§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. James Ramsden)
Following the outbreak of violence in Cyprus last month, the Government of Cyprus accepted an offer by the British, Greek and Turkish Governments to assist in its efforts to secure the preservation of the cease fire and the restoration of peace.
Since Christmas the 1st Battalion the Gloucestershire Regiment, the 3rd Green Jackets, 33 Field Squadron Royal Engineers and a squadron of the 14/20 Hussars, together with elements of the Strategic Reserve from this country, have been engaged in a wide range of tasks: these include the exchange of refugees; taking over road blocks and restoring normal traffic; providing survival rations for villages cut off from normal supplies; evacuating casualties; and restoring communications.
I think that we can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved, and I believe that the people of Cyprus have welcomed the presence of British soldiers.
§ Mr. Paget
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that they have had every reason to welcome that presence, and for that not only the people of Cyprus but I think the people of this country and of all the N.A.T.O. countries have equal grounds for being grateful? Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us, however, whether the R.A.F. patrols have been equally engaged on these duties and whether in fact naval patrols have also been engaged and whether this form of urban support to the civil power is something which can be done by the three Services?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and so will the soldiers be, for the remarks in the first part of his supplementary question. He asked me about the use 198 of British soldiers, which is within my responsibility, so that was what I gave him in the Answer. It is, of course, true—I welcome the opportunity of saying this—that, Cyprusbeing principally a Royal Air Force base and the Air Officer Commanding in Chief being in overall charge, the Royal Air Force has been involved and the Royal Air Force Regiment has played its part in the truce force beside the soldiers of the British Army. I am not aware of any participation by the Navy.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the cost of these operations is to fall on the shoulders of the British taxpayer, or are the Cyprus, Government, who, presumably, are using our soldiers in fact as policemen, being asked to pay any of the cost?
§ Mr. Driberg
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether, when troops are sent to Cyprus who have not been there before, they are given any briefing on the background to the troubles in which they are helping to keep the peace? If so, is that left to individual commanding officers, or is general guidance given by the War Office or any other Department? If the latter, will he put that guidance in the Library?
§ Mr. Ramsden
I am not aware of anything I could make available to hon. Members in the Library. It is the normal duty of commanding officers—and we do everything to help them to be in a position to discharge it—fully to brief their troops on any background to any operation or exercise in which they are engaged.