project, however desirable it might be, against the consent of the minority, and that that fact had to be accepted. I do not think I am being unfair to the hon. Gentleman. That is contrary to the impression which has been formerly created abroad. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eton and Slough now likes to make speeches which will alter the minds of the Greeks on this question, I shall be only too happy, but that is the impression which has been created abroad, and it is most unfortunate.
I had not intended to be diverted in my last remarks, for I was hoping to finish on a completely non-controversial note, in an appeal that all of us should follow the exhortation of the Colonial Secretary, and that even though we may all "tick off" the Government for being a bit slow in the past and criticise the Opposition for being irresponsible, we should at least now try to give the plan a sporting run.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) for having raised this issue of the Labour Party's position, because it is important to get it clear, and I intend to try to do so.
However, before I do so, I should like to make a general observation. It seems to me that in this debate, on the benches opposite there have been general commendations for the Government's plan and that from this side of the Committee there have been detailed criticisms. I observed that the hon. Member for Torquay started by saying that he was completely impartial and would speak with the strictest impartiality. He said that he welcomed the plan because it killed any chance of self-determination leading to Enosis. Whether one considers that right or wrong, I would suspect that the person who says that is like the Irishman who, when he was asked about neutrality, said, "I cannot make up my mind who to be neutral against." At least, it is clear whom the hon. Gentleman is being impartial against when he says that the great advantage of this plan is that it kills self-determination.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett
I did not say "self-determination leading to Enosis." I was particularly careful to say "self-determination without the consent of the minority." I should have thought that that was being strictly impartial both to the minority and to the majority.
§ Mr. Crossman
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, if he were to go to Cyprus and meet a Greek and a Turk there he would discover for whom he was being impartial.
I do not claim any impartiality in this debate. I have never shown any impartiality in that sense. I think it is one of the questions which we have to discuss, for the vital thing for which we on this side of the Committee stand is not Greeks against Turks. We stand for a very simple principle, which is that when the population of the island, by neatly four to one, passionately want one thing, we think that by and large, if they are under British rule, we should try to see that four-fifths of the inhabitants should get the kind of independence that they desire. That is what we have said. 696 We have said that we believe it is essential to get self-government and that it should lead to self-determination, even if the self-determination decided on union with Greece.
I will be very frank and will try to be objective, if not impartial. We have gone further in the past. We said that the period of self-government should be limited in time. We said that because it was found in other Colonial Territories that if we wanted a decision to be made, it was necessary to get a time limit. We saw that in India and in Malaya, and, therefore, we insist on the importance of a time limit in the case of Cyprus.
In the conditions obtaining when the Tory Government took office, the idea of self-government for a certain specific limited time, leading to self-determination, by referendum or by any other method, was a perfectly reasonable and practicable proposal which, if it had been introduced at the time, would have led to a successful solution.
Again, we have to face the facts, and the change that we have made as a party—a change which has involved some of us in a terrible struggle—is to admit that so much has the situation degenerated in Cyprus in the last six years that the idea of a determined period of years of self-government followed by self-determination must temporarily be abandoned. We cannot possibly now predetermine a certain number of years and say that after that there will be a referendum. We now have to try to get self-government. We have to try to get a period of peace. I can assure hon. Members opposite that my hon. Friends did not suggest that there would never come a time when self-determination could be achieved. We say that we cannot predetermine, we cannot commit ourselves to a time limit. We must face a longer period of self-government than we had hoped for five or six years ago. That is the big change which makes us take a different attitude to the Government's present proposal.
I want to look once again at these Government proposals as objectively as I can. I want to follow the lead given me by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). He summed up extremely well the view we have come to by talking it out together on this side of the Committee. First of all, obviously we cannot turn any plan 697 down flat and say it is no good, because it depends on the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and whether they like it. I say to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that if the plan is accepted by Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks there is not a single person on this side of the Committee who will have any doubts whatsoever, because that would be self-determination, that would be the principle that we have supported—that they should decide for themselves their fate.
What makes us doubtful of this plan is that some of us who have knowledge of the island and all of us who have knowledge of human nature wonder whether this plan will lead to a workable system of self-government. I think that it is a little poppycock to talk about this as a great and imaginative conception as though it were something thought out Completely apart from politics or power by somebody coming fresh to the matter and saying, "Let us have a completely fair solution to this problem." It was not done that way. The interesting thing is to see its history. It is interesting to see what led to this kind of desperate plan. For it is a very desperate plan. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that this is an extremely desperate plan.
Let us look at how the Government got to such a desperate plan and where it all started. I shall not forget sitting here the day the Government announced what many of their back benchers thought was the Suez surrender, and in order to compensate their back benchers for the Suez surrender and to make them swallow the Suez surrender the Government gratuitously inserted an extra statement on Cyprus to sweeten the Suez pill. I have never seen a colonial issue treated in such a strictly party, partisan way; and, heaven knows, this country as a whole has paid a very heavy price for that clever idea of putting that Cyprus statement in just after the Suez statement.
I want to be as fair as possible, and I am not pretending that only that word "never" and only what has been done here has made the Cyprus situation deteriorate. There is one factor which we have to take into account on both sides of the Committee and that is that in these last years something has happened to make the Cyprus situation as difficult as 698 it is now, and that is the really active attention of the Greek Government to Cyprus. Relatively speaking, the Enosis movement was an impotent, weak movement, not actively supported from Greece. One of the pathetic and moving aspects of the matter was that the Greek Cypriots longed to join a country which showed no interest whatever in them for generations. They longed to join Greece, but Greece did not seem very anxious to join them. I believe it was only very shady party politics in Athens which changed the position and turned a local Cypriot passion for loyalty and unity with Greece into a great international problem. The new move was launched with the whole technique of such things, including a radio station, backing up the Greek Cypriots 100 per cent.
Thus, it is true that the Greek Government then for the first time made this not a merely Anglo-Cypriot problem but an international problem, and made it almost insoluble. Then, two or three years even later than that, the Turkish Government were needled out of their somnolence and took the problem up, and so the Turkish minority was supported 100 per cent. by the Turkish Government while the Greek Government 100 per cent. supported the Greek Cypriots, although neither Government had been really interested before, and so inside two years there came this desperate situation we now face precisely because of governmental participation.
I agree with my hon. Friends who say that we should like to get back to a situation where the British Government could talk to the Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks. I must say that I have some sympathy with the Government, for I doubt whether that situation is revocable and whether we can bring it back into being a nice local dispute, the local colonial dispute it used to be. I doubt whether we can turn it into a colonial dispute between the local people and ourselves. I think it is a permanent international matter.
That is why I am prepared to take this plan and consider it extremely seriously, because of this new internationalisation of what used to be a secondary local quarrel. That is why I want to be fair, although I must say that I think the Government's attitude about the British base made the internationalisation unnecessarily difficult.
699 It has almost been forgotten that for years this Government asserted that we were not going to be content with a British base on Cyprus but that we had to have the whole of Cyprus as a base and keep N.A.T.O. out. Those were the years in which the Government insisted on this and so held up any possibility of a solution at a time when tempers were less hot than they have been recently. There might have been a case for postponement but they continued to assert that they required the whole of the island as a British base.
Now, faced with a well-nigh insoluble problem, we have to look at any solution however desperate, but I would suggest that really that does not mean that because we are desperately keen on a solution we should follow the view that this solution must be correct. Nothing is more dangerous than to say that though we are genuinely anxious for a solution we must swallow this or any proposal uncritically. It really will not do any good for Cyprus for this Committee not to consider this proposal in detail and to ask ourselves very seriously whether it is workable in its present form and to consider how, if it is not, it could be made workable.
I find it difficult to believe that anybody, after this debate, can still continue to think that this thing in its present form, this so-called plan, which is not a plan at all but is a series of heads of a plan, whether this collection of heads taken by themselves, will provide either a workable plan or, what is the same thing, a plan in which the Greeks and Turks will fully collaborate. One of the reasons why they will not is one thing said by the hon. Member for Torquay, because if it is true—and it is true—that this plan creates institutions which prevent any possible chance at any time of self-determination, then the Greeks will not collaborate in it. Why should we ask the Greeks to collaborate in a plan which excludes constitutionally and deliberately what four-fifths of the people of the island desire? We may well say let us postpone it, but it is totally unreasonable to ask them to accept a plan designed to exclude this possibility and to substitute the proposed tridominium for self-determination. I agree entirely with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton that 700 that is not a starter for any reputable Greek on the island.
It is clear that we must responsibly tell the Government that if they want to have this international arrangement they must face the fact that they have to meet the Greeks. Is it so unreasonable to ask that? To answer that question we must ask another question.
Let us compare the Radcliffe plan with the Foot plan. Those are two very intelligent men and they are two men who were working for the same Administration. I must ask myself somewhat cynically: what is the reason for the tremendous change from the Radcliffe plan to the Foot plan since that change is in the same direction, into building into the plan more and more guarantees for the Turkish minority and removing out of the plan more and more advantages for the Greek majority? What happened in between the Radcliffe plan and the Foot plan to cause that difference? We all know what happened. Turkish pressure of a very extreme form. That is what happened. I do not say any more about that. A Greek can notice that. Let us hope that he will not draw the obvious conclusion. That is exactly what we have to avoid; that is why the balance has to be redressed. It is obvious that it has reached, if not exceeded, the limits of concession to the Turkish minority.
It is no good talking about creating unity and self-government if we do not have the institutions which make it possible for the two peoples to work together. I regard the chance of this coming off as small but it must be tried, because the alternative is not the perpetuation of British rule. The alternative is, in the end, civil war, if not general war in the Mediterranean.
If we cannot get these people to work together, we will not stay there for ever. We know our fellow-countrymen. We know what happened in Palestine. If this goes on for seven or ten years and the British get all the kicks, in the end some Government or other, of either party, will throw in their hand and say, "We are sick of all this. We shall hand it over to the United Nations," and then there will come the disaster that we saw in Palestine in an even more hopeless form, for in Palestine something came out of it but I can see nothing but disaster coming out of a general war 701 between Greeks and Turks, ending in an impermanent solution.
That is why we have to tackle seriously the problem of getting the two peoples together, but I echo the views of those who have asked, "How can you pretend that a constitution which deliberately and artificially separates the two and treats them as separate communities brings them together?" How can we conceivably say that a constitution which lays it down that every Turk shall be a loyal member of a Turkish community and not a Cypriot, and every Greek a loyal Greek instead of a loyal Cypriot, is designed to bring them together? These are divisive elements. They cannot work to bring them together. A plan to bring Turkish and Greek Government representatives to sit on a Council and combine in some mysterious and imaginary way all executive and administrative functions could only have been thought up by a colonial governor-general and not by a politician. This is a centralisation of executive and administrative power, and into this tiny group is to be inserted one Turkish Government representative to ensure that if there was any possibility of the two sides coming together a directive would come from Ankara to say, "Disagree".
This constitution, whether it was designed to do so or not, if it were put into effect, could only perpetuate division and stimulate mutual hatred. But we have nothing to fear from it, because there is not the slightest chance whatsoever of its ever being put into operation. There is no chance, as it stands, of Archbishop Makarios accepting and working this plan; and it is utter delusion for hon. Members opposite to believe that they can spellbind the people into it, and that the Greeks have lost all backbone and will surrender.
We have to ask ourselves what advice we give to the Government when they put forward this unworkable and divisive constitution. I agree that the first advice that we could give is that if there are to be institutions they must be unitary institutions. If there are to be legislative assemblies, there must be one Cypriot legislative assembly. In other countries, there are different communities who work a single legislature. This is recognised in every civilised community where there are racial minorities. It is a perfectly common thing. Why this unique element 702 in Cyprus? Therefore, we suggest to the Government that they should look again at this and not have this passport nonsense and seek to build a common Cypriot feeling if they possibly can.
I cannot help asking myself why it was that the six Suez rebels all chose this occasion to rejoin the Tory Party. They tell us that it is because this constitution has restored their confidence in the party. I am inclined to agree with their diagnosis of the constitution, because I have observed a very strange thing—that we have had from some back benchers speeches which said, "Let us hope that what this does is to perpetuate British rule in Cyprus and that this is the effect of the constitution."
What does that imply about the constitution? It is that it achieves the object of holding the two communities so much apart that they will require the British to keep law and order on the island. Therefore, the Tories who say that have diagnosed correctly what the ultimate effect of the constitution will be, and they are supporting the constitution not because they want to see a settlement but because it holds the two communities apart and that will be an excuse for us to stay on the island. But I have already said that the idea of staying on the island is a mirage. The only way in which we can retain our influence in or our base on the island is by achieving self-determination as the end of a process of self-government.
I am aware that Archbishop Makarios and the Greeks rightly feel that they have made an enormous concession by already admitting that they will not insist upon a time limit to self-government before self-determination. I agree that they have made a big concession, and must expect an equal concession from the Turks in reply. But the Greeks will make the gravest mistake if they say that they refuse to negotiate. It is absolutely essential that they should negotiate. We would say to them, "Do not negotiate about the terms of negotiation too long. Do not let us have another Palais Rose conference in which months and months are spent in negotiating what is to be negotiated. Put in your central chamber as a point for negotiation and as a basis. Come in and talk."
If we say that to the Greeks, as we ought to do, and if we say, "Be flexible 703 and be prepared to make this work," we must also say to the Government, "You must be flexible, too." I had a horrid feeling during the speech of the Colonial Secretary that the Government were saying, "This is the last word. This is the covenant, and you can change it only in detail."
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
My right hon. Friend said that "acceptance in every particular is not required."
§ Mr. Crossman
I know. The right hon. Gentleman also said "detail". We, of course, are not asking for detailed replies to our comments on the constitution, but what we have a right to ask from the Prime Minister is whether he is prepared to consider changes even in one or two of what are called the basic principles. We are not asking what in particular he is prepared to consider changing, but is he prepared to be flexible enough to do that? I believe that if he says, "Yes" the Greeks will come and talk straight away. If he does not, it will be extremely difficult to persuade Archbishop Makarios at any point to talk with the Government. Therefore, the whole purpose of this debate must be to get flexibility on the part of the Greeks and the Turks, but also on the part of Her Majesty's Government
I would say to the Government, "Look back at the history of Cyprus in the last six years. You have had to retreat from position after position, and disastrously. You have always retreated so late that we have had no advantage from the retreat. For heaven's sake this time be ready to negotiate. Do not stand on your pride. Negotiate a workable constitution."
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I have often admired the cold logic of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), but I was sorry this evening to find him drifting back into the rather cloudy hope that what we want to do in Cyprus is to build a common Cypriot feeling if we possibly can. The essence of the situation was described by the hon. Gentleman when he said that in the past we had peace and quiet, but that now we have a new situation in that it had been internationalised. It seems to me that this internationalisation of the 704 Cypriot problem has had the somewhat wrenching effect which the Zionist movement had in Palestine. It is no more relevant to say today that the Greeks and Turks have lived peacefully side by side in Cyprus in years gone by than it was in the 'forties to say that Arab and Jew had lived peacefully side by side in the Middle East. The situation has been transformed, and so this desire to build a common Cypriot feeling is doomed to disappointment because of the new internationalised situation of which the hon. Gentleman has spoken.
§ Mr. Crossman
I said that my hopes of doing it were slender, but that I thought we had to do it because the alternative would be so disastrous.
§ Mr. Goodhart
The alternative is plain, but I agree that the situation is essentially perplexing, indeed just as perplexing as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) indicated in his burning speech earlier this afternoon. It is particularly perplexing, because in most international disputes one can assume that the parties concerned will be motivated by national interest. National interest is the excuse for the Soviet campaign of murder in Hungary, for the Indian policy over Kashmir and for the Nationalist Party policy in South Africa over apartheid. When one looks at the Cyprus situation, the curious point emerges that all the policies of all the countries and communities seem to be at cross-purposes with the real national interest.
I do not want to re-cover the party politics of the last few years, or to apportion blame between the Government and the Opposition for our past policy over Cyprus. Suffice it to say that there are four main objectives set out in the White Paper and that one cannot say that any one of those objectives has been achieved.
It is difficult, looking at the Greek policy, to say that it is in the best interests of the Greek nation. Certainly, Enosis, carried to its logical conclusion, would bring into the Greek political community a highly volatile element. One cannot really say that Enosis, carried to its logical conclusion, would be a good policy for the Greek community in Cyprus. Those in the forefront of the struggle might well suffer most. The Greek Orthodox Church would certainly 705 lose most of its temporal power. The Greek students who have been rioting would be subject to Greek National Service. The Greek businessmen, who at times supply funds to E.O.K.A., would be subject to Greek taxation and to the vagaries of Greek administration.
At the same time, one cannot really say that the Turkish policy contains many elements of sense. Partition would certainly earn Turkey, if pushed to extremes, the enmity—perhaps the undying enmity—of the Greek Government and Greek people. It would earn the disapproval of the United States of America, and we know how dependent the Turkish economy is on the support of the United States. Nor can one say that the policy taken up by the Turkish community in Cyprus really fosters the best interests of that community because partition, if pushed into practice, would surely lead to disaster for many of the Turkish peasants living in that island.
In other words, it seems that all the principal actors involved have got themselves backed into positions of extreme illogicality and a shock has been needed to shake up the situation, to shake the countries involved out of their old established pattern. That shock has been applied by the new proposals of Her Majesty's Government.
But I think they have done more than provide a shock for all those involved. They have also provided a much needed carrot to dangle before the noses of the communities on the island. In the past we have had a stick with which to beat those who have stepped out of line, but there has been no tasty carrot to hold before the nose of the donkey. Now, in this plan, there is such a carrot because if one side accepts and the other side does not, and the Government decide to implement their proposals—as I hope the Government will decide if one side accepts—then those who stand out will have to watch that the other people enjoy their joint citizenship, their communal assembly. The pressure on the outsiders to agree to conform, to come in, to reach agreement with us, will be considerable.
I hope that the Government will go ahead if one of the two sides agrees to participate. If one side agrees to participate, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will lean over backwards to 706 consult—if one can lean over backwards to consult—the side that does not agree. And there will have to be a tremendous amount of negotiation over the terms of what are communal affairs and what sort of independent tribunal can be set up.
Finally, I am conscious of the effect which words can have on the violent people in Cyprus. This is the one colonial-international dispute above all others which is changed by what is said in the House of Commons. This afternoon harsh words have well been stifled. I remember the time when I was a newspaper correspondent in Cyprus and an occasion when a group of journalists were talking together and saying that if the E.O.K.A. terrorists wanted to capture the attention of the people of this country and of the world at large they should murder a British journalist. Within 48 hours of that casual remark being made within the hearing of a number of Greeks, a British journalist was murdered in Cyprus. I hope that no words said in the House of Commons this evening will lead to any further bloodshed in Cyprus.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
With few exceptions, speeches tonight have maintained a relatively objective view of this intractable problem, and the speech of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) was an example. It is not useful at a serious time like this to go bandying about party clichés. We have had one or two speeches from hon. Members opposite like that, especially from the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) who is not in his place. On the whole, however, the debate has been at a high level.
The debate has shown a considerable degree of agreement on general principles, but considerable divergence, very naturally, on detail. That is as it should be, and we of the Opposition have stressed those differences of detail without committing ourselves too far, as we do not have responsibility. It is our job to criticise, and no doubt in due time we shall be in a position of responsibility.
I am glad that the Government have produced a plan for the solution of the Cyprus problem, and I do not resent the fact that they have taken a considerable time to do so, because I appreciate 707 the difficulties of dealing with the psychology of the Greek and Turkish Governments and the population of Cyprus. In eschewing party criticism as much as I can, I cannot help but say that to some extent the Government are responsible for the situation, because for a long time they persisted in regarding this as a British colonial problem which concerned only us and no one else. Since the Greek and Turkish Governments are directly concerned, and since the Powers of N.A.T.O. are concerned with the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean, that is an impossible attitude, and I am very glad that the Government have now dropped it. It is high time that they did. The Government cannot be held to have no responsibility for the bitter situation which has arisen because of the long delay.
It seems that the Government have succeeded in getting at least the moral support of the N.A.T.O. Powers. I do not know how much they are concerned in detail, but, to judge from the Prime Minister's recent statement, it looks as if we have their support. This is very important and in every way desirable, because we have the moral support, at least, of the United States. The United States will no longer be able to stand on the sidelines and criticise, which is what they have been doing until now. At last, people in America have begun to realise that if they are to play any rôle in the Middle East, they must work with us and, particularly, with the other Powers of N.A.T.O.
I am afraid that our influence in Turkey is not very great at the moment. The influence of the United States is much greater. I shall not go into the reason why we are not particularly popular in Turkey today. This state of affairs may pass. I know that, on the last occasion I was in Turkey, two years ago, I heard much criticism of our attitude in not accepting partition in the way they wanted it. However, although the Turks will not now be prepared to listen to us very much, they will listen to the United States, especially since the United States is their principal supplier of armaments and supports their military defence on the Eastern frontier.
Although I may not, perhaps, have the agreement of everyone here in this, I feel that, for the time being at least, there is nothing wrong—indeed, there is some- 708 thing to be said for it—in a sort of condominium as a temporary measure. In this case, it is a tridominium, associating Greece and Turkey in the government of the island. About eighteen months ago, during a debate on Cyprus, I dared to make this suggestion. I said that I believed that, at any rate for the time being, some such solution was necessary. I was arguing that the Government must move away from their position of saying that they alone were responsible for the government of Cyprus and that, it being an international matter, we must bring in other countries in some way. I am, therefore, very glad that the Government now seem to have accepted that view, although I consider that the arrangement proposed should not be anything more than temporary.
Within the proposal to bring representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments on to the supreme Council to advise the Governor, there is the provision referred to in the White Paper for appeal in case of disagreement: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.That is going a long way, and I commend the Government for it. It will, to some extent, limit our authority. The Government are right in this respect, but I should like to know just what is meant. To whom are the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments to appeal if there is disagreement on an important issue? What is the impartial tribunal to be?
It is sometimes argued that condominiums, or tridominiums, associations of more than one Power in the government of a country, are necessarily a failure. That is not a sound argument. In the Sudan, it is said, such a plan did not succeed because we were the senior partner and pushed the Egyptians out. I do not think that is quite true. It is, of course, true that when we fell out with Egypt we became the senior partner and Egypt's word did not count. For a long time, until we did fall out and until the Nationalist movement in Egypt became so strong that they began to wish to edge us out, it could not be said that the condominium over the Sudan was a failure. It all depends on the measure 709 of co-operation which there is between the suzerain Powers.
I think that we must aim to get this. Neither Greece nor Turkey has a right to veto the proposals in Cyprus. Their point of view must be considered. We must seek their co-operation. Tri-dominium, however, cannot be an end in itself; it must be only a temporary solution. Self-government and the handing over of the island to Greece seems to me to be impossible. Whether in the far distance it is possible, it is not a matter of practical politics now. The same applies to partition. So both the Greeks and the Turks have to get down off their high horses.
However, I believe that with a period of government along the lines suggested in the Government's White Paper, if we can get that for seven years, it is just possible that feelings may die down, and it may be possible to approach the problem again and seek for a further solution which may include dominion status with the right to self-determination, as they have under the Statute of Westminster, the right to go out of the Commonwealth. In this way it seems to me that it is possible that development may take place, but today that is impossible.
I should not like to see any term given. I do not think that it is wise even to put in seven years. It may be much longer or it may be shorter. That will depend on whether the Greek and Turkish communities succeed in getting on with each other, which at present, of course, they cannot and will not do.
I cannot agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) when he takes the line, as he did in his speech, that it is all hopeless, that the atmosphere between the Turks and Greeks is so bad that it will never be any better. I happen to know that it is quite different. It is true that the old struggle between the Ottoman Turks and the Byzantine Greeks, ending in the capture of Constantinople in 1453, does have the old historical hostility, but one must not forget the fact that when Mohammed the Conqueror entered Constantinople, the first thing he did was to summon the Greek patriarch and say, "You will now govern the Greek population as head of the Church and collect the taxes for me."
The whole system of the Ottoman Empire was built up on self-government 710 and the co-operation of the peoples. It happened later on, in the nineteenth century that nationalism upset all that, but, even so, after the bitterness of the Greco-Turkish war, after the First World War, when the Greeks were thrown out of Anatolia after the battle of Sakarya, things settled down and were not too bad.
I have had conversations with eminent Turkish statesmen in the last two years, men who were the colleagues of Ataturk and who took part in the great struggle ending in the defeat of the Greeks. They looked back, when I talked to them, with nostalgia on the relations which existed between Greek and Turk after that period. They said, "If only it could be like that again." That was nearly thirty years.
Following the exchange of populations, relations between the Greeks and the Turks could not have been better. Football matches were played at Athens and Ankara between Greeks and Turks. I remember seeing some when I was there. I remember seeing a military parade in Istanbul on the anniversary of the Battle of Sakarya, and Turkish papers filled with the glorious victory. But no one could tell that the enemy was the Greeks because the Turks did not want to upset Greek susceptibilities. It is only recently that this state of affairs has changed, and there is no reason why we should look at Turco-Greek relations with such a jaundiced eye as does my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton. I believe that that state of affairs can return, but it will take a long time.
The Government must not make this plan like the law of Medes and Persians Times may change and tempers may cool and there must be provision in the plan for that. I hope that the Government will consider, as was mentioned in his speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), whether we can have some institution elected on a common roll between Greeks and Turks to prepare the way for something beyond purely community representation. That may not be practical in the immediate future, but we must look ahead. I wonder whether the Government would consider introducing something like that now, even though it may not be used immediately. I feel that there should be nothing which would prevent 711 developments of this kind which in the future may prove useful.
We all feel the grave danger of this hour. Most of my hon. Friends have shown that they feel the gravity of the situation and do not wish to say anything which would make impossible the task of finding a solution in the immediate future. I think that the Government are at fault by having delayed so long in taking this line, and by saying that this is not an international question but one which affects only us. It is the dusty of hon. Members on this side of the Committee to be constructively critical, to keep our eye all the time on what people abroad are thinking and to work for a solution which will receive international approval.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The hon. Member for Gloucester, West (Mr. Philips-Price) is always listened to attentively by the House, and he and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) always speak of the problem of Cyprus with impartial fairness both to Greece and Turkey. I am bound to say that had more hon. Members opposite taken the same line in the past we might not have found ourselves in the trouble over Cyprus which confronts us today. But that is not the message which much go from the House of Commons as a result of this debate.
The message which must go out to Cyprus and the world is that for the first time for several years, or as long, at any rate, as I have been a Member of the House, there is a degree of unanimity between the speeches of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. We need not go into the reason for that. Probably it is because we are all conscious of the probability of civil war in Cyprus, which could lead to a war between Greece and Turkey and the break-up of N.A.T.O. and the Bagdad Pact, so that we are all being very careful about what we say.
I wish to go back to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). As I understood him, he accepted the Government's plan as a basis for discussion. I understood what he meant was that all the discussion in the past about self-determination for five years, then Enosis or partition, or a federal arrangement, are now out of con- 712 sideration because of the dangerous background in the island and in the Middle East. I believe that no back bencher on either side of the Committee has definitely and categorically turned down this plan. Some have criticised it destructively and some very constructively. Very few if any have said, "This plan will not and cannot work." One reason for this is that hon. Members know, as everybody in Cyprus knows, the dire alternative.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East criticised the Government on two main counts. He said that the plan would mean eventual disunity in Cyprus and the division of the two communities. It has been British colonial policy under all Governments to bring all Colonies to full self-government within the Commonwealth. It must be said, at least for publication outside, that four years after Britain took over the control of the administration of Cyprus in 1875 representative government was started in that island on the elective principle. That lasted until 1931. Since the end of World War II, Cyprus has been offered new constitutions each with a majority of Greek Cypriots in the Government on three occasions, 1948—when the Opposition were in office—1954 and 1956.
The three constitutions offered to the people of Cyprus were rejected by the Greek Cypriots and by the Greek Government because they felt that if they could get self-determination and could get the backing of Her Majesty's Opposition, they would then have Enosis. Naturally, they were not willing to accept anything less than Enosis; if they thought they could get the lot. For that reason, the fears of the Turks started to grow until we got the sabre-rattling which we have had in the last few months.
I hope that the Committee recognises the Turks' strategic requirements in Cyprus. They fear not only discrimination against the Turkish minority but, and much more important, they fear absorption of the island under Greek sovereignty and the possibility of Communist domination at some future date. For those reasons Turkey could not possibly acquiesce to self-government if this means Enosis; she must have guarantees that that will not happen.
I say to my Turkish friends that the plan put forward by Her Majesty's Government provides guarantees that the 713 island can never become wholly Greek or wholly Communist. In return for accepting this guarantee, the Turks must give up the idea of partition. To the Greeks it must be obvious by now that Enosis means civil war, with all the consequences that flow from it. This plan gives to Greece a say in the administration of the island and a guarantee that Greek Cypriots will not be de-Helenised and a perpetuation of the spiritual and cultural ties with Athens that Greeks in Cyprus so often long for.
Britain must also compromise. I have no time to go into the question of the importance to us of bases in Cyprus, or essential command and intelligence centres. But to have to compromise by giving up some degree of our sovereignty so that later it may be shared among Greece, Turkey and Britain. The plan is a compromise and, as such, it commends itself to all hon. Members. [Interruption.] Well, its basis commends itself to all hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. I believe that it is the only acceptable alternative facing us today. It can endure perfectly happily for seven years, and we hope that during those seven years the two communities will have learned to live together. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) does not think they will, and I am inclined to agree, but we all hope that they will settle down together.
We hope to see Cyprus progressing along on the normal channel towards self-Government and independence with the Commonwealth. If that does not happen, the alternative is not partition or Enosis, which are ruled out, but probably federation with a central Government running the island but with local autonomy for each sector, British, Turkish and Greek. That, indeed, may be the solution seven years hence.
The message which I hope will go to the people of Turkey, the people of Greece and, above all, the people of Cyprus, is that hon. Members here on both sides of the House want to do the best they can for the people of that island. We recognise that fear is rampant in that island today. The people of the island now recognise that their best safeguard against fear is the presence of British troops in the island. I hope they will recognise the basic unity of thought in this House on this compromise plan and 714 that the people of Cyprus and the Governments of Greece and Turkey will agree to use the plan as the basis for the future of the island at least for the next seven years.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I think that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will be aware that this debate is being followed very closely not only in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, but also throughout the Commonwealth. In the whole of the debate there has not yet been sufficient attention given to how our speeches here will be interpreted, not only in the Mediterranean area, but in Africa and elsewhere. Many of the people in our dependencies will begin to look, maybe, on what we are doing this evening as a blueprint for what we might intend to do elsewhere.
That will really cause trouble for the Colonial Secretary and the House, especially if it follows some of the speeches we have heard from the benches opposite, because many of them have given the unfortunate impression that the hostility between Turks and Greeks on the island of Cyprus is not something to be deplored, but something behind which we can hide. They have been exaggerated to a very great extent. Some hon. Members opposite said—and one on this side of the Committee said the same—that they could never foresee the day when Greeks and Turks would live peaceably together again on the island of Cyprus.
I think, therefore, that when we approach this problem we must always keep in mind that very many people in our dependencies always believe that there are people in the House of Commons—there is historical justification for their fears—who maintain divisions in order to maintain rule. So let us be very careful indeed lest we approach this problem of Cyprus in a way which might create problems elsewhere. It has always been our position in the Labour Party—and I should like to state it at the very beginning—that full self-government is the same thing as self-determination, but self-determination is the last phase in the development of self-government. It is a contradiction in terms to say that a nation can have full self-government and yet not have 715 self-determination, because with full self-government go all the complete sovereign rights.
The trouble in Cyprus has been that self-determination has always been muddled up with the beginning of the process and not with the end. That has been the difficulty all the while. They started by speaking about Enosis when all of us should first have been speaking about a constitution for Cyprus which might in the course of time be consummated in the decision of the people of Cyprus either to be in the Commonwealth or to go outside.
As has been said on several occasions, the Statute of Westminster laid it down quite clearly that the members who belong to it are sovereign States who can leave the Commonwealth if they wish. In fact, when final negotiations have taken place—I remember some of them very well myself—we have always been able to obtain membership of the Commonwealth by first of all laying it down quite clearly that if a nation concerned did not want to do it, then it could go outside. The fundamental basis for fellowship inside the Commonwealth resides in the right of each one of them to go out if it wishes to. It has always been accepted that any attempt on the part of the mother country even to appear to be resuscitating Imperial claims would rupture the connection. There is, therefore, no doubt at all about our position here and there ought to be no confusion anywhere. We believe that every dependency inside the Commonwealth, using the term "Commonwealth" in its widest connotation, has the right to look forward to full self-government, carrying with it the right of self-determination.
If we therefore put it in its right perspective in this problem, what we say is that we have never departed from that position, and it would do no good at all to relations between Cypriots and ourselves if they thought that we had departed from that position. When hon. Members opposite have sometimes jeered and chided us this evening, and when some newspaper articles have suggested that we are being put in a very difficult position, I point out to them that if it were understood in Cyprus that Her Majesty's Opposition shared a point of 716 view which made it appear that we had deserted that position, hostility in Cyprus would be greater, because then the people of Cyprus would say that neither Her Majesty's Opposition nor Her Majesty's Government could be trusted with the future of Cyprus. We are perfectly clear about this matter.
There are different conditions in which these principles are applied—historical differences, differences of geography, differences of juxtaposition between the country coming into full maturity and countries nearby, as is the position in Cyprus. There is, of course, also difficulty in Malta. But despite those varying differences we must be faithful to that principle or we shall have deserted the finest tradition that we have built up. We ought not, either, to allow anybody to assume that that position of ours is modified in the very least degree by considerations of security, because one cannot deny another man his liberty in order that one may defend one's security.
Many of the speeches which have been made this evening are exceedingly dangerous, because they have been trying to run two different attitudes, one that we cannot give self-government to Cyprus because the Greeks and the Turks will not live peacefully together, and the other that we cannot give it because we cannot afford to let them have it. Hon. Members cannot run those two. They cannot say to the people of Cyprus that they need to have Cyprus as a fortress for Britain and that that is the reason why we are there; because that is not a statesman's solution. It is a soldier's solution, a military solution with a military reason, and what we have to find for Cyprus is not a soldier's solution but a statesman's solution.
When we are told—and we are, indeed, told frequently—about the way in which our people conduct themselves on the island, we are all very proud of it. I understand that we now have about 37,000 of them there, whether for the situation in Cyprus itself or as a hint to someone else, I do not know. Nevertheless, it is our duty here not to rely upon the tact, the good manners, the restraint and gallantry of British soldiers when we put them in dangerous circumstances, but our duty to assemble peaceful conditions where their lives will not 717 be at risk. That is what we have not done. We have not, in this case, persistently and patiently pursued solutions under which our soldiers could live without risk. It is of no use hon. Members opposite saying "Nonsense", because if they do say "Nonsense" this is something that is most easily proved.
We on this side of the Committee have also done our very utmost to try to persuade the people of Cyprus not to commit acts of violence. Eighteen months ago I myself at this Box made an appeal, when I was responsible for colonial affairs for the Opposition. There was a truce. For the first time in years, British soldiers were dancing in the streets of Cyprus with Greeks and Turks. That truce was thrown away. Month after month went by, and no statesmanlike use was made of it.
It is no good hon. Members opposite trying to throw the responsibility for that situation on this side of the Committee. We have done our very utmost by restraint. We have been commended by the Prime Minister and by the Colonial Secretary for showing that restraint—although we have not had a quid pro quo.
We have also tried from time to time to point out that we cannot get a solution to this problem in circumstances of civil violence. It is very important for us to get one thing clear. We must not be prepared to surrender to violence from one side what we are not prepared to surrender to the other. In recent weeks there has been a very strong suspicion that Her Majesty's Government have been influenced in the formulation of their proposals by threats of increased violence from the Turks. That is not a wise thing to say. [Interruption.] It has been said, but it is not a wise thing to say because, if it is believed by the Greeks, they, of course, will know what to do.
Hon. Members opposite must allow me to make my own speech in my own way, for had I allowed myself to be taunted to reply to some of the speeches I have heard this evening from those benches, I should be using very much stronger terms. The important thing to remember is that if violence does die down it must not be made an excuse for doing nothing. That is what has happened. When we have had a cessation of violence on the island, we have had the Colonial Office sitting back. Therefore, if we do have a period 718 of peace now, I hope that we shall take advantage of it and try to get a settlement.
We are not responsible for the Government's proposals. Our responsibility went only as far as to advise that they should, first of all, be submitted to the N.A.T.O. Council before being made public. We have all along believed that, as there is such an interest in this matter in Turkey and in Greece, and as they are both members of N.A.T.O., if we were to create a favourable background for the acceptance of proposals, however bad they might be, it could best be done by inviting the co-operation of N.A.T.O. That is what has happened.
We do not commend these proposals. They are not our proposals; we cannot commend them. But we advise the Greeks and the Turks not to reject them out of hand. We would like to formulate it in this way—not that these are necessarily the basis for negotiations but the opening phase of negotiation in the hope of a negotiated settlement for the Cypriots' problem. I earnestly beg the Government not to take up a final position tonight. We are going to make certain suggestions, and I think we are entitled to make them. We are entitled to have them listened to respectfully and not to have them rejected out of hand.
If it is admitted, as it has been admitted on all sides in the debate, that we carry a very heavy burden of responsibility for what might happen in Cyprus as a result of the positions that we take up, there is a natural corollary to that, which is that that responsibility should be met by the Government by respectfully listening to our suggestions. It would be intolerable if the Government said, "We have said this, and this is final as far as we are concerned, apart from some details at the end." That would be intolerable, because it would put the Opposition in the position of having this heavy responsibility without in any way being able to influence the policies of the Government. Therefore, I hope that the Prime Minister will listen to what we have to say.
I hope also—I do not ask him to do so tonight; I do not expect an immediate answer to the suggestions we are going to make—that he will say that he will give our suggestions earnest attention. Of course, there is no reason why the 719 Prime Minister cannot change his mind. It is not the first time he has done it. It is not the first time the Government have done it over Cyprus. They have changed it quite frequently. When opening the Tripartite Conference in August, 1955, in London, the right hon. Gentleman, when he was Foreign Secretary, said:It is, as you know, a basic principle of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, that the internal affairs of Her Majesty's possessions cannot be discussed with foreign Powers.There has been a slight departure from that. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:It is perhaps hardly necessary to say this; for it is fundamental to the existence of any State that it should have full control over its internal policies. This principle lies at the basis of our present community of nations.When the Prime Minister takes up a position of this sort he never lets it alone. He went on to say:It is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations where it is stated that there shall be no interference—I quote the words—'in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State.' In convening this Conference of their own initiative, I wish to make it clear that Her Majesty's Government are not in any way departing from this principle. Indeed, they take this opportunity to re-affirm it.After that very firm stand we have this statement.
It reminds me of a story, which I am told is apocryphal, of when President Gomulka visited Belgrade with Prime Minister Cyrankiewiez and Tito met them at the airport. Tito turned to Gomulka and said, "How does it come about that you seem to have got the same Prime Minister all the time in Poland?" Prime Minister Cyrankiewiez replied, "That is not true. I am changing all the time." It is not necessary or in accordance with precedent for the Prime Minister to take up an adamantine position and say that these are written in letters of brass and cannot be changed. On the contrary, we are hoping that the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary will have their usual open minds in the matter.
One of the difficulties we see about these present proposals is this. It has been mentioned several times. It is how they will be regarded outside and among many of our dependencies. They will examine them thoroughly to find out in what way the present proposals for 720 Cyprus appear to make way for and to facilitate the emergence of self-government for Cyprus. That is how they will examine them. They will say, "Are these putting obstacles in the road to self-government, or are they facilitating it? Are the British Government now saying that this is the first step towards self-government and that this is a good way to do it?" Or will they say, "They are taking advantage of the difficulties in Cyprus at the present time to put up insurmountable barriers against the emergence of Cyprus as a self-governing nation"?
And if they say that, on the face of it they will have some justification, because the fact is that these proposals provide for the spiritual separation of the islanders. The difficulty is that there is no point in the constitution, there is no place in the hierarchy, where the Cypriot people as such meet. They are separated vertically from top to bottom. Therefore, as the days go by, and as the social and political climate improves in Cyprus, there is no symbol of growing Cypriot unity. There is nothing to which they can attach themselves. There is a permanent dichotomy.
Therefore, we would say that the first criticism we have to make is this, that we believe that the proposals should be modified so as to provide an elective chamber where Cypriot Greeks and Cypriot Turks can meet to discuss the common affairs of the island in a common legislative assembly. And even if they will not meet now it should be there for them to meet in.
It is to this chamber, if we are to follow our normal constitutional precedents, that the powers and the functions of Her Majesty's Government would gradually be decanted when the final stage is reached when the nation can have complete self-government. If that is not inserted into the constitution, then they will infer, and it will be inferred outside, that we are deliberately erecting obstacles and barriers against the emergence of self-government in Cyprus. That is the first important point of criticism which we have to make.
In present circumstances I must also believe, because of the hostility, because of the dangers, that it is probably a wise plan to try to get the co-operation of 721 Greece and Turkey; in present circumstances, it is useless for us to deny that if these two nations do not want peace in Cyprus there will not be peace there. Therefore, it is quite correct, I think, at this stage—it need not have been done earlier, but now it is probably right—that we should associate the Governments of Greece and of Turkey with the emergence of new constitutional proposals for Cyprus. That probably is correct, but we want that association to be for the purpose of facilitating agreement about the constitution, and not to be a part of it.
If I might use a metaphor derived from the past, I would prefer that the direct representatives from Ankara and from Athens should be regarded not as High Commissioners, but as midwives calling the baby nation into existence and, after it has been properly born, going away. It is not necessary for the midwife to stay in the house when the baby has grown to manhood. Therefore, if it is the Government's case that the friendship and assistance and good will of Turkey and Greece are necessary in order to launch the new constitution for Cyprus, they should provide for it in circumstances that do not arouse the suspicion that they are going to be there permanently.
I, therefore, make the second suggestion, that the Government should agree that the tenure of office should be shorter than the period of seven years by a substantial amount, and that when we have a constitution for Cyprus of the kind at which I have hinted, and when there is peace there, and when Turkey and Greece are on better terms with each other, it would be highly desirable for the Turkish and Greek representatives to go home and leave the future of Cyprus between the new constitution and Her Majesty's Government. But I agree with some of my hon. Friends that direct representation of this kind may prove to be an insurmountable barrier to negotiations, because the Greeks will feel that we have enshrined Turkey in the constitution of the island, not only unnecessarily but provocatively, and the Turks might say the same thing about Greece.
We beg the Prime Minister, therefore, to consider putting a term to the presence of these people because, furthermore, we do not believe that this will make for 722 peace between Britain and Turkey and Greece. It will be a source of continual friction. Those who have been at the Ministry of Labour will know that one of the cardinal principles which guided the Minister of Labour so successfully in his recent activities is that one should never try to encourage compulsory arbitration, because, if one does, all the conciliation machinery is unused. For if people at the beginning know that at the end they are going to arbitration they do not have conciliation. Therefore, it has been a fundamental principle of relations between trade unions and employers in Great Britain to try to build conciliation machinery and not to have compulsory arbitration.
What have we here? The Colonial Secretary told us today that if a High Commissioner thought that a piece of proposed legislation was discriminatory—and this is the language—he could have it sent to the arbitration tribunal; in other words, Her Majesty's Government would have nothing at all to do with it. He could send it immediately. That seems to me a source of continual friction, and highly humiliating. Talk about interference in another nation's affairs! Here we are to be arbitrated about. I wonder the Suez group have not gone apoplectic about it. The only explanation is to be found in the fact that they find the rest of the proposals so agreeable that they do not object to this.
But there never has been in the history of Great Britain a provision of this sort, where we do not have negotiations between sovereign States, between high contracting parties. No! If some High Commissioner who sits in the legislative council says, "I think this is unfair to the Turks or to the Greeks"—as the case may be—"I want it referred to the arbitration tribunal", Her Majesty's Government then sit down and await the results of the tribunal and legislate in accordance with its decisions. So low has our pride fallen. And this is supposed to be an imaginative piece of machinery. Well, it is imaginative, no doubt. It is so imaginative that it is almost out of this world.
If, therefore, we had two changes in the constitution of the kind I have suggested, it would seem to us on this side of the Committee that, if these are negotiated and agreed, it is quite unnecessary, and opposed to the spirit of that 723 amended constitution, to speak about having dual nationality. Because if, in fact, what we are trying to do all the time—and that has been said and I hope it is sincere—is to try to create in Cyprus a constitution that the people will eventually work peacefully, it is not necessary to envisage dual nationality in Cyprus. But the very envisaging of dual nationality envisages the worst thing, and that is permanent separation of Greek and Cypriot.
Now, I want to sit down because I promised the Prime Minister to give him thirty-five minutes. May I say, however, that I most sincerely hope that the Government will go away from this debate this evening feeling that the House of Commons is doing its very best to try to provide a climate of opinion in which we can make a fresh approach to the solution of th Cypriot problem. There is nothing to be gained by anyone at all, certainly by no politcal party in this country, if all the time we have to send our young men to be killed because we have not got enough wisdom to solve the problems ourselves.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
I am sure that the Committee will feel that the whole tone and character of this debate has been fully consonant with the importance and seriousness of the occasion. All the speakers on all sides of the Committee have acknowledged the need for restraint. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) showed great restraint, I think. The old Adam broke out every now and then, but I will try to follow the example which he gave me when his better self predominated.
The reason is that we know that this may well be a turning point in the history of Cyprus. For a very long time now—I think it is a year, certainly several months—the Government have gladly paid tribute to the patience and understanding of all parties in the House, and I should like to repeat that. There has been on all sides a general realisation that, as feeling in Greece and Turkey has increased, so we have had all the greater need for restraint and statesmanship.
In this debate we have had a maiden speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel). I should like to congratulate him upon it. 724 He could hardly have chosen a more important debate to which to make his first contribution, a contribution which was both thoughtful and constructive. We shall all look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend again.
Many speakers have paid tribute to the purposes—I would almost say the imagination—which lie behind the proposals of the Government, but some have asked, and perhaps not unnaturally, why we have had to wait so long before putting forward a policy of this sort. The answer is really this, that the Government—indeed all of us—have for a long time realised that the problem of Cyprus was not a colonial problem, or not essentially a colonial problem. We have had and we still have many colonial problems with which successive Governments of both parties have dealt, with a great deal of success—and the growth of the Commonwealth is the living proof of that.
However, in Cyprus, behind the rival claims of the Greek and Turkish communities in the island, there have always lain the national interests of Greece and Turkey. Cyprus is and, therefore, must be regarded as a problem with international as well as internal aspects. It has, therefore, not been possible in recent times for a solution to be found without regard to those international considerations and that, essentially, is why previous plans for a solution—and there have been many—have so far proved unavailing.
If anybody thinks that this period has been easy to endure, they are very wrong. It has been a very unhappy one, unacceptable in every way to the Government and to the House of Commons. Apart from all the other troubles, British lives have been lost, both civilian and military, as well as Cypriot; and I should like—and I know that I speak for the whole Committee here—to pay tribute to the fortitude of the Administration, of the police, and of the Armed Forces.
Many efforts have been made in recent years. I do not propose to go through the history, or to try to allocate blame or praise, but what we must now do is face the facts as they are. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, at the end of his speech, very helpfully took that view. The facts are, whether we like it or not, that both Greece and Turkey, as well as Great Britain, have a fundamental interest in the future of this island.
725 The Turks—I am putting their view—regard Cyprus as an extension of the Anatolian Plain, a kind of offshore island with vital significance for their defence and their security. They say—this has been their argument up to now—that the Turkish-Cypriot community must not be ruled by a Greek-Cypriot community and they have advocated the physical separation of the two communities by means of a territorial partition. That is their view of the situation.
The Greeks feel that since the great majority of the population of Cyprus is Greek in thought, tradition, habits and religion, they have the right, should they wish it, to join the mother country by the vote of a majority, and that is what they mean by self-determination.
However, we cannot reach a settlement either upon the basis of past history, or on the basis of extreme present claims. We must concentrate upon the future and not upon the past, and we must try to find a solution which is realist and practical. It is with that object that we have put forward the policy which the Committee has been debating today.
Of course, it would be very foolish to disguise from ourselves that the Turkish and Greek Governments have made clear to us the difficulties which they see in our plan. I know that, but we must not lose heart. It would be equally wrong for us not to note the very high degree of sympathy and support which the policy has received, not only in this country, but in many other countries, both in the old world and the new. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has already spoken of the help we have received and, I am happy to say, are continuing to receive from our Allies in N.A.T.O. I feel that I should mention it again in order to mark once more our appreciation of their efforts.
How do we stand? What are we now to do? As I said, we propose to go forward with the application of our policy in the island, and we hope that it will be accepted as a basis for constructive discussion and agreement. As I said in the House on 19th June—I venture to repeat my words now—There are, of course, many details which will require to be filled in after discussion. We are, therefore not asking for immediate accept- 726 ance of our policy in every particular."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1958; Vol. 589, c. 1324.]We never expected immediate or unanimous agreement. If agreement had been possible, it would have been reached long ago. We have been searching for it long enough, in all conscience. It would be asking too much—it is important to bear this in mind—to expect the Greek or Turkish Governments to abstain from criticism of our plan or of the aspects of it which did not appeal to them. There are, nevertheless, some elements in their reception of the plan which give grounds for some cautious optimism.
The Greek Prime Minister, in replying to my personal message to him, referred to the postponement of self-determination until a more appropriate time, and to a temporary solution on the basis of democratic self-government. He then said that the Greek Government would be prepared to help wherever they could usefully act in a mediatory way, mediatory, that is to say, between ourselves and the Greek Cypriot population. The Turkish Foreign Minister, for his part, in a public statement on 19th June, spoke of the possibility of reconciling the British and Turkish principle, and he referred with gratification to the efforts which are being made among the Allies in N.A.T.O. to reach a solution.
I regard this as a constructive and not a negative response. Dealing with all these replies, while they do not, of course, go as far as we might have desired or, perhaps, hoped, the response to our initiative has certainly not been a complete rejection but rather one which contains some constructive elements. That is something which we can all welcome.
The Committee may have observed that, in commending our plan to the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey, I offered to meet them separately, or together, if they thought that it would be to our mutual advantage to have a personal exchange of views rather than continued correspondence. What I actually said on this matter is as follows:A personal discussion is often more fruitful than the interchange of messages and telegrams. We could meet together or, if such an idea appealed to you, we could perhaps so manage it that the other Prime Minister was present, and indeed I am sending him a message on similar lines."—727 this was to Greece—It might perhaps be most convenient to have an informal meeting at an intermediate point like Rome or Geneva.I was not then thinking of a formal, tripartite conference but rather of a number of informal discussions. I think I may say that both M. Menderes and M. Karamanlis have responded to my suggestion in a friendly way, although each has qualified it in his own way. For my part, I can only add that I remain ready and anxious to meet anyone or to go anywhere if it can in any way help to bring these discussions to a satisfactory conclusion.
That is how we stand as regards the reception of the plan by these two countries, and, to some extent, I think that the same may be said about the reception which the Governor has received from representatives of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot opinion.
I have been asked a number of questions about the details of the plan, in particular by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I should like to pay tribute to the speech with which he opened the debate for the Opposition, which I think the whole Committee regarded as very helpful in our difficulties. Other questions about the plan have been asked from both sides of the Committee, including some by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and, of course, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale, who wound up the debate for the Opposition.
I hope that they will not think it discourteous of me if I do not try to give an answer to them, or, at any rate, a final answer to them, or deal with them in any detail. Of course, in a debate like this, where we try to pool our thoughts for the common purpose, everything that is said by all Members on both sides of the Committee, Front Bench and back bench, will be most carefully considered and studied by us as a contribution to the problem. I think that it would be an error if I were to try to deal with them in detail today and would not serve the purpose that they have in mind. I might perhaps sum up our approach to them like this.
We have of course no special pride of authorship which will make us stick 728 obstinately to this or that detail of the plan. Our purpose is to reach agreement and bring peace. Many of the matters which have been raised are capable of discussion, adaptation and development, and we shall certainly be flexible so far as we are concerned.
But I must remind hon. Members of this. We must not be so pliant as to add to the rigidity of the other contending parties. A concession or alteration must be judged not as to whether the British Government are willing to make it. That is not the test. The test is, is it a contribution to get the Greeks and Turks, both national and in the island, to agree. Therefore, while we must not stand firm out of a false pride in the details of the plan, we must not give in here or there in such a way as to add to our difficulties rather than reduce them. Having said that, I would add that we must be not only flexible but fair, and in the management of these very difficult negotiations we must be prudent.
There are one or two points on which I should like to say a word. First, the impartial tribunal. I think that there has been some genuine misunderstanding. This White Paper is very short and does not go into much detail. Since any new constitution must be a written constitution, unlike our own, there must be machinery for seeing that it is scrupulously observed and the Governor primarily will have that duty. But we have thought it desirable that he should be supported by a tribunal, probably of a judicial character, which would examine any complaint that the principle of the constitution had been violated, either by law or decree or even, perhaps, by an administrative act.
What is this first principle on which everything must depend if we are to get the confidence of both sides? It is simply this. There must be no discrimination either against the Greeks or against the Turks—I mean the local Greeks and local Turks. It is in this context—having got a written constitution, having got this principle which must underlie it—and only in this context that we have thought that such a tribunal might have a useful place.
The second point, on which I sympathise, was made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member 729 for Ebbw Vale and by several other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. It is this. That there is danger in putting so much weight on communal machinery rather than on the essential unity of the people. Of course, that is a strong point but I think we have to face realities. It is a paradox, but it is true, that we have to get a start with separate responsibility in order to lead on, step by step, to a larger unity. The unity at the moment, I admit, is represented in a single Council, which is something, as hon. Gentlemen have pointed out, which would combine legislative and executive functions.
Hon. Members who are well acquainted with our colonial history will remember that organisations of this kind are often enlarged and adapted to wider responsibilities. We cannot say—who can say—how they will develop. But if only we can make a start by general agreement, I do not think we need look too meticulously to what the end will be. The question has been asked—[Interruption.]—I am afraid, Sir Charles, that it would be contrary to order to refer to that interruption, but no doubt it represents the working of the cross-bench mind—though I do not know which side.
The question has been asked: what will happen if this British plan fails? What will happen if the whole thing fails? I must repeat and ask the Committee to give me its support when I say that the plan must not fail. As I said in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) on 19th June: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1958; Vol. 589, c. 1324–6.]I went on to say that, of course, if, in the long run, our hopes are dashed and every effort fails, if we are thrown back on other solutions which we all agree would be undesirable, then Her Majesty's Government will stand by their pledges. These, of course, include among others that contained in the statement which my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary made on 19th December, 1956. I must add that we shall stand by them in the form in which they were given. I have noticed that sometimes phrases have been quoted out of their full context.
730 What is this new approach for which I am appealing? The right hon. Gentleman chaffed me on a change of view in this matter. I have all the quotations on this subject of Ministers responsible five, six or seven years ago, but I do not think that that is the spirit we want here today. What is this new approach? I say it is based, curiously, upon the point which the right hon. Gentleman, unlike some of his hon. Friends, seemed rather to object to. It is based on the principle of partnership and that is why we have made these preliminary suggestions about dual nationality. It is based upon partnership, which we think the only possible approach in view of the dangers which confront us. Of course, in every country there are forces that look backwards and not forwards. Of course, in every country there are forces of what might be called isolationism; but the whole tendency of the post-war period has been based upon a different concept which, put in its simplest form, is partnership.
It is this concept which inspires the N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O., Bagdad Pact and other military alliances. It is this concept which is the basis of the various organisations which have grown up in the world in the economic field. It is, above all, the concept of partnership that holds the Commonwealth together. Indeed, unless this concept can be developed and unless it can be made active through all the countries in the free world, then indeed the outlook is dark. Partnership, interdependence, call it by what name you will. [Interruption.] There is the cross-bench again. I therefore do not apologise, nor do my right hon. Friends, for having introduced into this plan this concept of shared responsibility and partnership.
We try to introduce it during the first period, the seven year period, where we want it to grow. We add, at the end of the White Paper that if, as I believe, this concept does grow, then, so far as we are concerned, subject to our immediate military needs, we should be prepared to make our contribution by surrendering our total sovereignty and setting up some system of joint sovereignty.
In many parts of the world and in many of the problems that confront the world, that may be a very fruitful thought for the future. At any rate, the problem of 731 Cyprus, a small island in itself in population and size, may now become a proof of our failure in the free world to solve these things together or it may be—we must pray that it will be—a symbol of our success. I do not believe that the problem of Cyprus can be solved by the Turks alone or by the Greeks alone or even by the British alone.
Therefore, is it not worth while at least to do our best to see whether we can solve it together? As I have said, I am grateful for those replies of both Greek and Turkish Governments. I read some hope into them and I will do all I can to work for the acceptance of this policy as the basis for a constructive solution.
I also believe, as I think we all believe, that the population of the island in their hearts long for a settlement. I believe they will be ready to join in consultations with the Governor and with the British Government in working out the plan. They will naturally look for the help of their own mother countries for guidance and support, but I believe in their hearts they are ready and anxious to see that a solution based upon this plan should come about.
At any rate, we can say with truth that nothing has been said in the debate today which would injure that hope, and that the whole of this Committee of the House of Commons, whatever may be the divergences upon this or that detail, joins in this message of good will, and would like to send out from here to all peoples concerned a message of confidence, of sympathy and of hope.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question, That The Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again—[Mr. Legh.]—put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.