HL Deb 12 July 1956 vol 198 cc1029-32

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was good enough to ask me a Private Notice Question with regard to the question of Cyprus. I am now in a position to make a statement which is also being made in another place by my right honourable friend, the Prime Minister. It is as follows.

In order that the House may be able to form a true judgment of the situation which has been reached regarding Cyprus, it is, I think, desirable that I should remind noble Lords of the recent history of this problem. As the House will remember, in September, 1955, Her Majesty's Government held a Tripartite Conference with the Greek and Turkish Governments. The chief purpose of this conference was to discover whether a way could be found to reconcile the differences dividing the Governments concerned on the question of Cyprus. The Governments proved unable to agree at that time on a common policy. Her Majesty's Government then decided to try to make progress towards a solution by means of discussions on the island itself between the Governor of Cyprus and Archbishop Makarios. These discussions lasted several months but, for reasons which have previously been debated in this House, they broke down.

Her Majesty's Government then decided to make another approach to this most intractable question on the international level. The principle of self-determination had been accepted by Her Majesty's Government. The problem was therefore whether a solution regarding its application could be devised which would provide fully for the protection, not only of our own interests in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, but also of those of Turkey and of other countries to whom we have treaty obligations. Unfortunately, this has not yet been found possible. It has become plain that steps to create conditions which might lead to the application of self-determination for Cyprus would raise far wider issues for our Turkish allies as parties to the Lausanne Treaty settlement.

The House will readily understand the risks which would be involved if Her Majesty's Government were to attempt unilaterally to take such steps. As it has proved impossible to obtain international agreement in this matter, which so clearly contains the seeds of grave danger to the whole future of the Eastern Mediterranean, Her Majesty's Government have to accept that for the present progress by this means cannot be realised.

But certain steps can be taken within the Island itself. Her Majesty's Government therefore intend to proceed with the development of internal self-government in Cyprus. For this purpose, they have decided to ask Lord Radcliffe to start work forthwith as Constitutional Commissioner. It will be his task to consider the framework of a new liberal Constitution for Cyprus, including safeguards for the interests of all communities, and to make recommendations. He will be leaving tomorrow for a preliminary visit to Cyprus. Her Majesty's Government intend, on his return, to draw up detailed terms of reference. The new Constitution will not, however, be put into effect until terrorism has been overcome and law and order has been restored. The rate of progress in this constitutional development must, of course, depend on the extent of the co-operation of the people of Cyprus.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Marquess for making this statement which has been made in another place by the Prime Minister. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, is to make what is called a preliminary visit to Cyprus, and that terms of reference will not be prepared for his work as a Constitutional Commissioner until after his return. What I am immediately interested in is whom the noble Lord is going to see. What is the preliminary visit? Is it in order to have preliminary talks with the Cypriots, the Turks, or with whom, and representative of whom?


I suppose the first purpose of the visit of the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, is to see the Island for himself and the conditions there, without knowledge of which no settlement could possibly be arranged. He will then, of course, talk to the Governor, their official representatives, and with other representatives who are willing to talk with him. He will, in that way, get a preliminary view of the situation and the problem, in a way which he could not do without this preliminary examination of it.


My Lords, I welcome the statement of the noble Marquess, which I am sure is pleasing to everyone in your Lordships' House. As we are having a debate on this subject on July 25, I think it would be improper to try and go into any real detail now. We are relieved that at last the Government are sending a man of law, as they might have sent a man of diplomacy, and have not chosen to send our top soldier, whose life's work is to know about killing. I am making no reflection upon the Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff, who are able men in every way, but I think from the Cypriot's point of view the present appointment will be very welcome indeed.