HL Deb 28 November 1956 vol 200 cc638-40

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 the scope and purpose of the new. Press decree of the Government of Cyprus, for what reason it has been introduced at the present time, and whether the Cyprus Mail and the Times of Cyprus are correct in supposing that it is now an offence to criticise any action or decision of the Government of Cyprus.]


My Lords, the new Regulations, which are based on earlier Emergency Regulations in Malaya, are, in substance, a variation of the power that already exists under Cyprus Emergency Regulation No. 41 for the Governor to make Orders to prevent or restrict the publication in Cyprus of matters prejudicial to public safety. They have been introduced following upon a spate of general, and usually anonymous, complaints and allegations in the local Press against the Security Forces which have had the effect of worsening the relations between the Security Forces and the civil population and of hampering the prosecution of the emergency. As a result, the Governor decided, and my right honourable friend agreed, that a stricter control of publication was essential if relations between the civil population and the Security Forces were not to deteriorate, to the detriment of the campaign against terrorism.

The new Regulations empower the Governor by Order to prohibit the sale and circulation of any publication if, by reason of matter contained in it, its sale and circulation would be prejudicial to the successful prosecution of measures taken to forward the termination of the state of emergency, or if the publication contains incitement to violence or contains matter likely to promote hostility between different classes of the population. There is provision for appeal to a new Advisory Committee, under judicial chairmanship.

The answer to the last part of the noble Earl's Question is, No.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply, and I am sure that he is as anxious as any of us not to interfere in any way with the freedom of responsible newspapers in Cyprus. May I ask him these supplementary questions. Would it not be more satisfactory to deal with allegations in the Press against the behaviour of our troops by inquiring into these allegations and publishing denials, if the facts alleged prove untrue? Secondly, in the case of anonymous allegations, to which the noble Lord refers, could not these be dealt with by making it an offence to publish such allegations in the Press and imposing a heavy fine as a penalty? Thirdly, are not the powers taken by the Government of Cyprus for this very limited purpose, that of preventing the publication of this type of matter, far wider than is strictly necessary? And does not the penalty of suppressing a newspaper go unnecessarily far as a deterrent?


My Lords, may I deal with the noble Earl's points in order? There is, of course, investigation into all these allegations. The reason why the Governor has decided that it was necessary to take some further action was because in nearly all these cases the allegations have proved to be either entirely untrue or grossly exaggerated; and, considering the difficulties and unpleasant tasks that our troops have in Cyprus, he considers—and I entirely agree—that it is monstrous that our troops should be subjected to this kind of slander. I believe that your Lordships would agree entirely that that kind of thing ought to be stopped.

With regard to the second supplementary question of the noble Earl, may I say that, as I think I said in my original Answer, there is already an Emergency Regulation, No. 41, which gives wider powers to the Governor than are taken here. This is a purely legal matter, because I understand that it is easier, when trying to deal with one type of offence, to deal with it under Regulations which are more precise in their purpose. In point of fact, the Regulations which have now been made are certainly no wider than the original broad Regulations, but arc designed to deal with this particular matter. I do not believe that just publishing denials is a satisfactory method of combating this kind of thing. It is, of course, inevitable that any Regulations depend to some extent on the manner in which they are interpreted. I can assure the noble Earl that there is no reason to suppose that the Governor will use these new Regulations in any way differently from the way in which he could have used the powers already existing under Emergency Regulation No. 41.