HC Deb 19 July 1960 vol 627 cc377-400

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

It would be remiss of us to part with the Clause without a little more explanation from the Government about the Republic of Cyprus. Many of us were surprised that the day should come when the Government would introduce such a Bill, setting up a Republic of Cyprus, in view of their past speeches on the subject. But the day has arrived, and we believe that hon. Members opposite should have the opportunity of declaring themselves before we part with the Clause.

The Clause designates the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus and says that on the designated day there shall be established in the Island of Cyprus an independent sovereign Republic of Cyprus and Her Majesty shall have no sovereignty or jurisdiction over the Republic of Cyprus. In view of the brave speeches made by hon. Members opposite for years past, we thought that the Committee would like to hear the views of some of those present concerning the proposal of the Government. Hon Members on this side of the Committee support the Government. I do not know whether their own back benchers support them. On the basis of past debates we would certainly guess that they do not. However, it may be that the back benchers have had a conversion similar to that of Saul on the road to Damascus and that they have now seen the light and are ready to agree in 1960 what they denied in 1954. Better late than never.

It is not a bad thing that hon. Members opposite should be faced with the consequences of their own speeches. [Interruption.] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to mutter interjections.

Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)

Clause Four.

Mr. Callaghan

We changed our minds over Clause Four. Is that the point?

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On a point of order. Is a discussion of Clause Four in order in a debate on the Cyprus Bill?

The Deputy-Chairman

As the Committee well knows, we are debating Clause 1.

Mr. Callaghan

All I say about changing minds is that there has never been such a dramatic change of mind by any Government or any party—and certainly not on such a serious issue—as there has been over the setting up of the Republic of Cyprus. Nor did it cost millions of pounds, or 600 lives. It ill lies in the mouths of hon. Members opposite to talk about changing minds, because if they had not reached the conclusion they did six years ago this country would be far better off, and so would the island of Cyprus. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) had better be quiet, instead of reproaching us with changing our minds. Here is a substantial change of mind. Hon. Members opposite will hear quite a lot of this in Committee; they had better make up their minds to that.

I turn to some of the specific provisions, and ask the Government what they have to say about the rigid Constitution that has been laid down. I know that they can say, "It is not our Constitution. It was drawn up between the Greeks and the Turks, and we had very little part to play in it." That is true. When Her Majesty's Government got out of the ring the Greeks and Turks got together and agreed. But there are substantial rigidities, and it is the Government who are commending the Clause to us. I hope that hon. Members opposite will study the Bill. They will have some time in which to do so.

This is a straitjacket; it is not a constitution. Some of the deficiencies were pointed out in the debate last week. First, there is the size of the armed forces.

Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

Is this in Clause 1?

Mr. Callaghan

This is all in Clause 1. It says that the constitution designated in the Order is the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. That is exactly what I am referring to, and the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) should read the Bill, and he should read Appendix D in the White Paper, which contains the draft Constitution. It is from that that I am now quoting.

10.15 p.m.

The size of the Armed Forces is actually laid down in the Constitution. It says that Cyprus shall have Armed Forces numerically 2,000. I suppose that, in fact, they will be breaking the Constitution if, at the end of the year, they have 1,999 or 2,001. It is laid down as basic to the Constitution that the size of the Armed Forces shall be 2,000. What is more, we are told how many Turks and Greeks there are to be in that 2,000. That is a basic law. As I understand it, it cannot be altered, repealed, added to or modified in any way. I should have thought that an absurdity, and it is the job of the House of Commons, and it is certainly the job of the Opposition, to draw attention to some of the difficulties in which the Republic of Cyprus will find itself over the next few years as the result of this Constitution to which we are now being asked to assent.

Then there is the transfer of land. If land is transferred or redistributed it must go to a member of the same community as that to which the man who originally owned it belonged. If owned by a Turk, it can be transferred only to a Turk; if owned by a Greek, it can be transferred only to a Greek. This, again, implies a rigidity that stereotypes the island in a way that must be wholly undesirable.

It may be argued that, for a short period of time, this is inevitable; that because of the relationships, and the hostility that may exist between the two communities, it is a way of avoiding trouble—but we are being asked that this shall be so for ever. I cannot believe that this is likely to last for ever, and I doubt whether hon. Members opposite believe it.

Article 20 deals with education. As I understand it, education is always to be on a religious basis. In other words, the Greek-Cypriot children shall be brought up in their own religion, and the Turkish-Cypriot children shall be brought up in theirs. I am all for the place of religion in education, but do the Government really think it desirable that we should write into the Constitution, as a basic law, that for ever and a day religious education in those forms shall be compulsory, so that the two communities will have less chance of growing together than they would if this provision were left looser?

There is the question of communal interest——

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

Why not put down Amendments?

Mr. Callaghan

I shall come to that. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is perfectly entitled later to make a speech explaining his own attitude. We have not heard from him yet, but I very much hope that we shall hear from him before the end of the evening, and I shall tell him why we are not putting down Amendments.

We are told in Article 25 that the communal interest shall always triumph over the private interest wherever the two may conflict. Is this really a provision that we think highly desirable?

The noble Lord has asked, perfectly fairly, why we have not put down Amendments, and I shall answer him. This Agreement has been reached after a great deal of travail——

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

And tragedy.

Mr. Callaghan

—and, certainly, after tragedy—as a result of a great deal of reaction on the part of persons like the noble Lord who have themselves fomented the trouble that exists between these two communities. [Interruption.] From the Prime Minister downwards, every hon. Member in the Conservative Party is responsible for fomenting trouble between Greeks and Turks—let there be no doubt about that. Hon. Members opposite know it, and they know how the then Prime Minister, as I quoted in the debate last week—Sir Anthony Eden—himself invited the Turkish Government to make their position more clear; stoked up the fires. Hon. Members opposite cannot dodge their responsibilities for these issues, and a very heavy responsibility rests on them.

I come back to the question which the noble Lord put to me. Why did we not put down Amendments? I say to him that I think it would be highly undesirable for any of us in the House of Commons to attempt to alter this Constitution. which has been reached after so much difficulty. It has been reached by agreement between the Turkish-Cypriots and the Greek-Cypriots. The British Government did not play a part in it. The agreement was reached in their absence.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The hon. Member criticised it.

Mr. Callaghan

The noble Lord might try to address himself to the argument. This is an island over which we have had sovereignty and we are being asked to transfer sovereignty to the Republic of Cyprus. What I say to the Committee and to the country is that, as a result of Government policy over the last six years, the consequences we are now being asked to address ourselves to and from which we cannot escape are of such a character that they are bound to lead to friction over the next few years. I regret this. I do not think it was necessary or that it should have happened, but we certainly would not be doing our duty as a Committee if we welt to part with this Clause without pointing out that we are launching this new Republic into a very troubled world with a strait jacket tied about its development.

I wish to ask the Government what they think about this. When some of these conditions become irksome, as they are bound to—I have mentioned only a few and there are many more, as a superficial reading of the Constitution will show—I do not know how this young Republic will get out of its difficulties. A lot of these conditions are written into the Constitution and are like the Laws of the Medes and Persians.

Sir G. Nicholson

I do not rise to interrupt the hon. Member and I apologise to him, but I am asking for information. Is it right that we should debate the terms of the White Paper, which has not yet been laid?

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Samuel Storey)

I think it is in order, because I understand that the Constitution is in the White Paper and we are in order in discussing it.

Sir G. Nicholson

I agree, Sir Samuel, that it is in the White Paper, but it refers to an Order in Council which has not been made and, theoretically I suppose, the Order in Council could be different from what has been said in the White Paper. That, with respect and humility, I suggest cannot be in order.

The Temporary Chairman

The Order cannot be laid until later, and I think that it would be restricting the rights of this Committee in debate if we limited the discussion now.

Mr. Callaghan

As I understood it. the Order cannot he laid until the Bill is passed. Part of the provisions of the Bill are that this draft Constitution shall form the Order. So what we are debating is clearly indicated in Clause 1 and it is that this draft Constitution shall be the substance of the Order. Probably it will be the beginning and end of the Order which will be laid before us in due course. Before giving Clause 1 our assent, this is the moment to point out some of the difficulties inherent in the Constitution under which the Republic of Cyprus is launching out in its independent rôle.

I have explained that I think that it would be improper to attempt to amend it. I do not seek to do that. We would have put down Amendments if we thought that was the right course, but I hope that when this Republic of Cyprus runs into rough weather, as I feel it is bound to do over the next few years, the Government and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will try to find some way of enabling the Republic to escape from the consequences of the actions of the last six years.

That is what we are debating and that is the position we are now brought up against. I think that we are entitled to hear from the Government tonight what they believe will be the way for these restrictions to be eased, if they can be eased, in due course when they become particularly irksome either upon one community or both, because I believe that it can be demonstrated without any doubt that those restrictions will prove almost impossible to carry out over the next few years. We would not be doing the right thing if we were to allow this Clause to go by without pointing out the consequences of the transfer of sovereignty of this country to the new Republic of Cyprus. It is with this in mind that I have opened this debate with a view to giving the Colonial Secretary an opportunity to state the Government's views upon it.

Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, has made the same allegations as he made on Second Reading, and they are as invalid now as they were a few days ago. He knows quite well that the major burden of responsibility for any delay in reaching a settlement in Cyprus is upon the shoulders of the Opposition, because they consistently went through the motions of promising the Greeks something like Enosis if they won the 1959 or 1960 General Election. The second fault into which he fell is that throughout Second Reading and his speech this evening there was a complete absence of any understanding of the deep differences between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Moslem communities.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Member is repeating his original allegation. He sat through most of the debates, although from his speech last week I do not know how much profit he derived from them. He knows that we made it clear all the time from 1954 onwards that our view about this situation was that the people of Cyprus should have the right to choose their own future. That was the case we made all the time. It included Enosis and, when Mr. Walter Elliot proposed it, it also included partition. We did not believe in either of those alternatives, and we have escaped them, but we came down neither on one side nor the other any more than we have done in Nyasaland.

Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

That may be so, but that interpretation was not the one which the Greeks gave to it. It is easy to say that the Cyprus people were entitled to their own method of self-determination, but when they were in the happy position of irresponsibility the Opposition never said which section of the Cyprus community was entitled to self-determination. To the Greeks self-determination meant Enosis, whereas to the Turkish community it meant partition. As the hon. Member himself has admitted, those two alternatives were irreconcilable. That is why throughout all the debates in the last four or five years we on this side of the Committee have said that the Opposition's attitude was wholly impracticable and irresponsible, in marked contrast to their attitude before the 1951 election, when they were responsible for events in Cyprus and when they took precisely the same view as Her Majesty's present Government have taken in recent years. The hon. Member must face the facts of history. Why does he think that the Government have drawn the Constitution carefully——

Mr. Callaghan

The Government have not drawn it. It is not the Government's constitution.

Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

—in order that the rights of the majority and the minority shall be closely defined?

Mr. Callaghan


Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

I hope that the hon. Member will allow me to develop my argument. There would not have been the slightest degree of hope of agreement between the Greek and Turkish Governments, and still less between Archibishop Makarios and Dr. Kutchuk, if the position of the Greek majority and the Turkish minority had not been fully safeguarded.

The hon. Member said that we hope that these two communities will settle down and live happily side by side. I agree that we hope that they will do so, but let him not forget that as recently as 1922 there was war between Greece and Turkey in Asia Minor and that many Greeks and Turks still living in Cyprus and the Middle East, and particularly in the Levant, can still remember the disaster of the Smyrna massacres. He would be unwise to take so short a view of history. When he speaks of the religious safeguards in respect of education, let him remember the deep religious differences which have existed for hundreds of years between the Christian Orthodox Church and the Moslem communities. If he thinks that any community, whatever its religion may be, is prepared to accept an educational settlement which completely ignores any religious element in it, he should look back at the 1944 Act in this country. As a better example, he should consider the educational set-up in India before the transfer of power, where the rights of the Moslems and the Hindus were most carefully safeguarded.

10.30 p.m.

I beg the hon. Gentleman not to try with a duster to wipe off from the blackboard the history of the national and religious diversities between the two communities. The Constitution which Her Majesty's Government have produced, with the agreement, and only with the agreement, of the Greek and Turkish communities and the Greek and Turkish Governments, does its best to safeguard the susceptibilities both of the majority and of the minority in the Island.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman has his facts wrong today, just as he had them wrong the other day. He has to read no further than page 3 of the White Paper on Cyprus. It is clear that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom were not represented on the Joint Commission, which was established with the duty of completing the draft Constitution. Paragraph 2 says: The text of the Constitution has, however, been made available to Her Majesty's Government who have informed the other parties that they have no comments on it. It is not Her Majesty's Government's Constitution. It was not prepared by them with the assent of the Greeks and the Turks. It was prepared by the Greeks and the Turks in the absence of Her Majesty's Government.

The hon. Gentleman should try to understand my argument. What I am saying is that we are parting with sovereignty in the island in circumstances which seem to me, despite the agree- ment which has been reached between the Greeks and the Turks in the absence of Her Majesty's Government, to make the future of the island rather more dubious than it need have been.

Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

Unless the Turkish and Greek Governments and the Turkish and Greek communities had agreed upon what sort of Constitution they wanted, we should not have debated Second Reading last week and should not be debating the Committee stage now.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I rise to make only one brief comment. The greatest tragedy of the last six years has been the intensification of the antagonism between the Greek and the Turkish communities. Eight years ago in Cyprus there was very little of that antagonism. One could go to villages and observe, in the heat of the day under the trees, Greek and Turkish families together. Their children were playing together. There was very little of the antagonism which has now grown up.

The greatest indictment of the policy of the Government during the last six years has been that that policy has led to the antagonisms and hatreds which have had such an unfortunate effect.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke

I should not have intervened if it had not been for the fact that I remember going to Cyprus first at a time when everything was extremely friendly for the British troops. That was during the Second World War. I do not think that any of us at that time could possibly have visualised a situation emerging which would lead to the continuing struggle against Eoka, which caused everyone in this country so much grief.

It is singularly ill-becoming of the hon. Members for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) not to come out into the open and say whom they particularly condemn.

Mr. Brockway

The Government.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made it all-embracing. He made it the whole of the Conservative Party. It is an old rule in this Committee, of which we are all very well aware, that personal imputations of motives, and things like that, are out of order. What do the Opposition do? Because they know they cannot single out individuals and accuse them of something which, if it were said outside this Committee would render the person who said it liable to a charge of slander, they make an all-embracing charge which cannot be ruled out of order and which is in fact a hideous slander against honourable people. I for one am not proposing to let it go without an answer.

Not only have some of us been to Cyprus but, with members of our families, we have been closely related with the operations against Eoka and we find it totally foul to have to sit and listen to the sort of accusations which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made tonight. What does he suppose we wanted to see in Cyprus? Continuing bloodshed?

Mr. Callaghan

British sovereignty. That is what the hon. and gallant Member said and that is what the party opposite has now given up.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Is the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East saying that he deliberately wanted to end British sovereignty? That is the implication of his remarks. Is he saying that if an amicable agreement could have been reached with the Greeks in Cyprus nevertheless he would still have liked to have seen British sovereignty ended?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Member asks me a question and I will give him the answer. I am supporting the Bill. I do not know whether he is or not.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am endeavouring to answer the foul accusations which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has thrown across the Committee.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Member is making a hash of it, anyway.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I will come to the question of whether I approve of the Bill or not in a moment. I am trying to answer the charges and the hon. Gentleman does not like that fact that I am answering them. I would say that the implication of his remarks is that he wanted British sovereignty to end a long time ago. I should have thought that the hon. Member might have realised that, from the economic point of view, Cyprus on its own is not viable. He might have realised that British sovereignty in Cyprus might have been to the benefit of the island in the long run, and that Cypriots might do well to think twice before casting it off. However, the Cypriots have now come to an agreement whereby we shall give them sovereignty except for the base areas.

I wonder what was the purpose of the remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. Did he really believe that they would make it any easier for everyone to settle down and get on with the business of building up the economy in Cyprus? I should have thought that the only effect of his remarks would be to cast doubt on the wisdom of the agreement. Where they sensible and statesmanlike utterances for the hon. Gentleman to make? I consider them mischevious and designed to make certain that the Republic runs into the greatest possible difficulties as soon as possible. After all he said he thought at the time, I should have thought the hon. Gentleman would want peace in the island as quickly as possible, and for the economy to be built up, and for Greek and Turk and the minority populations to work together. I do not believe his remarks will lead to that. I believe it will make the position of his beloved Archbishop Makarios a great deal more difficult.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. and gallant Gentleman took him to the Dorchester; I did not.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

May I put it in this way? No one in this country gave more encouragement to Makarios to continue his battle for Enosis than the Opposition. They were the people who were content to sit back and let the Archbishop get away with refusing to condemn terrorism. There was no pressure from the Opposition to get the Archbishop to give up terrorism, and the implication of that is surely this. [Interruption.] I repeat, there was never any attempt by the Opposition to get Archbishop Makarios to condemn terrorism. I would be the first to give them credit for doing that if, in fact, they had done so.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

I very well remember our late right hon. Friend Mr. Aneurin Bevan making an appeal from the Dispatch Box. As a result of that appeal, violence stopped for a number of months, and then we were outraged because the Government took no steps during that period to bring the two sides together.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I have as much respect for the memory of the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan as anyone, but I would sooner talk about an hon. Member who is still alive and who is not in the Chamber tonight, but who ought to be because of what she has said in the past. I refer to the lion. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). I will qualify what I said by saying that of all the people who gave the greatest possible encouragement to terrorism to continue and for the battle of Eoka to be fought by Archbishop Makarios and his friends, those most responsible are to be found on the benches opposite.

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman who started this might now agree that we in this Chamber would do very much better if we were to try to heal old wounds. My only reason for saying what I have said tonight is because of the foul slander which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made against this side of the Committee. The implication of that slander was that we were the people who were responsible for bringing about the 600 deaths. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They repeat that. Let the country judge. I think that it judged at the last General Election. Let us leave it there. All I would say is that I think it is one of the most unworthy things that the Opposition have done since I first came to the House of Commons in 1945. It is unworthy of hon. Members, on whatever side they sit, to behave in that way.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

What about India?

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to interrupt me he should rise in his place.

Mr. Ross

Will the hon. Gentleman turn his mind back to the things said by his party about hon. Members on this; side of the Committee after India was given her freedom and when there was certain bloodshed there? [HON. MEMBERS: "Before."] It was after that time, when there was certain bloodshed there. Hon. Members opposite accused us of causing the deaths of those people.

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Samuel Storey)

Order. We cannot discuss India.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am extremely grateful to you for your Ruling, Sir Samuel, because the subject mentioned by the hon. Gentleman was linked with another part of the world, Hola. I do not think that we want to discuss that tonight.

I say to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, in particular, that there is no reason whatsoever to suppose that the setting up of the Republic of Cyprus is likely to lead to the difficulties which he visualises. I believe it is important to remember that we are dealing not with Englishmen, or, if the hon. Gentleman is a Welshman, with Welshmen. We are dealing with Greeks and Turks principally. As my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) so rightly pointed out, I think that because of the past history, although not such distant history, of the Greeks and Turks it would be well for us to get as clearly defined as possible what we wish to happen in the case of each of the communities.

I should have thought that the Cyprus people would be grateful to us for having agreed to what they themselves would have agreed between themselves, and for the clear definitions which have been made in this Constitution. I should have thought that that was to be welcomed by us and by them. I honestly believe that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East will live to regret what he said tonight, because if ever anybody does want to cause any trouble now they will he able to quote him as a justification for it.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I would not have detained the Committee but for the extraordinary proposition that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) put before us a few minute ago I have never before heard the constitutional doctrine of collective responsibility of the Cabinet for the policy of the Government described as a mean way of avoiding uttering slanders against individuals. All this—if he will forgive me for saying so—mock indignation based on so clear a misconception of what the whole constitution of this country is based on leaves me very unmoved indeed.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman had something to say about terrorism and defence of terrorism. A people struggling to be free will struggle to be free whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman likes it or not. It was not anybody on this side of the Committee who told the Cypriot people that the thing that we are legislating for tonight could never happen. Self-determination was scorned, whether for the Greek-Cypriots or the Turkish-Cypriots and he is not entitled to do that.

The Government, of which he is at least a nominal supporter, declared in 1954 that there would never be any self-determination for any of them. It is all very well nodding agreement and then, after stumbling across this great truth, picking oneself up and going on as if nothing had happened. Once one has told people who want to be free that they can never by constitutional methods attain their freedom, one must not grumble if they proceed to try to attain it by some other method. We would. The hon. and gallant Gentleman would.

If the freedom of our country were dominated by some colonial or imperialist power by force, he would be the first to join the underground resistance movement, would he not? He would object very much to being called a terrorist if he did. He would object very much if anyone who was trying to lend him some moral support from some other country, or from the country which was oppressing his own, were described as being unpatriotic. He would think, as we think, that it is a patriotic duty to our own country to see to it that if it does things which are indefensible, they should be opposed and criticised by our own citizens in order to save the honour of the country.

That is what my right hon. and hon. Friends were doing when they were trying to persuade this reluctant Government to give up the attempt of trying to maintain British sovereignty in Cyprus against a reluctant population who were determined to win their freedom by force, when we tried to persuade them not to do that but to negotiate some such agreement as we have got tonight. They were surely doing the right thing as Members of the British House of Commons, or does the hon. and gallant Gentleman think that they were wrong?

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that statement was made by the Government when Archbishop Makarios's principal aim was to get Enosis, and as soon as the Archbishop dropped Enosis from his aims the whole situation became changed.

Mr. Silverman

It is not really possible to re-write history quite so near to the events which we all remember. That is not so. It did not happen like that, and if the Minister who stood at the Government Dispatch Box had thought that that would happen, he could very well have said, "We do not think that Enosis, union with Greece, is the right way; self-determination for yourselves, as you would like to do it, we are prepared to discuss." But that is not what he said. He said, "Self-determination, never."

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was amply justified in saying that the Government which took that uncompromising and untenable attitude in 1954 must bear a direct collective responsibility, in which each of them personally shares, for all the unnecessary bloodshed and suffering that followed, and everyone on this side will support him. Unless we realise that, we shall go on committing errors of this kind from now until the crack of doom.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said that he wondered what some Government back benchers felt about this document. I, for one, welcome it. It is an agreement at last achieved after a great deal of work in which Greek and Cypriot rights in a Republic are guarded. I agree that there are stringent Clauses, but if the hon. Gentleman knows Cyprus he will know that they are probably necessary to guard the rights of those communities.

It also gives us at the same time the sovereignty which all along in our party we have demanded for bases. It achieves these two objectives and at the same time it mends the rift between Greece and Turkey. Anyone who has visited Greece and Turkey in the last three years will know that the rift was getting greater and greater. The Government have now achieved agreement between two great Powers and have achieved what seemed almost impossible—a document agreed by Greek and Turkish Cypriots, which, I am sure, will give rise to harmony on the island.

One only hopes that the island will remain for ever in the Commonwealth, deriving, as it will, great benefits in trade and in other ways. I am sure that we shall live to say that this is a great document, and, along with many other back benchers, I wish great future prosperity to the people of Cyprus.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)

I would not have intervened but for the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). His speech portrayed with an astonishing degree of clarity so much that has been at the back of this problem. He said that there is no future or prospect for Cyprus if either side goes on just throwing allegations against the other, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman missed the important point. Right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the Committee do not visualise members of the Government as a band of bloodthirsty heathens who desire to throw the whole country into warfare. Everyone on this side recognises that the Government disliked what happened in Cyprus as much as we did.

Where the hon. and gallant Gentleman goes wrong is that, at the end of this tragic period, after the loss of 600 lives, he still does not realise that what is criticised on this side is not a deliberate desire to see the nation plunged into war but a series of stupid actions which resulted without any doubt in that war. Many of us believe that the Government have the direct responsibility for every life lost as a result of that, not, because of any desire deliberately to engender the situation but because, in 1954, a statement was made in the House, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has reminded us, to the effect that self-government would never be permitted for the island.

It was not said only in 1954, on that occasion. It was said on several occasions, in September, 1955, and repeated in December, 1955. The charge which my right hon. and hon. Friends make against the Government is that all that trouble, or much of it, could have been avoided many years ago, and it was the blindness and complete inability of hon. and right hon. Members opposite to see the inevitability of what was happening in Cyprus which produced the situation confronting us today. It is not a matter of throwing out wild allegations and accusations. We regret that it happened. Unless hon. and right hon. Members opposite recognise what it is that they have done in Cyprus, they will be in danger of repeating the dose in the future.

We are all pleased to see the prospect of a Constitution and an end to this deplorable situation—which, I think, could well have been ended some time ago—but it is no good holding up the Constitution and saying, "The nightmare is over. It is all finished, and everything in Cyprus will be peace and tranquillity". That will not be so. If anyone believes that the Constitution with which we are faced will not result in many grave difficulties in the future for the Cypriot people, he is contributing to some extent towards the difficulties.

One feature of the Constitution which worries me is its inflexibility. I cannot visualise the existence for all time of a society which has as part of its Constitution divisions based on language and nationality. I am intrigued by the reference to the army of 2,000 troops over and above the police and local gendarmerie. What is the purpose of this economic burden that we are foisting upon the Cypriot people? The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the economic difficulties which will confront the Cypriot people. Of course, they will be faced with many difficulties, but I cannot believe that many parts of the Constitution will assist them in the best way to remove themselves from them.

The Government have been forced to realise that no nation in this modern age is prepared to face the prospect of long-term subjugation to another country. It did not work in India. The unpleasant remarks made by hon. Members opposite at the prospect of freedom and independence in India would have been far more justified afterwards if freedom had not been given to India at the stage when it was. However, I will leave that point, Sir Samuel.

At the beginning there was the speech made by Mr. Hopkinson, as he then was, that Cyprus could never expect independence. Then the Government attempted to defeat Archbishop Makarios by removing him, putting him in a little cupboard, as it were, in the hope that no one would notice that he was there and he would be forgotten in due course. These things laid the foundations for a great deal of this trouble, and, unless hon. and right hon. Members opposite recognise the mistakes that they made and recognise the degree of responsibility which they must bear, they will stand in very real danger of contributing to similar situations elsewhere in the world in the future.

11.0 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Julian Amery)

This Clause authorises the making of an Order establishing the Republic under what is, in effect, the Constitution annexed to the White Paper. There has been some comment on the Constitution from both sides of the Committee, and I want to put the history of it right for the record. The Greek and Turkish texts of the Constitution are the authentic texts under the Treaty.

It is, however, interesting to relate that the Constitution was drafted in English and discussed in French, because some of the Greek Government representatives did not speak English. Although the authentic texts are Greek and Turkish translations of the original English draft, by a quaint convention it was at one time proposed that the English original should be known as the translation. What has emerged after some weeks of discussions is that the Greek and Turkish texts are authentic texts but, where they differ, the British text should have the status of umpire.

The Government were not represented on the Joint Constitutional Commission, but we were consulted and were satisfied on those matters of direct interest to us. I cite as examples of direct interest to us the status of the minority religious groups and their rights—the Maronites, the Armenians and the Latins—the status and conditions of the public service, and the basic articles of the Constitution which, along with the other signatories of the Treaty of Guarantee, we guarantee.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said in an interjection that he was supporting the Bill. I am bound to say that he chose a very odd way of doing it. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot, on the one hand, chide us for climbing down, and, on the other, chide us for having espoused a Constitution which he regards as one of considerable rigidity. I deplore the tendency he showed in his remarks to criticise and decry the Constitution.

These are not easy matters. He asked why religion should be written into the Constitution. The rivalry of Christianity and Islam in the Eastern Mediterranean is a long one, not just to be swept aside by a wave of the hand as he was doing. The thing that amazes me is the remarkably good relations which exist between the two communities at the present time.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) talked about the "good old days" when there was no bitterness between the Greek and Turkish communities. Of course, there was not then—because there was an arbiter between the two. When the arbiter was taken away, then came the sense of danger to each community then came the tension which we have been trying in the last few months——

Mr. Callaghan

Only in the last few months.

Mr. Amery

I was speaking of the working out of the Constitution to find a solution.

Mr. Callaghan

It is a pity that the Government did not do it earlier.

Mr. Amery

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say that the Government did not do it earlier. The tension is the fruit of the decision—I am not criticising that decision--that there should be self-determination. It is when one has self-determination that each community looks to its own interests and no longer accepts the arbitership, as it has in the past. It was this that led to cries for Enosis and for partition.

Mr. Brockway

What I said was this—that eight years ago there was very little tension, but the policy of the Government during six years intensified the antagonism, as was illustrated in the telegram that Sir Anthony Eden, when he was Prime Minister, sent to the Turkish Government.

Mr. Amery

If the hon. Gentleman means that by accepting that the principle of self-determination should be applied to Cyprus we created tension between the communities, we accept that charge. As people go towards self-government, towards political emancipation of communities, inevitably tension increases. The art of statesmanship then is to find a way of overcoming tensions which arise in those conditions. I think that the work of the Commission has to a large extent succeeded in this.

I agree with many of the commentators in the Press that it is unlikely that the Opposition will govern again in the foreseeable future, and this perhaps justified the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East making a speech which was plainly pitting the future of one community against the other.

Hon. Members on this side of the Committee—I have done it myself, but I do not withdraw a word of it—have sometimes alleged, I think with justice, that the comments made by the party opposite during the emergency contributed to prolonging the emergency, and to many of the deaths that were caused. What worries me about the speech made by the hon. Gentleman this evening is that the comments that he made will contribute to the perpetuation of tension and hostility in the island not against Field Marshal Harding or Sir Hugh Foot, but against Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kutchuk. It is regrettable and it is a pity.

The hon. Gentleman chided us with abandoning the concept of sovereignty. Politics is the art of the possible. If we had not tried to follow the course we did I do not think that we would have got as satisfactory an agreement as we now have. I do not think that we would have got sovereignty over the bases. I do not think that we would have got as fair a deal for both communities as we have.

If our forces and administrators had not held the ring during the years of the emergency we would not have been able to produce an agreement acceptable to the Turkish community, to the Greek community, to the Greek and Turkish Governments, and to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Fernyhough

I am sorry, but I do not think that the Under-Secretary of State saw me rise several times before he spoke. I promise that I will not detain the Committee for more than a few minutes.

The Under-Secretary of State's speech was remarkable. He said that he thought that it would be years before, according to the Press, the Opposition governed again. Some of us thought it would never be possible for the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) to appear at the Dispatch Box, bearing in mind the stand he took in this House four or five years ago. If it is possible for a transformation of that kind in that short space of time, the possibilities as far as the British electorate is concerned are even greater.

I look at hon. Gentlemen opposite—some of those concerned are not here now—and remember that they were the determined men; they were the men who were going to hold the Empire together; they were the men who would never let Cyprus have its freedom and independence; they were the people who stood out for all those things. What has happened now? Tonight one of those hon. Gentlemen is pleading the case from the Front Bench opposite.

I now refer to the speeches made by the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) and the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). The hon. Member for Windsor said that because there had been war between the Greeks and Turks in 1922 we should be very careful because there were bitter memories. I would remind the hon. Member that we had a war with Germany in 1939, and in 1952 and 1953 the hon. Gentleman did not think that about the Germans when he was anxious to rearm them.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely made a remarkable speech. He made a bitter attack on hon. Members on this side of the Committee. He accused us of many crimes.

None of us was accused of the crimes with which the whole of the Government benches, without exception, accused Archbishop Makarios. This man, they said, was a murderer, a thug; a man of violence and arson. There was not a crime in the calendar with which he was not charged. When we pleaded that he should be put on trial, we were told that it would not be in the public interest to do so.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely said that no voice on this side had ever been raised to try to bring peace and tranquillity to that war-torn island. I intervened to say that I vividly remembered the amazing speech of our late friend, Aneurin Bevan, when he said that if any words of his could reach the opposing forces in Cyprus he would say that they should cease from violence and, if they did, he said that the Government would be left naked. The violence ceased for almost twelve months—and the Government took not a single step to try to bring the two conflicting sides together——

Mr. Callaghan

And does my hon. Friend not also remember that when, in fact, there was a cessation of hostilities with a view, as Grivas said at the time—and we hold no brief for him—to resuming negotiations, the Government and Field Marshal Harding treated it as an act of weakness, and called on them to surrender?

Mr. Fernyhough

Yes, of course—and this is the tragedy of the last five or six years.

When the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely charges my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) almost with treachery, I wonder what the speeches made by hon. Members opposite about Archbishop Makarios amounted to? They shut the man away. They thought they had done with him. They would never negotiate with him. Then they brought him back to the Savoy or the Dorchester, and this man with whom they were never to negotiate with—the Under-Secretary, the man who led the rebellion, has had to spend weeks and months in his company.

I hope, as others of my hon. Friends have said, that the Government will learn the lesson from this; that they will learn that there comes a time in the life of all nations that are denied independence, when, by methods of peaceful persuasion, they cannot get what they are entitled to—and what we say everyone else should have—they will automatically be compelled to take the road of violence to that end.

If we learn the lesson, the lives that have been lost will not have been lost in vain, but if we do not learn the lesson then, as sure as night follows day, there will be similar experiences with a similar waste of life, and with the end chapter exactly the same. History is merely repeating itself. If we start from the American colonies, if we come down from 1775 to 1960, the story is always the same. In the end, we concede to violence what we would not grant to reason.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.