HC Deb 09 February 1960 vol 617 cc232-40
Mr. W. Yates (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the statement of Her Majesty's Government in Nicosia yesterday, suspending indefinitely the date of independence of Cyprus, what instructions Her Majesty's Government have issued to the Governor and what is now Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the London Agreement.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

Before answering all the points in my hon. Friend's Question, I must await a personal report from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. Meanwhile, I wish to make certain points clear.

First of all, I wish to emphasise that Her Majesty's Government still want a settlement on the basis of the London and Zurich Agreements of February last year. It was an essential element of those Agreements that the United Kingdom should define the areas to be retained under British sovereignty and the rights and facilities necessary to enable the sovereign base areas to be used effectively as military bases.

It is, therefore, totally misleading to suggest, as I have seen it suggested, that we have issued something like an ultimatum or have adopted a rigid position. Over the last nine months our position has indeed, been anything but rigid. In a long series of discussions and negotiations we have been consistently and patiently trying to meet every reasonable point put forward by the Cypriot representatives.

As I reminded the House on 1st February, we reduced our requirements for the sovereign base areas from areas including at first some 16,000 inhabitants to ones with a population of less than 1,000. Square miles offer a misleading criterion. The area we need is only equivalent to an 11 miles by 11 miles in two separate parts. The Cypriots themselves suggested the equivalent of six miles by six.

When one considers the installations already in the areas and those which have to be brought into them, many of them of a secret nature, and when one considers the need for room to operate our equipment and for some dispersal in emergency, I am sure that it is right to say, as I said to the House on 1st February, that our position on the extent of the areas is reasonable and, indeed, a minimum.

In addition, we have offered arrangements under which the Government of the Republic would carry out many administrative functions affecting Cypriots and Cypriot property in the sovereign base areas. In his latest discussions, my hon. Friend made further proposals under this head to meet new points put forward by the Cypriot representatives. Moreover, he told them that we should be prepared to offer a grant of £10 million over five years—that is to say, £2 million more than the figure which I gave to the House last week. Of this extra £2 million, a proportion would be available to the Turkish Cypriot community. That cannot be a rigid position; indeed, I think that it can well be described a very fair offer.

Unfortunately, this latest statement of our position and the concessions which it contained were not acceptable to the Cypriot leaders. It therefore became clearly impossible to reach agreement in time for a settlement which would allow the new independent Republic to be established on the date which we had contemplated—19th March. Here. I would say that I do not think that the arrangement whereby we have been working against a fixed timetable has proved very satisfactory. There is, therefore, advantage in not fixing a new date. It is better to see if we can reach agreement and then fix the date accordingly.

Our position and the offers which it contains remain open as we have stated them to the Cypriot leaders. It is a position fully in accord with the London and Zurich Agreements reached with Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kutchuk, as well as the Greek and Turkish Governments, last year. It was the agreed foundation for a settlement and we remain ready to reach agreement on that basis.

Mr. Yates

First, in view of the Foreign Secretary's statement that the Government wish to go on negotiating, can my right hon. and learned Friend say why the Government arbitrarily rejected the offer of Dr. Kutchuk yesterday to mediate on behalf of the Cypriot people? Secondly, will my right hon. and learned Friend tell me and the country the military, strategic or magic value of sovereignty without the good will and co-operation of 15,000 Cypriot people who will work in our installations in Cyprus? Thirdly, will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm or deny that it is not Her Majesty's Government's intention to pursue a policy which will end, if the Cypriots do not play ball, in partition?

Mr. Lloyd

I have always maintained the view that partition would be the worst possible solution of the Cypriot question. It is something which we must, at all costs, seek to avoid.

I am not aware that we rejected any offer of mediation. The plain fact of the matter is that, unless agreement was reached yesterday, it was impossible to maintain the timetable of 19th March. In that sense, the negotiations reached a certain point at which a decision had to be taken. That does not mean that we do not want still to try to reach agreement with both Cypriot communities about the future of Cyprus.

The question of sovereignty was dealt with on a previous occasion. My belief is that we should retain bases under our sovereign control. That was the basis of the agreement of last February. It was known by everybody to be the basis of the agreement. It also has the advantage that it means that we would have an area completely under our own control in which our actions could not be queried. It could not be suggested that there was misrepresentation of the terms of a lease or of an agreement. There could not be arbitration about whether we were doing right or wrong. We would have the matter under our control. That would be right from our point of view and advantageous to the Cypriot Government. It is of importance that we should keep the minimum area necessary for our requirements under our sovereign control.

Mr. Healey

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain the purpose of sending a British Minister to Cyprus to negotiate on this issue without empowering him to depart in any way from the terms of the British position on which the conference had previously broken down in London? Is it not the case that the only achievement of the British Minister's mission was to unite the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus against the British?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the hon. Gentleman and the House should know something of the difficulties of this negotiation. It has been quite the most difficult negotiation in which I have ever been concerned. I will give one or two examples.

With regard to arrangements for mobile training, we put forward certain proposals. The Archbishop said that that would be all right if they were put in a separate agreement. After thinking of the legal consequences, we agreed to accept that. When we said that we would put them in a separate agreement, we found that he had withdrawn his agreement to every one of the training arrangments.

The Archbishop said, "If only you reduce the size of the sovereign areas I will give you every facility you want in the parts from which you withdraw your claim to sovereignty." We considered that and said, regarding the Pissouri bulge, the bit to left of the left hand area, "We will take that out of the sovereign area and rely on special facilities." Yesterday, he said that he never heard of any arrangement that we should have special facilities in that area.

A third example concerns dual nationality. It has been accepted all the way through that the Cypriots living in the sovereign area should have dual nationality. Yesterday, we were told for the first time that this was quite unacceptable.

This is an extremely difficult negotiation, and I would ask for a little sympathy and help from the House so that we can get this agreement which, I am firmly convinced, will be not only in our interests, but profoundly in the interests of the people of Cyprus.

Mr. Healey

While no one would dispute the difficulty of negotiating with Archbishop Makarios on this issue, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that Dr. Kutchuk, as leader of the Turkish community on the island, made a strong public complaint of the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in the negotiations yesterday, when they were broken off on the ground that we were not prepared to accept his mediation on the issue? What explanation has the Foreign Secretary to offer for Her Majesty's Government's rejection of Dr. Kutchuk's offer?

Mr. Lloyd

Before I answer that question, I should like to see a statement of precisely what was said. I do not think that it is useful for me to comment on what Dr. Kutchuk has said, or on the part he has played in these negotiations, because if I said that he had played a very useful part it might damage his authority in Cyprus. So I had better remain silent.

Mr. Donnelly

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that he still has not answered the question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) about the value of the base in a hostile island? Can he tell us what circumstances he envisages in which Her Majesty's Government can use these military installations in the face of a hostile Cyprus Government? Are not Her Majesty's Government confusing the terms "base" and "bridgehead"? What do the Government really want, a base with the agreement and good will of the Cyprus people or a bridgehead on a hostile island?

Mr. Lloyd

Of course we want a base with the good will of the Cypriot people. That is what we believe we shall get eventually, but we have to consider emergencies and we must have the essential minimum for emergencies.

Mr. Grimond

Without giving away State secrets, may I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman can tell us why we are asking for 120 square miles roughly in two areas while the Cypriots believe that we need only 36 square miles? Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman reiterate that there is no intention of setting up a small British colony or society in Cyprus with a civilian Government and that this area will be subject to military government for military purposes?

Mr. Lloyd

There is no intention to have anything other than an administration under military control. We have given the clearest possible guarantees that we shall not seek to set up small colonies or use them, which was feared at one time, for any form of commercial competition with the people of Cyprus.

A certain number of installations and troops have to be deployed in this area. For example, I think that it would make absolute nonsense to say that we should have the headquarters in an area under British sovereignty and its wireless mast in an area not under British sovereignty. There has to be a minimum of area and I think that we have come to the minimum.

Mr. de Freitas

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that what we want is a base and not a bridgehead and that we are not seeking to set up a colony. Might it not be a way of reducing the deadlock to reduce this to a merely military technical level and to hand over the next stage of negotiations to the Service Departments?

Mr. Lloyd

I am very ready to have it reduced to a technical matter, but I think that from a military point of view the Cypriot view is that our requirements are quite reasonable.

Mr. K. Robinson

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm what is said in the Press today, that the Cypriots have been informed that this is our final position? Is the Foreign Secretary prepared to sacrifice the good will of Cypriots to please the chocolate soldiers on his own back benches?

Mr. Lloyd

Disregarding the rather offensive latter part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I must say that there had to be some finality if we were to reach an agreement. For nine months we have been making offer after offer, none of which has been accepted.

Mr. J. Eden

May I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that we congratulate him on his efforts? Is he not aware that there is a very real possibility that without the presence of British troops on this island the old antagonism between Greek and Turkish Cypriots will start again? [Laughter.] Would it not be just as well to remind ourselves who it is that wants independence in Cyprus?

Mr. Lloyd

I am sorry that the House should have laughed at what my hon. Friend said about conflict between Greeks and Turks. I said the same thing in 1954, and we know what happened. Very soon after the matter had been brought to the United Nations hostilities began between the two sections, and there is the same danger all the time. It is very important that we should try to get this matter settled as quickly as possible for fear that communal hostility may break out again.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the British people as a whole view this situation with grave anxiety and that, whatever noises may come from hon. Members on the benches behind him, none of us wants a return to the conflict and hatred and bitterness that existed in Cyprus before the Agreement?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not feel that the really important question is how to get negotiations going again and that an intransigent attitude, particularly if expressed in public by our Foreign Secretary, as it has been today, will certainly do no good to the prospects of resuming our negotiations? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us how he proposes to try to reach agreement if he says that his own position is final?

Mr. C. Osborne

That is very helpful, is it not'?

Mr. Lloyd

I agree that it is necessary that we should try to avoid the trouble and dangers and difficulties that might come, and that is why I ask for a little bit of assistance from both sides of the House in this matter. The kind of statement which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has just made is the kind that makes agreement practically impossible to get.

Mr. Gaitskell

That kind of statement, without any argument whatever behind it, will not he taken seriously by anybody. Will the Foreign Secretary please take his position a little more seriously and consider the repercussions of what he says not only in this country, but in Cyprus as well? Will he again please tell the House how he proposes to resume negotiations not only with Archbishop Makarios, but also with the Turkish leader who, on this occasion, is lined up with the Archbishop?

Mr. Lloyd

It would be very much more helpful, if, instead of being offensive, the right hon. Gentleman would indicate that our offer has been a very fair one. That would help.

Mr. Longden

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he will make it abundantly clear to the country, as he has done today to the House, that we have made every possible, reasonable concession that we can be expected to make within the London Agreement and that if he had the whole House of Commons behind him we should have an agreement which would be to the undoubted mutual advantage of every Greek and Turkish Cypriot and of this country?

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is quite right.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that what we have heard from him this afternoon reminds some of us very tragically of all that we have lived through during the last five years, from which we hoped we had escaped?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

By running away.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Foreign Secretary further aware that the last occasion on which charges of this nature were made about what Archbishop Makarios was supposed to have done or not to have done was about a fortnight before he was deported to the Seychelles and led to a situation which, in my view, was one of unparalleled gravity in a Colony of this size?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman really think that the sort of statement that he has made will help him to get negotiations going again? May we not beg him at this stage to send fresh instructions to the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies before he comes home? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am asking this question because we do not want to go through the bloodshed we had before, from which the Government did not emerge with honour.

Will the Foreign Secretary send fresh instructions to the Under-Secretary to find out exactly on what basis it will be possible to come to an agreement with the Greeks and the Turks in the island about the size of a military establishment so that we may ensure that the base there will be in friendly territory with the co-operation of the inhabitants?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman has said that my statement this afternoon was intransigent. If he will read it he will see that it was not intransigent. I repeated our desire to reach agreement and that we must try to reach agreement by negotiation. The point is that we have passed the date when it will be possible for the independence Bill to come into effect, namely, 19th March. That is what has happened. Of course, we must continue to try to reach agreement, and that is what we shall do.

Mr. W. Yates

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the replies given by the Foreign Secretary I would be grateful for your advice. Tomorrow, there is to be a foreign affairs debate on the Motion set down on the Order Paper. Will it be in order for hon. Members to discuss Cyprus?

Mr. Speaker

Not as far as I remember. Not in the present state of the Order Paper, because there is an express substantive Motion to be discussed relating to other matters. If the hon. Member does something about the Order Paper, the position might be changed, but I cannot deal with a hypothetical situation of that kind. My present difficulty is one in which I hope the House will have sympathy with me: there is no Question before the House.


Mr. Healey

On a point of order. I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the breakdown of negotiations over the future of the British base in Cyprus.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member asks leave to move, under Standing Order No. 9, the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of debating a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the breakdown of negotiations over the future of the British base in Cyprus. Does the hon. Member have the leave of the House?

The pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. SPEAKER called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen, the Motion stood over, under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance), until Seven o'clock this evening.