HL Deb 06 April 1955 vol 192 cc319-21

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can make a statement about recent violence in Cyprus, and how they propose to prevent its recurrence.]


My Lords, in the early hours of last Friday, attacks were made simultaneously, with explosives, on a number of public buildings and installations in the principal towns in Cyprus. The most serious of these was an attack on the Cyprus Broadcasting Station, near Nicosia, when four masked men overpowered the night watchmen, and then exploded dynamite under the wall of the building, causing much damage and setting it on fire. At about the same time, a number of explosions causing minor damage occurred at the Government Secretariat offices, at the Education Department, and at the Wolseley Barracks in Nicosia; and in Larnaca and Limassol explosions occurred at police stations. An attempt to dynamite an ordnance depôt at Famagusta was foiled by the guards, and an attempt to set fire to a petrol depôt at Dhekelia was similarly unsuccessful. Some damage was caused to an electric generator at the cantonment at Episkopi.

On the four following nights, there were attacks by bombs or grenades on houses occupied by Service personnel in Nicosia and Limassol, and on a bus operated by a company which is under contract to Service Departments. Some damage was caused, and a police constable and the wife of an army officer were slightly injured.

There has been no loss of life from these incidents, although the body of a man was found electrocuted near an electric power line in circumstances which suggest that he was attempting to sabotage the line. The damage to Cyprus Government property from the first night's incidents is estimated to be about £56,000, most of which was to the broadcasting equipment. Twenty-one arrests have been made; and a dump of sabotage material has been discovered by the police. Cyclostyled pamphlets by a body calling itself the National Organisation of Cyprus Struggle have been found at various places where incidents occurred, and other supplies of these pamphlets have been seized from suspected persons. A form of oath administered by this group to students has come into the possession of the police.

Measures taken by the Cyprus Government include the provision of mobile police patrols in the towns at night, the mounting of military guards at a number of points, road and traffic checks by the police, the increased use of special constabulary, and the increase of protective staff at certain installations.

I am sure that your Lordships will join with me in expressing the strongest condemnation of these wicked and malicious activities by a group of criminals who have attempted to disrupt in this way public order in Cyprus. It is indeed fortunate that no loss of life has occurred. The Turkish community of Cyprus has condemned these acts of violence; so too have Communist leaders. It is to be hoped that the Archbishop and other leaders of the Greek community in Cyprus will add their voices to those who condemn these acts, for I cannot but believe that the vast majority of people in Cyprus view them with detestation.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for his detailed reply. I am sure we all share his confidence in the firm measures taken by the Administration against these inexcusable acts of violence. May I ask the noble Lord whether he does not agree that, so long as there is no constitutional outlet for Cypriot nationalism, the risk of violence and incitement to violence will continue and the situation may get worse? Will the Government, therefore, not make a fresh effort to secure the co-operation of Cypriots in the government of the island?


My Lords, the Government's policy in this matter was made clear as recently as February 2 last in your Lordships' House when I told your Lordships that the offer of a constitution was open to all men of good will in Cyprus. That offer still remains, and every effort is being made to persuade people to come forward and take it up.


My Lords, remembering the endeavours which this country made, out of our very slender resources, to assist Greece at a most critical time of the war, I hope the Government have conveyed to the Greek Government in no uncertain terms the deep feelings of the people of this country, who want to be on good terms with Greece, at the type and tone of the broadcasts which have been made from Greece to Cyprus.


My Lords, such representations have in fact been made, and I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a piece of news which appeared in the Manchester Guardian (I have not as yet had an opportunity of checking its accuracy: this is the only paper available to us at the moment) in which the Greek Government, I think the day before yesterday, dismissed the Government official responsible for broadcasts to Cyprus. I hope that that information will be welcomed by your Lordships.