HL Deb 27 February 1957 vol 202 cc78-118

3.2 p.m.

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL rose to draw attention to the urgent need for a fresh initiative by Her Majesty's Government for a settlement in Cyprus based on the constitutional proposals of Lord Radcliffe, a reassessment of the strategic value of the Island, and a long-term policy acceptable to Cypriot opinion; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I should like to start by asking the noble Earl, Lord Home, a question. Can he say whether the Government have examined the three Emergency Regulations in Cyprus which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, when he was at the Colonial Office, gave an undertaking would be reviewed in the light of comments made in this House last December? The noble Earl will know the Regulations to which I refer. I should be obliged if he could include some comment on these matters in his reply at the end of the debate.

Our debate on Cyprus this afternoon coincides with the discussion of this problem which began last week at the United Nations, and to-day all I should like to do in my few remarks is to add my plea to that being put to the Government at this time by world opinion to make a fresh effort to break the deadlock in Cyprus by resuming negotiations for a settlement. Let us make one further attempt to get back on to the path of conciliation and reconciliation, and to leave the path of coercion and repression. For a negotiated settlement in Cyprus is the only alternative to an indefinite continuation, however successful the security forces may be outside the towns, of murder and intimidation on the Island, and to a coercive régime that is turning the people of Cyprus against us and which enables the critics of British colonialism all over the world to say that the support we give to freedom and self-government in other countries is just another example of British hypocrisy.

That is the sort of propaganda—and it is deadly propaganda—that is being employed against us in the United States of America. I have in my hand a pamphlet that is being circulated there. On the outside is written: This is for you and your friends. It goes on to draw a parallel between the struggle for independence against George III in the United States at the end of the Eighteenth Century with the struggle of Cyprus for independence against the present rulers of this country. This pamphlet ends in this way: Do not forget that you were once forced into rebellion. Whatever we may think of this obviously crude propaganda, it carries tremendous weight in the United States. I remember that, when I was there before the war, the main grievances against this country were Palestine and India. Now, India and Palestine are both free. But Cyprus is not free, and Cyprus is being used against us in the United States in the way that Palestine and India were used in the days before they achieved their independence. I am one of those—and I know that many noble Lords will agree with me—who believe that our friendship with the United States is more important than friendship with any other country in the world outside the Commonwealth.

I had hoped, I must confess, that the change of Government last month would lead to a change in policy towards Cyprus. But this hope was dashed by the debate that took place last Tuesday in another place. There was really nothing new in the ministerial speeches that were made in the course of that debate. The present Government are, I think, following exactly the same path as their predecessors. I would ask noble Lords to consider seriously whether there is any justification for clinging to a policy that has clearly failed to achieve what we are all, irrespective of Party—because I think our aims in Cyprus are common to all Parties—trying to bring about. I appeal to the Government, therefore, to think again and to come forward with a fresh policy that will give a real chance of a new deal for Cyprus. It would surely be a splendid thing for peace and security in the Western World if the Prime Minister could go to Bermuda next month with a plan for Cyprus in his pocket.

I do not want to be a mere carping critic of the policy that the Government have pursued, so unsuccessfully, in my view, since the disastrous decision to deport Archbishop Makarios last year. For my part, I am always sorry when a Colony becomes involved in Party strife. I think that anyone who has been at the Colonial Office is bound to recognise the immense advantage of continuity in colonial policy. It would be a great misfortune if Cyprus had to wait for the next Labour Government for a reversal of the policy, with the risk that a Labour policy will be reversed when that Government conies to an end. Fresh thinking and a fresh policy are needed now, if we are to restore the traditional continuity in the handling of our colonial affairs. As I said, I do not want to be merely negative; I think it is the wrong line always, and particularly the wrong line in your Lordships' House. For that reason, I should like to offer a few suggestions about the broad lines on which I believe that a settlement in Cyprus should be sought, and along which, if they are taken, there is at any rate a reasonable chance of a settlement.

I believe there are two simple and essential requirements for a political settlement: first an agreement about the constitutional proposals made in Lord Radcliffe's Report; and secondly, an agreement about self-determination. Those, I believe, are the two essential and fundamental deciderata. I should like to examine the conditions under which there will be a reasonable chance of agreement on both these deciderata. First of all, I feel—and I hope that this will be recognised elsewhere—that the Radcliffe proposals represent a workmanlike interim Constitution for Cyprus. This Constitution is genuinely liberal and democratic (on this I agree with the Government) because it is based on adult franchise (women, I was glad to observe in the Radcliffe proposals, will have the vote in Cyprus for the first time), and also because it will give Cyprus complete control over their domestic affairs, apart from internal security which is so closely linked with order and defence. It also offers Greek Cypriots something for which they have been asking for a long time, and something that was not granted in the discussions with Archbishop Makarios in the spring of last year; that is, an elected majority in the Legislative Assembly.

This system of diarchy which has been proposed for Cyprus has, in the past, been accepted, and freely accepted, as a stepping-stone to full self-government in other parts of our dependent territories. A system of diarchy worked for many years in Malta, and before that, after the First World War, in the Provinces of British India. Always there is the stepping-stone to a fuller measure of self-government. So there is no reason, on the face of it, and looking back at our past experience, to suppose that it should not work equally satisfactorily in Cyprus. But there is one essential condition without which the path of diarchy has never run smoothly: its transitional character must be recognised by both partners. That, I think, is another reason for the necessity of agreement about the final goal, the goal towards which we and Cyprus will be working—namely self-determination.

What surprises me about the Government's attitude to these proposals of Lord Radcliffe is that they do not appear to realise—or, at any rate, if they do, it does not seem to emerge front their actions—that a paper Constitution is utterly worthless unless it is accepted by opinion in Cyprus. It is impossible to impose a democratic Constitution—that would be a contradictio in adjecto. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he can say what the Government will do if they fail to get the agreement of both communities, Turkish and Greek, in Cyprus, because if the Government do mean to impose the Radcliffe Constitution, it will mean that the Constitution is something entirely different; it will not be a democratic Constitution at all, but something quite different from what Lord Radcliffe had in mind. I was startled to find that the Secretary of State said in another place last week that he is already drafting constitutional instruments. I should have thought that was highly premature unless, of course—and this I am Kill hoping for—it betokens a radical change of policy. I wonder whether the Government agree. I think that most people, looking at the facts in an objective way, would agree that the prospect of the acceptance of the Radcliffe Constitution in Cyprus is at the present moment, most unfortunately, highly remote. The Greek Government has rejected it. E.O.K.A., of course, is naturally against it; it would do them out of a job. Archbishop Makarios has refused to comment, and even the Turks have riot, as vet, openly agreed to it. These are the facts, and they cannot he disputed.

In spite of all these setbacks, there is still one hope—though I fear only one hope—of a favourable verdict on this interim Constitution. There is little doubt that most Cypriots would accept it if it had the backing of Archbishop Makarios. Whatever views we here may hold about the Archbishop, there can be no doubt at all that he is more than ever the national leader in Cyprus. Without his endorsement and his approval, no agreement will carry with it the people of Cyprus. If, as I believe to be the case, the Archbishop is still the key figure, we must establish those conditions that will bring him to the point of negotiation. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary, speaking last week in another place, said that the Archbishop, when questioned in the Seychelles by the officials sent there to see him, replied, in answer to a question about the original Constitution—I am quoting from the Minister's words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 565 (No. 55), col. 246]—that he was not under present conditions disposed to discuss any question relative to The future of Cyprus. I should be much obliged, and I think it would be interesting to the House, if the noble Earl, Lord Home, could clarify the Archbishop's reference to "present conditions". What exactly did he mean by "under present conditions". Did the Archbishop give any specific reasons for his refusal, under present conditions, to discuss or comment upon the Radcliffe proposals?

It appears to me that there have been few graver blunders in the Government's handling of Cyprus than their attitude to the Archbishop. The trouble with their present attitude is that, to borrow a word from the vocabulary of psychology, it is ambivalent. They send officials to the Seychelles to explain the proposals and to invite the Archbishop's views. At the very moment these friendly overtures are going on, they still hold him in prison and publicly denounce him as a traitor and as an instigator of terrorism. It is impossible to have it both ways. The Government should by now have made up (heir minds whether they want to negotiate with the Archbishop or to put him on trial, like the other terrorists, as a terrorist leader. I cannot conceive how we can expect the Archbishop to talk unless he is released front prison, and released unconditionally. This would not prevent us, of course, from preventing his return to Cyprus for the time being. Once he has been released, but not before, it makes sense to ask him to discuss the future of Cyprus, and to appeal for a cease-fire while the talks are going on. But to insist, as the Government are doing, on the appeal for a cease-fire as a precondition of release, seems to me to make absolute nonsense. Such an appeal would be easily discredited by E.O.K.A., because they would say that it was made under duress. But if the appeal to stop violence went out from the Archbishop, with a statement that discussions would start with Her Majesty's Government, there is every reason to suppose that we should then get peace in Cyprus.

Your Lordships will remember that it was in the hope of discussions about a settlement with Her Majesty's Government only last August, that E.O.K.A. ordered a cease-fire. That was the purpose then, and there is no reason to suppose that the same circumstances would not recur. If the first condition we must establish to reach the point where negotiations can start is the release of the Archbishop, the second is that the Radcliffe Constitution should be regarded by the Government as a negotiable instrument and not as Holy Writ. The framing of a Constitution, a matter with which many of us, on both sides of this House, have been concerned at one time or another, is always a matter of give-and-take between the experts who draft it and the ordinary people and their representatives who have to work it. There must be a workable Constitution as well as a Constitution which is theoretically correct. I hope that the Government will change their attitude about this matter, and will be willing to modify the Radcliffe proposals to meet the views of both the Greek and the Turkish communities in Cyprus.

It will obviously be more difficult at the present time for the Archbishop to induce his followers to accept the compromise of an interim Constitution instead of immediate self-determination. With every day that passes, there is naturally more bitterness in Cyprus, and it becomes more difficult to get agreement. There is one thing we could do, as an incentive for the acceptance of this gradual approach to full independence: we could promise an amnesty for all political offenders, if and when agreement is reached, and a progressive relaxation of security restrictions. An undertaking of this kind, would, I am sure, do more than anything else to guarantee the success of any negotiations that may be started.

I would pass on for a few moments to the second requirement for a settlement: agreement about the final goal, self-determination. I have already said why I do not think this issue can be burked; why I do not think it is possible to separate and divorce interim Constitution from self-determination. Because, however much some of us might like to do so, we cannot ignore the obvious fact that self-determination is the thing that matters most to the great majority of thinking Cypriots. Everyone, fortunately, in all Parties, agrees about the principle. That is now accepted. But the timing of self-determination and the method of its application in Cyprus are matters which are still either extremely obscure or highly contentious. Looked at from the Cypriot point of view, the timing of self-determination—whether it is to come quickly or after a very long time—and the conditions that have to be satisfied before this self-determination will take place are matters of the utmost importance. It is quite clear that Cypriots will not be content with the present situation. They will not be satisfied that self-determination should take place in the indefinite future, at a time that we the British Government, consider appropriate in the light of our strategic requirements and the international situation, particularly, of course, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. We must be more precise than that about self-determination.

Our main difficulty about decision in the past has been the linking of sovereignty with strategy. We have said that British rule is indispensable for a British base. What I would venture to suggest is that events since Suez have shown that Cyprus is a steadily diminishing asset as a British base. I believe that the time will come in due course, and not in the very distant future, when British interests and commitments will be better looked after by us as a partner in the N.A.T.O. Alliance, sharing with other countries the naval and air bases that Cyprus will always have, whether or not there is any change in sovereignty. I will not repeat this afternoon the arguments that have been used so often in the last few weeks to support the view that the strategic value of Cyprus has diminished and is diminishing. It is common knowledge to all of us that Cyprus is costing us more than ever before in men and money, while our commitments in the Middle East are being steadily reduced at the request of the Arab countries.

I am not, and do not profess to be, a strategist. I know very little about strategy, and no doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong by many noble Lords who know a great deal more; so in a difficulty of this kind I like to consult the views of experts. I should like to quote one very great expert on strategy, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, who published a letter in a Sunday newspaper just over two months ago, since Suez. In the course of his letter, there appeared the following sentence: Unless I, as a soldier, am grossly at fault in my estimate of the value of Cyprus as a military base, I would say that it has none, or practically none, of the requisites of an efficient base…. In those circumstances, if British sovereignty is no longer essential for the use of Cyprus as a British base, I believe that we should be willing to fix a date for self-determination by agreement with the Ministers in a representative Cypriot Government; or, failing agreement, to go to arbitration by the International Court of Justice or some other body agreed by both sides. This would give the Cypriots something far more definite, far more certain and far more satisfactory than anything that has been offered up to now.

So far as the method of choice of the application of self-determination is concerned, the Government have now declared themselves, in a recent declaration of policy, in favour of self-determination for both communities, Turkish and Greek, in Cyprus. This would inevitably result in partition. That would be the logical consequence of this particular method of self-determination. I am not going to weary your Lordships with arguments, which are already very familiar, about the merits and demerits of partition. I would only point out—and this applies generally—that any method of choice which is totally unacceptable to the majority of the population, to the largest community in Cyprus, would certainly result in a long period of unrest and bitter communal strife after we have gone. It is our responsibility, the responsibility of this country. We cannot contemplate with equanimity the thought of leaving Cyprus plunged into unrest and civil strife. But, of course, partition is only one possible choice—and again I am sure the Government will agree. There are other possible choices, such as independence, or Enosis; and these are all choices which the Cypriots will ultimately have to decide for themselves. I suggest that this vital matter should be left open until a new, representative, elected Cypriot Government, in which of course both Turks and Greeks are represented, is firmly in the saddle.

What I very much hope is that the Turkish minority will then find, after this interim Constitution has got going, that it is amply protected by the safeguards in the Radcliffe Constitution. I do not know of any Constitution in the world that provides more elaborate safeguards for minorities—and, of course, there are safeguards of this kind in other Commonwealth Constitutions, as in the case of Ceylon and India—than those proposed by Lord Radcliffe for the Turkish minority in Cyprus. There is every prospect that the Turks would feel, after the Constitution had been working smoothly for a year or two, that they had nothing to fear from their Greek-speaking neighbours. After all, we must remember that these two communities lived contentedly together for many years. It was not until violence began two years ago that the Greeks and the Turks began to engage in mutual recrimination and violence. They had been living together in Cyprus, in Turkey and in Greece, in a friendly way for a very long time; and surely there is no reason to suppose that that may not happen again, given the right conditions in the future. I hope that the suggestions I have ventured to make about the broad lines of a negotiated settlement in Cyprus will convince the Government that a settlement is not beyond their reach, and that it is worth trying out ideas that have not been tried out up to now.

Before I sit down, there are three other matters of some importance, though of course of less importance than these broad issues of policy, to which I should like to refer. There is one matter that has been, very properly, attracting a good deal of public attention in the past fortnight, and that is the allegations of brutality and ill-treatment towards persons detained by the police or the Army in Cyprus. Statements and reports of this kind inevitably do a great deal of harm, especially when they are circulated as atrocity stories in Greece or Cyprus. They can be used as very effective propaganda against us. They also damage the reputation of the security forces, and spread fear and resentment among ordinary people in Cyprus. It was therefore essential that that matter should be dealt with and, if possible, scotched as quickly as possible.

I am sure the Government will agree that it is absolutely vital that an official investigation of the facts contained in these allegations should be made and published at the earliest possible moment, in order to satisfy those who have heard the other side of the story that the facts are without any foundation. I was glad to note that the Secretary of State said last week in another place that the Governor had expressed his willingness to examine every case that had not been already examined and to investigate these cases with expedition and care. This is very satisfactory, so far as it goes, and of course no one would doubt the Governor's desire to preserve the good name of all who serve under him. But the appearance of fair dealing is just as important as the substance, and what does not look right is for one Government servant to investigate what another Government servant—a soldier or a policeman—has been doing. It would be far more satisfactory if such inquiries were conducted by an independent person, such as a judge or a lawyer, or even a retired senior civil servant, instead of by persons, or a person, in the employment of the Government of Cyprus. I should like to ask whether this procedure could not be considered for the future, and whether any allegations of this kind—allegations of brutality or ill-treatment—could be examined by an independent person; and whether the report that is made to the Governor—because it is just as important to have the report as it is to have the Governor's decision on the report—could be made available to the public, both here and in Cyprus.

There is one other suggestion that I should like the Government to consider. There is no Colony anywhere among our dependencies, in any part of the world, that is, unfortunately, so conspicuously in the limelight of world opinion as is Cyprus. What happens in Cyprus provides ammunition for our critics and directly affects relations between Greece and Turkey, the strength of the N.A.T.O. Alliance and the attitude towards us of our partners in United Nations. It is therefore of great importance that the Administration in Cyprus should be advised in advance about the likely effect and impact of its decisions and actions on the outside world. The Governor's advisers are drawn from the Colonial Service. No one has a greater respect for the experience and wisdom of the Colonial Service than I have, from personal experience. But, of course, this experience is derived from service in the Colonies and not from service in foreign countries. It would, therefore, I think, assist the Governor to have the services of some high-ranking diplomat, preferably somebody who has served in the Foreign Service, in the Mediterranean and possibly also in the United States and with United Nations, as an adviser on the foreign aspect of Cypriot problems.

I hope that the Government will consider this suggestion about a diplomatic adviser who might act in relation to the Government of Cyprus rather in the way that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald acted in relation to the Governments of our dependencies, particularly the Federation of Malaya and Singapore, in South-East Asia. I have the highest regard for Mr. MacDonald and great admiration for the work which he did. I do not at all share the view that was expressed by one Sunday newspaper, and I am sure that all Ministers who have any knowledge of what Mr. MacDonald has done, and is doing, will agree with me. But I think we need a Mr. MacDonald in Cyprus, and I am quite certain that the Foreign Service, with its many able and distinguished members, would be able to fill that gap.

There is one final suggestion that I should like to make. I should like the Government to consider sending to Cyprus a Parliamentary delegation—a "mission" is perhaps too pompous a phrase—representing all political Parties. I think that a Parliamentary visit would serve two valuable purposes. It would show the people of Cyprus the deep concern felt here about their trials and difficulties and our common desire to give them back as soon as possible their normal conditions of life. The longer the emergency lasts the more bitterness grows in Cyprus and the more urgent it becomes to retain what good will we have kept, and to win more good will. Such a visit would, I think, kindle the embers of good will that are still left in Cyprus, and it is this element of good will that is absolutely essential for any effective settlement.

The other purpose which I think a Parliamentary visit would serve is this. My own experience at the Colonial Office—I think the noble Earl will agree that the same thing is true of the Commonwealth—is that it is unsafe to form a judgment about the problems of territories or countries with which one is dealing without having been there, without having seen the people and without having discussed their problems on the spot. Members of this Parliament are being asked at the present time to form a judgment about opposing policies in relation to Cyprus, and they would surely be greatly helped in arriving at a sound judgment if they had some at any rate recent first-hand knowledge of the island. For instance, I think it would be most helpful if they were able to study the effects of partition on the spot.

The Parliamentary Secretary said last week in another place that he did not expect E.O.K.A. to recover from its setbacks in the last few weeks. We all greatly hope that he is right. But, surely, if there is going to be a more settled state of affairs in the island, that would be the best possible opportunity for a Parliamentary visit. May I remind your Lordships that there is a good precedent for the usefulness of such a visit to a Colony in similar conditions to those prevailing at Cyprus at present. Your Lordships will remember the Parliamentary party which went not long ago to Kenya, during the emergency there. Many of us benefited considerably from their views on their return, from reading their admirable report, and from having heard different stories. That is another suggestion which I venture to submit to the Government. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion of the noble Earl who has just spoken. As he has covered so much of the ground which I was going to deal with, I shall support him but briefly. I am conscious—as I think that noble Lords who speak on this topic at any time are conscious—of the responsibilities of tackling in open debate a subject of such delicacy and in relation to such an unhappy situation. We should like to be absolved from nagging the Government if we put forward this topic continually; we put it forward only because, unhappily, we do not see very successful results from the Government's policy, and we should like to help, if we may, by occasionally suggesting something which may bring some different aspect or facet to the position and may assist in the ultimate solution.

I would ask the Government a question which I think is in the minds of many of us. Must their plan of action be quite so inflexible? It has been the same plan for a long time—for many months, and perhaps longer—and we must assume that it has not been, I was going to say "wholly successful"; it has hardly been successful, although it is progressing. That is a sobering thought when we think that, on the one hand, we have all the resources of the Commonwealth, and, on the other hand, these unfortunate, miserable insurgents, most of whom, I am sure, would like to see an end of this beastly business. Must we go on insisting on total surrender in every way, without any face-saving of which they can take advantage? Face-saving is very important in all aspects of politics, particularly in Colonial and foreign affairs. Are we to go on with this inflexible military attack upon these unfortunate people without giving them a chance of face-saving? If so, are we not making things worse rather than better?

We have, I think probably necessarily but unhappily, taken a military assessment of this situation. But there are two sides to this matter, and I doubt very much whether, looked at from the other side, that of our opponents, their aspect is purely military at all. As we know, they are fighting with their backs to the wall, and not for the love of fighting. But I, and I think others, feel that there are vague signs—we have not, of course, the information which the Government have—that there are new moderate elements in that unhappy island, and that many of those who are doing these dreadful things under the leadership of these desperadoes, are not at all happy to be so doing. Have we really explored the possibilities of contact with such new moderate elements that may arise and surely would naturally be arising by now? We are in fact going rather from bad to worse, if not in the military position at least from the moral angle of human relationships; and these killings and other dreadful things which are going on week by week surely make the whole position almost daily less soluble than ever.

Much as I believe we all deplore, dislike or condemn the activities of Archbishop Makarios, he remains, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel explained, the spokesman of the other side. When you parley with the enemy—and I do not think I am putting it too high to refer to them as at least not friendly—you cannot choose the constitution of the delegation which comes to meet you. In the times of the French Wars, if we had thought fit to parley with the French we should surely not have made a stipulation that Buonaparte should not be a member of their delegation; and even in the last war, if, for some reason, we had wanted to discuss with Germany possible terms for a peace—I do not say by giving anything away—we should probably have had to face the fact that Hitler would have been the spokesman on the other side.

We have therefore to face the fact that their spokesman is the man with whom we must have discussions, and there are in this country genuinely sincere people, who know a lot about this subject and who deplore this terrorism, who maintain that Archbishop Makarios is not in control of these terrorists. I do not think that there is any doubt that he is in contact with them, but it is maintained that he is not in control. If he is in contact, surely that is an advantage rather than a disadvantage, for there, at least, is a plain and obvious channel through which we may work.

The chief, in fact the only, point I wish to make is: must we insist that the Archbishop should denounce all violence before we take part in any discussions? I suggest that we should look at it in a different way and should say to these islanders that if and when violence ceases, we will discuss matters with the Archbishop. I hope the noble Earl may be able to agree with me in that. Last week in another place the matter was under discussion, as your Lordships will know, and was treated in a very diplomatic and responsible way, as naturally it would be, particularly at that moment when, as your Lordships will be aware, the matter was also under discussion at the United Nations Assembly. Now the United Nations Assembly discussion is over. The Assembly urges negotiation between the parties to this dispute. Can we not now indicate that we do not seek a crushing military victory before we will even talk to these people?

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, on this question I want to put the other point of view: that the work that is being done by the Governor and our officers in Cyprus has been exceedingly difficult and a matter of great delicacy, and I am quite sure that nothing said in this House or another place ought to lead to making the difficulties of the officers and men who are serving in Cyprus more difficult than they are to-day. Noble Lords probably realise that relatives of men serving in Cyprus are in continual anxiety, and there is no doubt that there is, in everybody's mind, the nasty feeling that if a man who is called up for National Service is killed in action in a civil dispute, that is some-think quite different from death in fighting a declared enemy.

I feel it is very important at this juncture that we should support the Governor and his policy which is very near success. I believe that there is now a real change, and any suggestion of giving way at this moment will affect adversely the whole policy that we have pursued for eighteen months or two years. I should like to support the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in what he says about the Constitution. I imagine that no Constitution has been drafted with greater care to protect minorities, and I believe that this House and Parliament are in great debt to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Radcliffe, for the trouble he has taken over it.

There is, however, one matter which those of us who have been in Cyprus in the past must always remember: that when we knew the island years ago it was Turkish. It was not Greek. I, for one, cannot forget that, and I have the happiest recollections of alliances with the Turks. They and their Government can be trusted, and I am afraid one cannot say quite the same about the Greeks. One's experience of the Greeks is that politically they are very volatile; and the Baghdad Pact and other things which we have in mind do give one a bias to consider what is the Turkish position. I believe that that must not he left out of account in any debate on Cyprus.

There is a far more important matter with which the noble Lord did not deal and which I believe is fundamental to any consideration of Cyprus: the question of whether the Government are really going to reassess the value of Cyprus as a base. We have spent and are spending vast sums of money on married quarters, barracks, airfields and the like, and one of the astonishing things is that we have done nothing at all in making the base effective for a maritime Power. We have entirely neglected the harbour facilities, a fact that has recently been brought to the notice of everybody. In all these considerations we have to remember that no base is suitable for the Armed Forces of the Crown if it is in a hostile territory. I should have thought we learned that lesson in the Canal zone. We certainly do not want to see it repeated in Cyprus

There are, I believe, several points demanding some explanation which would be of assistance to British troops in Cyprus and to the Governor and his staff, and the first is the one I have mentioned: whether there is to be some reconsideration of the value of Cyprus as a base under modern conditions. A short time ago it fell to the Estimates Committee in the House of Commons, of which I was then a member, to go into the question of expenditure in Cyprus. The figures are available, with the reasons why it was then thought necessary to spend this large sum of money. Surely the question depends wholly on whether Cyprus is to be an island which is of first-class importance to us from the defence point of view, or whether we are considering the island merely as a territory in which there are two races, not the best of friends at the present moment, and what we are going to do to form a Constitution so that they can live together in happiness. A fact we have to remember is that these troubles started only when we began to make Cyprus a base; before that it was quite peaceful and there was no difficulty at all. Are we going back to those conditions?

What greatly impresses me in this admirable Report of the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, is paragraph 25, where it is stated as his opinion that owing to the doings of E.O.K.A. and the general trouble, there is a feeling of hostility between the two races which does not make this a suitable time to put into force any new Constitution. At any rate, I think that that is implied in what is stated at the end of paragraph 25. But surely the whole point is that it is for this country to decide what is our obligation to the people who live in Cyprus, not putting too much emphasis on the Greeks but putting emphasis on the original owners of the island, the Turks, from whom we took it at the time of the First World War and to whom we gave, at that time, definite undertakings. I knew of those conditions at that time, and I believe it would be a disgraceful thing to depart now from what we agreed on with the Turks when they gave up their sovereignty of the island. We took it because we had respect for the Turks who resided there.

I think that the Governor has had a most difficult time, and I am not aware that he has made any suggestion that it is essential that this Constitution should he put into force before his policy is carried out and we have proved that that policy is the right one. I am certain that E.O.K.A. is supported now by only a minority of the people of Cyprus—even among the Greeks. If there is any weakening at the present time it will only encourage others to go over to what they think is the winning side. We do not want to take the line of encouraging anything that will increase terrorism. I am afraid we have to recognise that, in modern days, in any part of the world, a very small minority, using modern weapons and being absolutely ruthless, can do infinite harm. I am sure that noble Lords will all agree with the noble Earl when he says that it is no business of ours to leave the island in a worse state than when we found it. Therefore, it seems to me that this is a very critical moment, and that nothing said in this debate should lower the prestige of the British Forces in Cyprus or make their task more difficult.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl who opened this debate has covered the ground so fully that there is little I need say. I should, however, like to add my appeal to the Government to take the opportunity provided by the discussion at the United Nations and by the statement recently made by the Greek Government (which I consider very encouraging) to try to set on foot negotiations for the implementing of the Radcliffe Report. It seems to me that if this moment is missed, it may be a very long time before another will come. We have no real assurance that the feeling which the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, expresses—though I fervently hope he is right—that the strength of E.O.K.A. is diminishing, is well-founded. We have no real assurance that this hideous guerrilla warfare, violence and shooting in the back will not continue almost indefinitely. We get varying reports from the Governor from time to time. Always a report that it has abated seems to be followed by fresh outbreaks.

Quite apart from the horror of the situation itself, there is no doubt that its continuance is doing great and immeasurable harm—wrongly, but it is a fact—to Britain for reasons which we well understand. It is a fact that all free Press comment in Cyprus is suppressed. The Commonwealth Press Council, presided over by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, has stated in a measured judgment that no state of emergency could justify such Draconian measures as this. People can be arrested and imprisoned without trial upon any charge made by the police; and the death penalty is mandatory, with no discretion for the judge, for a wide range of offences. A boy was arrested the other day and sentenced to death for finding a revolver, when only just before that he had found some bombs in the fields where he was a shepherd and had immediately taken them to the police. The judge told him to bear the sentence with fortitude and his subsequent imprisonment with patience, because he felt sure that the Governor would get to know the facts.

That is a terrible state of affairs in which British authority is being exercised, and I cannot but feel that all these things, coupled with these allegations—which I hope, indeed I feel almost sure, are unfounded—of cruelty to prisoners under interrogation, allegations which have not been investigated by any independent authority, can, when added together and used by the enemies of Britain, mount up and damage us in America and throughout the world, just at a time when the moral influence of this nation is needed in the world probably more than ever before. Therefore I beg the Government to take this opportunity which is presented by the United Nations debate, and by the most reasonable statement of the Greek Government, to get negotiations going about the Radcliffe Report. Surely it is not intended that this Report shall be imposed without any possibility of modification or discussion; because if that is the intention then we shall surely postpone a satisfactory settlement to the Greek kalends.

If there is to be negotiation and discussion, with whom can these discussions be held more effectively than with the Archbishop himself? As my noble friend Lord Listowel rightly said, it is impossible for him, and it would be useless for him, to make any public statement from his imprisonment, for it is certain that it would be represented in Cyprus as a statement made under duress. If we have sufficient faith in his authority and his integrity to send our own officials to discuss this Report with him in his imprisonment, surely we ought to have the courage to release him unconditionally and invite him to start negotiations on the Report. I know that this may appear to be what some people would call weakness. But I think that view would be wrong: I believe that it would show immeasurable strength. It would show moral strength in the conviction of the rightness of our position and of the excellent work which has been done by Lord Radcliffe, the results of which it would be wicked to throw away in an attempt to secure a military victory over bandits. I beg the Government to give us some hope that a new start will be made.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say how much I agree with every word which has been said by my noble friends Lord Listowel and Lord Wilmot of Selmeston. I heard with great interest the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Glyn. I understood him to say that he thought that terrorism in Cyprus was almost at an end. I only hope that the noble Lord is right. But we have been hearing that now for almost a year, if not longer, and I am afraid that it does not seem to be the case. It is now almost a year since the Archbishop was deported, and since then, I believe, 180 Cypriots, British Servicemen and policemen have been murdered. I am afraid that there has been very little diminution in the extent of terrorism.

The noble Lord, Lord Glyn, further said that he thought E.O.K.A. was supported by only a minority of the population of Cyprus. I wish I could agree with him, but conversations that I have had with friends who have been to Cyprus, people who are neither British. Greek nor Turkish, but of other nationality, do not bear out what the noble Lord has said. I think that people who are neutral find that the people in Cyprus will talk to them in a much more free way than perhaps they would to a British person. These friends of mine told me that they thought E.O.K.A. is supported very widely by the population. So I think that it is very necessary to get negotiations going at the earliest possible time.

I should like to say how much I agree with what my noble friend Lord Listowel said about the Archbishop. I believe that it was a great blunder to deport him to the middle of the Indian Ocean; but I think that, having done so, the Government would not be losing face if they would try to swallow their pride a little and bring him back, either to Malta or perhaps even to London, and start negotiations with him. It was said at the time when the Archbishop was deported that it was hoped that moderate opinion would come forward—a sincere hope, I am sure, but I cannot help thinking a somewhat naïve one, and a hope that I am afraid has not materialised, because this so-called moderate opinion has not come forward, and it has become more and more clear all through the past year that the only person with whom the Government can negotiate is the Archbishop himself. I think that it is clear that the Archbishop of the Eastern Church is not only the religious leader but also the political leader of the people, as was pointed out by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury during the debate on Cyprus in your Lordships' House last year. I hope that we shall hear to-day from the Government that they are going to make this gesture to the Archbishop. After all, it is for the stronger to make a gesture to the weaker. If the Government of the stronger country could make this gesture to the weak, small Island of Cyprus, which is in our power, I feel that the method of healing might begin.

What is the alternative? At present we are engaged in this process of ruthless suppression. As my noble friend Lord Wilmot of Selmeston has pointed out, the new Press laws are far more rigorous than even the emergency justifies. A newspaper can be shut down overnight, without any reason at all being given. The Council of the Commonwealth Press Union has complained of the rigour of these new Press laws. Then there are the allegations against the security forces, alluded to by my noble friend Lord Rea. One only hopes that they are untrue. On the other hand. I think that the article in the Manchester Guardian for February 19 last makes distressing reading. It is not enough to give a bland denial or evasion: an investigation is required. There is no smoke without fire, and all these different allegations surely add up to something.

Last year, two officers were court-martialled for doing the most hideous things to their prisoner. They were found guilty and dismissed. That is held up as a fine example of British justice, as indeed it is. But one cannot have it both ways. One cannot extol British justice and yet deny the reasons which put that justice into operation. There was the case last October of this poor barber Joannis Christoforou, who spent sixteen days in detention and was eventually released without a charge being preferred. His counsel, a distinguished Q.C., Mr. Clerides, brought a case against the security officers concerned. Photographs of the unfortunate man were produced, showing that he had been maltreated in a most brutal manner. The case, which was heard under the new laws before a single British judge, sitting without a jury, was dismissed; and shortly afterwards a new emergency regulation was promulgated forbidding anyone to institute private prosecutions against members of the security forces except with the permission of the Attorney-General.

The other day a young man was on trial for murder and, as was described in the debate in another place, the charge was dismissed by the judge because he believed that the man had been so beaten up in order to make him sign a declaration that the declaration could not be accepted. Another excellent example of British justice; but here again one cannot have it both ways. What was the reason that made the judge feel that this declaration had no value at all? It was because it must have been produced under duress. Yesterday The Times had an account of how, when a defence counsel was with his client, a prisoner, the police insisted on being present. The report says: The judge commented that it was most objectionable that a case should be brought into public court after counsel had received such treatment, and he ordered that the prisoners be removed to Nicosia central prison and that their counsel be given every facility to receive their instructions. It seems to me something that calls for grave disquiet if a policeman should be present when defence counsel is taking evidence from a prisoner.

What sort of State is this? Is it a police State? Is it a State like that set up by Nazi Germany, or a State which is trying to copy the methods of Soviet Russia? I think that there is a very great need for the Government to investigate these allegations. There may be nothing in them—one hopes there is not; but they all seem to add up to something. If there is nothing in them, then a commission could clear the name of the security forces; and if there is something in them, then something might be done to see that our whole methods of security are overhauled. If these allegations are true, this kind of treatment must surely result in a greater and greater number of Cypriots flocking to the banner of E.O.K.A. and a greater and greater reluctance to accept a new Constitution, or even to remain in the Commonwealth.

So I hope the Government will appoint a Commission at this time which will make an impartial investigation into these allegations that are causing the gravest disquiet. Surely this kind of Government that we have set up in Cyprus cannot go on indefinitely in this way. There seem to be these beatings of youths, roundings-up, interrogations, brutalities in prison, and the hanging of people for actions which here would not be punishable by death, if we have done anything in Cyprus, we have erected a gallows tree as a symbol—that seems now to be the symbol of that unhappy Island—from which hangs the martyred corpse of Cypriot youth. But as Baudelaire described in his poem Voyage to Cytherea, as we approach nearer, we find the corpse that hangs from that gallows is in our own image, the image of our own guilt and shame.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, I had not meant to intervene in this debate, but there are some things that have been said in the course of it which make it impossible for me, as an old Secretary of State, to be completely silent; and, in any case, I always like to pay the noble Earl who opened the debate with a characteristically moderate speech the compliment, if I can, of following him, even though I do not completely agree with him. In that speech he said that there were a number of desiderata which he thought were necessary to a solution of this unhappy Cypriot problem. I would say that the first and overriding desideratum is the suppression of terrorism and the restoration of law and order. I am sure that without that it is impossible for the people of Cyprus to dare to say what their intentions or their wishes are.

I do not pretend to have first-hand, knowledge of Cyprus as it is to-day, though in the past, when I was responsible for the island, I knew it very well. But I do not believe that the character of a people changes a great deal, and in the days when I knew them, as others have said, though taking different views on this subject to-day, Greek-speaking Cypriots and Turks were living in complete harmony. I admit, frankly, that when I was responsible I had to deal with some discordant bishops, and I certainly do not stand in a white sheet for deporting several of them. Not a dog barked at their going, and the people of Cyprus settled down to what they really wanted, which was peace and quiet to cultivate their crops—and to get rid of the moneylender, which, incidentally, we did—and develop the country, which, under British rule, with Greek-speaking Cypriot and Turkish co-operation, became so prosperous that 100,000 Greeks have come from the Greek mainland and the Greek islands to settle in Cyprus. I am certain that unless law and order is restored these people will not dare to speak their minds.

The moderate people—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that there are these people, and they show signs of coming forward now—cannot really come forward to take the place they ought to have without a peaceful country in which to live. I have no inside information from the Government; I read only what is reported in the newspapers and, as other noble Lords do, see and speak to people who have been in Cyprus; but I must say that all the accounts that I get and read are diametrically opposed to what was said by the last speaker—a very odd speech, I thought, in some respects—that we are not making any headway. On the contrary, I believe that great headway is being made, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Glyn is right about that. The Government will correct me if I am wrong—because, after all, they have the information, and they will, I am sure, give it to the House—but I understand that information is more and more corning forward which enables the forces of law and order to proceed with increasing success. I am sure that to establish law and order is the first desideratum.

The noble Lord who spoke last is a young Member of this House, but we all treat each other with equality here and he would not ask for any other treatment. I was shocked and rather disgusted at the speech to which I have just listened. The noble Lord broadcast all sorts of charges, without a shred of evidence, against British troops and British security forces. He said that he hoped they were not true, or not wholly true. I roust say that, from the tone of his speech, his hope seemed to me to lie in an entirely different direction. He talked about ruthless repression. But not a word did he say about the atrocities committed by E.O.K.A. against British troops, British security forces and British civilians, and in numbers of cases against Greek-speaking Cypriots themselves. I would say this. One of the reasons that I felt I must get up to speak was because what is said in this House is reported in Cyprus, in Greece and in Russia.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but I was repeating what had already been fully reported in the newspapers.


I know the noble Lord was: he was spreading it, and that is what I complain about. I am not saying for a moment that he invented it. Of course, you can find all these stories: you can find plenty in Athens; and I expect you can find plenty in Pravda. I have no doubt the noble Lord can find many sources of information—or perhaps I should say of inspiration—for the kind of speech he has just delivered. We should not broadcast these things from this House; and if they are said, they should be answered by people with a sense of responsibility, and not only from the Government Front Bench.

I would say this also. Much more moderately, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said he would like to have a judicial inquiry into things of this kind. I should not at all. I will tell the House why. In Cyprus to-day there is one of the wisest and most humane men that I have ever known, as the Governor: that is, Field-Marshal Sir John Harding. I am perfectly certain that there is not a man in this House, indeed, I de not think there is a man in the English speaking world—and he is known all over the English speaking world—who does not know that if a charge had to be investigated against one of his officers Field-Marshal Sir John Harding would insist on its being thoroughly investigated; and, whatever the finding, he would carry it out. I think that should be said in fairness to Field-Marshal Sir John Harding.

There are only two other things I wish to say. The noble Earl, Lord Listawel, spoke of the base, and so did my noble friend Lord Glyn. I am certainly not going to pose as a defence expert, but I do speak with a knowledge of when the decision was taken to make such a base or headquarters. It was actually taken, I think, when the noble; Earl's Party were in office, and was carried forward by us. It was a decision taken in the light of the newest developments. It was taken in the knowledge of the hydrogen bomb, which itself revolutionised all strategy. It was taken in the knowledge that, sooner or later—and sooner probably than later—we should evacuate the Canal, and in the knowledge that the hydrogen bomb had, so to speak, put the Canal out of action and made it much less important. Therefore, though we all have respect for aged Field-Marshals, more than we have for aged elder statesmen, it is rather important to remember what the Chiefs of Staff, who had the knowledge and the responsibility, decided upon in the Labour Government's time and in ours, and which I believe they confirm to-day, and not to base oneself on the sort of a priori view expressed by Field-Marshal Auchinleck, who cannot have had anything to do with this for ten or fifteen years.

The other point is this. The noble Lord said that we must give the people of Cyprus something to look forward to. He said we ought to have a time limit, a date. I do not know what the Government's view about this matter is but, with all the experience I have had, I do not believe there is a more dangerous thing for a Government to do than to commit itself to a firm date. To say, "I will give you self-determination", or, "I will do this or that in five, ten or fifteen years", is frightfully dangerous. The moment you give a date, people say, "Why not sooner?" How can you know what the situation will be? If events make it, as they may, impossible for you to implement that undertaking, then you are in a cleft stick. You are guilty either of carrying out a fatal decision or of a breach of faith. And in Cyprus, of all places, you cannot possibly know what the conditions will be. You cannot know what the international situation will be. You cannot know, as the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, said, what the importance of this base may be in five years' time; and you cannot know what N.A.T.O. may require of us at that time. I think it would be absolutely fatal to try to promise anything in the nature of a fixed date. Although I do not suppose that the Government will be much tempted to do it, I beg them not to yield to a siren song of that kind.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, may I say that I find myself in the dilemma of disagreeing entirely with the view taken by the leaders of my Party on this matter? I base that remark not only on a certain amount of information that I have about Cyprus, which I visited on one occasion some time ago, before anything of a warlike kind had occurred, but on my practical experience of military administration in two wars, in which I did a good deal of work in weighing up the evidence on both sides. I just do not believe that people have been treated in the brutal manner suggested.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but one of the cases I mentioned was that of a court-martial where two officers were found guilty.


That is possible, but I should be glad to look into the evidence, if my noble friend can produce it. I feel that, generally speaking, it is quite impossible to believe that the British authorities would behave in that way, or that their subordinates would do so. I just simply do not believe it. I think there has been a great deal of exaggeration on the wrong side, a certain amount of hysteria, and I hope that the House will reject the suggestions that have been made to-day.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, I am really called to my feet in order to support my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, who, after all, made a perfectly reasonable speech. If the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, says that I refuse to look at any evidence which is produced—


I did not say that. I said, I did not believe it.


The noble Lord does not believe the result of a careful court-martial. The memory of most noble Lords in this House goes back to the time when we were treated to exactly the same sort of denials about the conduct of a small section of British troops in Ireland at the time of the Black and Tans. I believe the noble Earl himself was then in another place, and I am almost certain that I remember his making a similar speech. If he did not make it, certainly member after member of the Government at that time denied that any section of British Black and Tan troops in Ireland had ever done anything that was wrong. Of course, my noble friend Lord Strabolgi and others of us who are upset at some of these reports from Cyprus do not for a moment suggest that it is more than a handful of British troops who behave in that way. But it is just that handful who have to be looked after. Does the noble Lord suggest that the two sergeants who resigned only the other day from the positions in the command which they held because they were so upset by the sort of thing that was going on were just inventing these stories? At any rate, these matters ought to be looked into, and carefully examined.

I do not wish to go further into this question, but, surely, nobody can suggest that this nation is incapable of producing people who are not capable of guilty conduct of this kind. These allegations are not just made here and there, but are made in really responsible newspapers on the basis of courts-martial and on the basis of statements of men who have had long arid honourable careers in the British Army. Surely, they are deserving of investigation, and the honour of this country requires that they should be investigated. It is, in fact, dishonourable to say, "I cannot in any circumstances believe that anything of this kind can happen." That is just the sort of thing which leads us into contempt.

I really wanted to intervene to emphasise what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Glyn. I have always had a good deal of difficulty in making up my mind about the rights and wrongs of the Cyprus situation. On the face of it, there is there a people struggling for liberty and self-government. While there is no doubt a great deal in what the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has said about our bringing prosperity to the island, he, like so many other Conservatives, has difficulty in understanding that prosperity is not everything in this world to a people who want to govern themselves, and that the right to govern oneself and the right to live one's own life in freedom, and not under the tutelage of a foreign Power, is something which is prized by many people in the world far beyond material advantage arid economic prosperity. That is a thing which noble Lords like Lord Swinton find so difficult to realise, and that is the reason why there are these difficulties in British colonial territories all over the world. That was the trouble in India, until the Labour Government at last came into real power and gave the Indians the right to govern themselves.

It may well be that, in the case of a small place like Cyprus, where the happiness and liberties of only a few hundred thousand people are involved, the smaller consideration may have to give way to the greater, involving the security and happiness of other areas with larger populations. On the basis of military advice from highly competent soldiers, I have myself felt that there was a strong case for treating Cyprus perhaps rather exceptionally in this regard. Because if, indeed, the holding of Cyprus is vital to the safety of this country and its position in the world, then one might, I think, be entitled to say that the interests of the few must give way to those of the many.

The events of the last weeks have certainly shaken, and must have shaken, all those who have taken this view; they have shaken us really to the foundation. Here we had a situation which, it would appear, justified the very objective for which we have held Cyprus over these years, the very reason why we have justified the repression of the islanders, the very reason why we have perhaps put the telescope to the blind eye in regard to the many acts which have been going on of the kind described by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. All that justification just disappeared when, in connection with the invasion of Egypt last autumn, Cyprus was not, and apparently could not be, used, and the whole thing went wrong. It was the very basis on which we were told that it was essential that we should retain our position in Cyprus.

Most Members of your Lordships' House will no doubt have read a searching article by Captain Liddell Hart in last week's Observer. It was very moderately argued, setting out the facts, the incontrovertible facts, of what happened in the autumn. Surely, on the basis of this, what the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has asked for, a military re-assessment of the situation, is absolutely essential, because it is only on the basis that Cyprus is essential to the safety of the British Commonwealth of Nations that we can justify our remaining there. If, in fact, there is really nothing in this assertion that Cyprus is militarily essential to our safety, then the sooner we get out the better.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I had no intention of intervening in this debate, but in days gone by I myself have been "at the receiving end" of a debate of this nature, so I feel compelled to add a word. Certain things have been said which I feel one ought at least to take this opportunity of contradicting so that they do not go forth with the basis they might otherwise have as opinions expressed in this House. I find myself in complete agreement with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, and the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said, and I will not attempt to repeat any of that or to emphasise it, as that is not now necessary. But I should like to say, in passing, that in the course of my experiences all over the world I have had excellent opportunity of seeing how my own countrymen behave, whether they are civilians or whether they belong to the Fighting Services. The impression gathered from some instances of a dubious authenticity which have been quoted this afternoon would be, in my opinion, an entirely false one. I should like to take this opportunity of saying so, so that that statement also may be made public.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in opening the debate, with his usual moderate approach to these questions, said that he thought the time had come for an alternative policy; and, so far as I could gather, he seemed to think that the present policy was too inflexible. I am unable to see that an insistence upon law and order and its importance, and a refusal to have any truck with murder, constitutes inflexibility of mind.


I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord because he is always so fair, but I am sure he does not wish to misrepresent me. My criticism of the Government's inflexibility was not at all what he suggests. I am as anxious as he is to restore law and order, but my point was that it would be restored more quickly by political than by military means; or, at least, that political means should be the adjunct to the military measures now being used.


I had no intention of misrepresenting the noble Earl, but I suggest that it is quite wrong to say that the approach to the Government in Cyprus is a military one. It springs from the fact that a very distinguished soldier happens to be performing the duties of Governor at the time, and performing them in a way in which any civilian would be proud to be able to do. The basis of the whole difficulty to-day is that there is no one to negotiate with. There is a suggestion that the Archbishop should be set free in order that one may negotiate with him. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, "Why should we say we will not negotiate with this man?" He drew the quite false analogy, to my mind, of asking whether, supposing there had been an opportunity of peace in the case of Napoleon or Hitler, we would have said that we would not negotiate. We certainly would have said so if the attitude of those dictators had been, "We demand complete surrender". That is my idea of negotiation and that is precisely what the Government found.

They tried with most painstaking patience to negotiate with Makarios and they found it quite impossible to do so; that he was either not a free agent, or was not willing to negotiate on any terms except obtaining the whole of what he wanted. As we now know, he was supporting the terrorists in all their methods of trying to obtain it. Surely it is not right to suggest, or to take it for granted, that the people of Cyprus want our departure and, in fact, want to be joined with Greece. We have no means of ascertaining what is the real, unfettered opinion of the people of Cyprus, and that is precisely one of the difficulties we are trying to overcome. Here again, I should like to correct the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. His suggestion seemed to imply that all would be well if we could get back to the status quo, and that the Greeks and Turks get on perfectly well together. That is not my information about what has been happening in Western Thrace and in many other places where the Greeks have a large Turkish population under their control. One would not find any support from the Turkish side for the suggestion that they live on perfectly friendly terms, because I understand that that is not the case.

I should like also, in passing, to say that the idea of a Parliamentary delegation going out to Cyprus fills me with unqualified horror. The task of the officers in charge there is difficult enough already, but to magnify it by such a step would, I think, be most unfortunate. To take Kenya as an example is again a false analogy. To begin with, the position in Kenya is totally different. Incidentally, with due respect to them, the recommendations of the Parliamentary delegation that went to Kenya gained most of their force because they were repeating what were already the views firmly held by those who knew Kenya and who had the opportunity of giving them the publicity which a Parliamentary delegation was able to give. So I do urge that one should try to remember, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, that it is difficult to discuss a matter like this in any debate, whatever restraint we may show, and I feel that it is most unfortunate that some of the things which have been said should have been said. I personally should have taken no part whatever in the debate had it not been for the fact that I felt it necessary, unfortunately, to emphasise certain things which I regard as obvious.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl, in his reply, will devote a few sentences to comment on the remarks of Lord Chorley as to the military value of Cyprus as a base. That question has been troubling me somewhat of late. It was noticeable that when the Suez affair was carried out Cyprus could not be used for that purpose, and I am wondering whether, in the new set of international politics which has emerged as a result of Suez, the base which we are now keeping there, at great expense, is of any further value. I look upon it from the point of view of a taxpayer. The other day a friend of mine told me that he has a contract for £15 million to construct a deep water harbour at Cyprus. That is a large sum of money. I understand that the new Minister of Defence is giving the deepest consideration to ways of reducing our military commitments and expenditure without decreasing their strength and value.

That is not the only expenditure which we are incurring there, We are keeping there large numbers of troops who cannot he transported to and fro, and so on, without cost. We are building barracks and other accommodation. There was a nice house for the Commander-in-Chief, which was no sooner built than it was burned down. Therefore, it seems to me to be worth while considering whether this Island is any longer of value as a base. It may easily be answered that these people are there to watch over our interests in the Middle East. Of late, there has been a great change in international outlook, and it seems that we are not able to use any troops that we have in various parts of the world without getting permission from other people. Therefore it goes rather against the grain to me, as a taxpayer, to be put to vast expense to maintain troops in out-of-the-way corners of the world, and to know that I can use those troops only after I have permission from some international authority. I hope that the noble Earl will find some sentences in his reply to make some comment upon that state of affairs.

4.44 p.m.


My Lords, the House has often been grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for the calm rind constructive way in which he approaches national and international problems, even though they involve controversy; and to-day he is continuing the the series of debates which were held in this House in 1956, when your Lordships sought to make a contribution to the solution of this intractable problem.

The burden of the Opposition's complaint to-day has really been that Her Majesty's Government's policy is too inflexible. In one respect Her Majesty's Government's policy has been constant and plain, and it is that no Constitution for Cyprus can be negotiated while violence is the order of the day. It seems to me that no Government could do other than insist on that if they had any care for the well-being of the people of Cyprus. I find myself in agreement with my noble friend Lord Swinton, that this is, from the point of view of the majority in Cyprus, an overriding duty placed upon the shoulders of the British Government. Of course, during the last eighteen months the rabid anti-colonialists and other habitual opponents have had a field day, but a much more just understanding of the United Kingdom's purpose has, I believe, gradually gained ground.

Your Lordships will have read the account of the debate in the United Nations Assembly only a few days ago, and you will have read the statement which was made by Mr. Gunawardena, the representative of Ceylon, who recalled the part played by the United Kingdom in granting self-government to his country. His argument was that while the pattern of the British Commonwealth was necessarily varied, Britain on her past Colonial record ought to be trusted to do the right thing in the case of Cyprus, and could be trusted to do so. The Indian delegate also made a most constructive intervention. Indeed, a welcome breath of realism came into the United Nations Assembly and carried the day, that the British Government and the people of Cyprus should be left to settle between themselves the future of the island of Cyprus, without external pressures and intervention. I think all noble Lords would agree that the resolution of the United Nations can give us considerable encouragement. It showed no support whatever in the United Nations for Enosis, and every country disapproved of violence as it is practised in the island to-day.

When in last year's debate in this House deadlock seemed absolute, two main suggestions were made for relieving the deadlock and for encouraging further progress. The most reverend Primate made one suggestion when he emphasised the need that resolution in destroying terrorism should be matched by conciliation, and in particular, even while the emergency was at its height, that an expert should be appointed to prepare a Constitution which could be published. Then, in the debate on September 14, the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who is not here to-day, was concerned with the undoubted fact that there is in Cyprus a Greek majority, and his plea was that, while a minority was entitled to every protection, the Turks should not, in effect, be given a veto on progress.

We are all conscious of the difficulties which still exist to-day; nevertheless I think it is possible to claim progress made since then under both these headings. Lord Radcliffe's proposals have been formulated and published, and there is now, therefore, something practical in this field of constitutional advance on which all parties can concentrate—that seems to me a great advantage—while the absolute fairness, balance and ingenuity of Lord Radcliffe's constitutional design has been widely acclaimed, not only in this country but in Cyprus and outside. Lord Listowel himself and those who have spoken from the Opposition have recognised that. I think, therefore, that your Lordships will recognise that since we last debated this question, and with Lord Radcliffe's help, Her Majesty's Government have made a major and practical contribution to which leaders of moderation and people of wisdom could be expected to respond.

Are we really in such a state of deadlock to-day as the Opposition speakers would have us believe? The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, rather questioned that, but I should like to try to measure for the benefit of your Lordships the response that there has been and the reception which has been given to the Radcliffe proposals. Outside Cyprus, the reception of the Radcliffe Report has been favourable except in Greece, where the reaction so far has been negative; but the fact that so many responsible nations in the United Nations debate so clearly thought that it presented a basis for negotiation and advance may, we hope, still lead to second thoughts on the part of the Greek Government.

Within Cyprus the reception is not too discouraging. I agree with the noble Earl that so long as law and order is threatened, murder is the order of the day and the gunmen are at large, we shall not get local people coming forward to help in framing or in working a Constitution. The Turkish Cypriots—and the Turkish minority problem has always been one of the great difficulties that we have had to face—have sought for, and obtained, clarification of certain points in the Constitution proposals; and the Turkish Government sent a Constitution expert to visit Cyprus and this country for discussions and to report back to them. On the whole, the reaction of the Turkish Cypriots was, and has remained, favourable to the proposals. That is a considerable gain and considerable progress.

The reception by the extremists was much as could be expected. Their main arguments, as I understand them, are that nothing can be done without the approval of Archbishop Makarios; that without a date for self-determination any Constitution would be a sham and that if there is no guarantee of amnesty, the Constitution would be a trap. But there is evidence that this negative and destructive approach is not shared by the great majority of the non-political people who—happily that it is so—form the majority in almost every country in the world. Among them there is caution but interest in the scheme, as giving a chance for a return to the normal life which they are passionately anxious to have. They recognise that there is here an opportunity for a new start.

There was considerable indignation with the Greek Government for its abrupt arid precipitate rejection of the Report. Its action was thought to be high-handed and insulting to the Cypriots themselves. By contrast, the willingness of the United Kingdom Government to discuss the Report with Archbishop Makarios was thought to be proper and to be liberal in outlook. It is much too early to say that public opinion in Cyprus will not cone to accept the Radcliffe Plan if patience is used and a thorough explanation is given to the people.

From the day when terrorism started there has been one prominent obstacle to further progress, and that has been Archbishop Makarios himself. He organised and promoted anarchy and he could call it off. By his stubborn refusal to do so he has so far denied to his countrymen the peace, stability and progress which could be theirs. As your Lordships will know, Her Majesty's Government sent officials to explain Lord Radcliffe's proposals to the Archbishop. The Archbishop said that he understood the Report but that he was not disposed, under present conditions, to discuss any question relevant to the future of Cyprus.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked me the significance of the phrase "present conditions". I do not think he can expect me to interpret the Archbishop's mind. What I can do is to repeat the attitude of Her Majesty's Government. I would draw your Lordships' attention to what was said by my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary on February 19 [OFFICIAL REPORT, (COMMONS) Vol. 565 (No. 55), col. 346]: I do not regard it as unreasonable that the Archbishop should either give a firm denunciation of violence or say that violence should come to an end, or at least give some indication that he propos2s quite definitely to say so in the very near future. If that did not give to the Archbishop the opening to create conditions for a new start, I do not know what could.

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Glyn paid his tribute to the Governor, Sir John Harding, who has had one of the most thankless and difficult tasks that has ever been given to a public servant. His one care has been the well-being of the majority of the people and their protection from the gunman; and he has shown firmness and patience in his task. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, suggested that it might be necessary to reinforce the. Governor with more adequate political advice and that he should be given political advice by a high-ranking officer of the Foreign Service, as I understood it, who would be in Cyprus with him continuously. In fact for a year the Governor has had with him an officer from the Foreign Office who also directs information.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl, may I say that I am, of course, aware of that fact. What I was suggesting, however, was an officer of very senior status who would be comparable to Mr. MacDonald when he was in South-East Asia.


My Lords, the Governor also has at his disposal the head of the political office attached to the Middle East Forces, who is stationed in Cyprus. He has, in addition, whenever he wants it, the advice of our Ambassadors in Turkey and Greece. But should the Governor wish for any adaptation or improvement in the service he has at his disposal, naturally the Colonial Secretary would consider it with every sympathy.

There was a suggestion that a Parliamentary mission might go out to Cyprus and assist towards a solution. I do not quite know how they would do so, but I will pass on that idea to my right honourable friend, and he will judge whether it is possible and, if it is possible, when its timing would be right. It seems to me that in Cyprus Her Majesty's Government have two overriding responsibilities. The first is to lead its people, as we have done and are doing in our colonial territories, to higher standards of living and to responsible self-government. But the labels of democracy are merely a snare unless the substance is there, and we cannot shirk the responsibility of giving the Island a Constitution in which liberty for all is guaranteed. The second is a responsibility to ourselves, and to our Allies, to retain Cyprus as a strategic base.

My noble friend asked me if I would say a word about the strategic value of Cyprus. Strategies change, of course, but so long as we are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and of the Baghdad Pact, it is clear that a base in the Eastern Mediterranean has an important part to play in our own strategy and in the strategy of our Allies. My noble friend said that Cyprus was not used as a base in the Suez campaign. It was not used as a naval base, but it was the central base of operations for the Royal Air Force. Neither our responsibilities for the future Constitution in Cyprus and for the government of Cyprus nor our responsibilities for retaining and maintaining the base for ourselves and our Allies can be carried out and fulfilled unless law and order prevail. That, then, is our first task; and unpleasant and repugnant as they are to us, our counter measures are, under the able direction of Sir John Harding, beating the assassins. The latest gains against them have been spectacular, and there is every sign that continuous hunting is causing demoralisation. With order and with law, confidence will return to the people, and then, I believe, they will come out and co-operate and take a lead in organising their local affairs.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has had such a "doing" from his own Benches, as well as from ours, that I am almost sorry to comment on the speech he made. But I am bound to say that, as I listened to it, I found it extremely difficult to control my impatience. I had the greatest sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, because the danger of a speech such as that which Lord Strabolgi made is that it is widely reported outside; and though it is not the noble Lord's intention, I know, to suggest that British soldiers are responsible for brutalities in this way, nevertheless that is the impression that is given outside, especially when he makes no mention of the intolerable strain under which many of these men serve and when he makes no mention of the atrocities which E.O.K.A. perpetrate every day against our soldiers. No Army is perfect, we know. But the Governor and the military commanders are just and proved men. The noble Lord asks for an impartial inquiry so that these brutalities may be either confirmed or denied. I reject that. I reject it for this very good reason: that the Government have complete confidence that Sir John Harding will administer justice without fear or favour, as he has always done during his long career of public service.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asks: Where do we go from here? In particular, he asked me—and so did the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston—about certain Emergency Regulations which were criticised on a previous occasion in a debate in your Lordships' House and which are at this moment still in operation. Criticism was expressed, particularly, I think, on December 6, about the form of the Regulations in so far as they affected the death penalty for consorting, the protection of public officers and the control of the Press. In the light of the criticisms that have been expressed, the Governor has decided to make some amendments to the Regulations in all these three fields. Certain offences of possessing explosive materials, other than bombs, will no longer carry the death penalty. Also less serious cases of consorting with terrorists will no longer be subject to life imprisonment. Public officers are to be removed from the terms of the Public Officers Protection Regulations, leaving only military and police under the protection of these Regulations. As to the Press Regulation, the Governor has agreed, in principle, that amendment should be made, if legally practicable, to provide for appeal to the courts against any order wrongly made by him under the Regulation. The precise form of the new Regulation to give effect to this change is under consideration by Sir John Harding and his advisers, but the new Regulations affecting the penalties for consorting and the protection of public officers will come into effect in the next day or two, and copies will be placed in the Library of the House. I hope that that meets the point which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and Lord Wilmot of Selmeston both raised.

It is the Government's intention to press ahead with developments on the constitutional front, so that when the situation becomes more favourable the Constitution can be proceeded with. I do not think I can add very much more. I have to apologise to noble Lords as it was only this morning that I was asked to answer this debate—my noble friend Lord Perth was going to do so. I have covered the ground as far as I can. With regard to any questions which I have not been able to answer, I will convey the views of noble Lords to the Colonial Secretary, and I have no doubt that he wilt answer them. In one sense, the debate is a few days too early. Her Majesty's Government have not yet had time to consult fairly widely before deciding the next step which they will take, following the very welcome United Nations resolution. But in another sense the debate is timely, because it gives the Government the advantage of the views of your Lordships, and we have profited from those views in this field before. Generally, if I may sum up the Government's attitude, it is that it is our duty to secure law and order in Cyprus, and we shall not depart one iota from that resolution. At the same time, we will pursue the Radcliffe proposals as the best solution for the future government of Cyprus. We believe that, backed by resolution and patience, law and order may well win the day, and that the proposals will win the approval of the majority of the people in the Island.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, may I first say that I am most grateful to the noble Earl for his reply. It does him great credit that he has acquitted himself so well, speaking at such short notice for a Department in which he is not a Minister. He has given a reply which is just as satisfactory to noble Lords on this side as one given by a Minister from the Colonial Office would have been. I shall make very few remarks in reply to the debate. I think that, on the whole (I say "on the whole" advisedly), the views about policy in relation to Cyprus have been expressed by your Lordships with the cogency and moderation that is characteristic of debates in this House. I think it was especially valuable, in view of the very differing views held by noble Lords on this subject, that there was agreement about the very great value of the Radcliffe proposals for an Interim Constitution. I am sure that that very important measure of agreement between both sides of the House will be noted, not only here but in Cyprus, and may serve to influence all who are still in doubt about the value of these proposals as providing a way of breaking the deadlock by means of an Interim Constitution for the island. I hope your Lordships will agree that the more discordant views on this side of the House were at least a sign that the tradition of independence is supported by the newest Party in your Lordships' Chamber. With those few remarks, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at nine minutes past five o'clock.