HL Deb 20 March 1957 vol 202 cc668-74

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, if it is convenient I will now make the statement on Cyprus to which I referred earlier.

The representative of Her Majesty's Government on the North Atlantic Council has received a communication from the Secretary-General, Lord Ismay, offering his good offices for conciliation on the Cyprus question, in accordance with the resolution on the peaceful settlement of disputes which was adopted by the North Atlantic Council last December. The representative of Her Majesty's Government has been instructed to inform the Secretary-General in reply that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to accept in principle this offer of his good offices in the search for an acceptable solution of the differences which exist between the Governments of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom regarding Cyprus.

Her Majesty's Government have noted the declaration of the leader of E.O.K.A. that his organisation would suspend its operations as soon as Archbishop Makarios was released. The Governor of Seychelles is to-day drawing the attention of the Archbishop to that declaration and to the statement which my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary is making in another place. As the House knows, the Archbishop has been asked on many occasions whether he will make a public statement calling for the cessation of violence by E.O.K.A. He is now being asked whether, in these new circumstances, he is prepared to do so. If, as we hope, he makes a clear statement to this effect, a new situation will have been created. In that event Her Majesty's Government will be ready to bring to an end his detention in Seychelles. There can be no question at this stage of his return to Cyprus.


My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Earl for making the statement here, and I am quite sure that the Government are right in accepting in principle—which is as far a we go at the moment—the offer of the good services of the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council. I am rather anxious, however, that your Lordships' House might have the benefit of a little clarification of later passages in the statement. I should like to know, for example, what exactly is meant by saying that if the Archbishop will make a public statement of the kind that has been asked for, to the effect that he would be against violence in the future, a new situation will have been created. In that event Her Majesty's Government will be ready to bring to an end his detention in Seychelles. Do I understand that the Government at this moment, in these circumstances, will not be moving to make any further negotiations with the Archbishop? Do I understand that the suggestion that he is in no case to return to Cyprus rules out the possibility that he should come either to London or to some other place for negotiation if he makes this statement? Could we have some further clarification as to what are the real intentions of the Government?


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, may I put another question or two? First of all, we all know that the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Council is a man of two personalities. He is an international figure, and a Member of your Lordships' House, and I am quite sure that any help he can give us will be most acceptable and very able. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that the sort of advice which is likely to be given by this Organisation is probably very much on the lines of advice which has been given by Her Majesty's Official I Opposition and by the Liberal Party in both Houses of Parliament in this country. I rather hoped that, before we had to rely on an outside organisation, Her Majesty's Government might reconsider their rather inflexible attitude on this matter.

There is a further question I should like to ask, and it is one chat I have asked before It has been suggested that if the Archbishop will order that violence is not to continue we shall then be prepared to enter negotiations. May I suggest that we put it the other way—that we tell E.O.K.A. that if they stop this violence and upheaval, we shall be prepared to discuss with the Archbishop, as obviously we shall have to in the end. There is one final point. It is said that if we enter into any sort of negotiation with the Archbishop we are condoning murder and violence. Obviously, we have somehow to get to grips with this matter, possibly, unfortunately, through the Archbishop; and if we do not enter into negotiations with him, then I maintain that in those conditions we shall be condoning further violence and murder of our own young men and of the Cypriots in that unfortunate Island.


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Perth, can hold so many questions in his head at one time, but I should like to add three more to those already asked. In the first place, I should like to ask what precisely is meant by the request to the Archbishop to call "for the cessation of violence" in Cyprus. The noble Earl will remember that he E.O.K.A. truce offer ordered a suspension of violence, which presumably might be resumed if there was no agreement. Is the Archbishop being asked to endorse the suspension of violence, or is he being asked to appeal for a cessation of violence in Cyprus for all time, whether or not agreement is reached? That is the first point I should like to put to the noble Earl.

The second point was, I think, mentioned by my noble friend and Leader: what is meant by the "new situation" that will arise if the Archbishop denounces violence? Does it mean that the Government will then be willing to discuss with the Archbishop the Radcliffe Report and the future of Cyprus? Because I cannot myself imagine that he would make what would, to him, be a very big concession he has hitherto refused, unless an offer were made by Her Majesty's Government. My third question is, what exactly is meant by the release of the Archbishop from detention in the Seychelles? Does that mean that he would be a free man, apart from his right to return to Cyprus? I think that that is very important indeed, because, as the noble Earl will remember, the E.O.K.A. offer was made conditional upon the release of the Archbishop.


My Lords, I will endeavour to answer the various questions that have been raised. It is gratifying to know that the noble Lords who have just spoken all welcome the initiative of Her Majesty's Government in accepting the offer of Lord Ismay. On the question of what is meant by, "a new situation will have been created"—the question raised both by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—the implication of that is that, if he makes this statement, then there will be a new situation in the sense that, as a result, Her Majesty's Government will be ready to bring to an end his stay in Seychelles.

To answer the second part of the question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, at that time the Archbishop will be free to go anywhere that he wants, except back to Cyprus: his detention ends and he is a free man. I think several questions have been raised saying, "Shall we then be prepared to negotiate with the Archbishop on the Radcliffe Report?" Our answer to that must be that we want to do first things first. There has been an offer from N.A.T.O. to use their good offices to endeavour to settle the differences between the three Governments. We do not know (perhaps this helps to answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rea) just what action N.A.T.O. may take, or the form it may take. Until we are clear on that, it seems to us to be a mistake to do anything which may prejudice the good offices of N.A.T.O.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, as to whether we could not put the offer to the Archbishop the other way round, I think our answer to that must be, No. We have examined it and considered it very carefully, and we feel that putting it this way is the best way and is, indeed, both right and proper in the circumstances. I hope that I have answered all the questions raised.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, may I make a brief remark? I should like to congratulate the Government most sincerely upon a statement which does at any rate reopen the door to negotiations. Whether those concerned will be willing to pass through the door is another matter, but the statement has been made and the offer of negotiations is now open. I may perhaps be allowed to remark that the N.A.T.O. suggestion was made a long time ago, but I am delighted to think that the Government have now taken it up. If the Archbishop accepts, and agrees to make the statement about terrorism which is suggested, I assume that it would follow that the Archbishop would be present and would represent the Greek Cypriots in any negotiations which took place. It seems to me that that is implicit in the statement which the noble Earl has made. Unlike my noble friend Lord Rea, I do not wish at the present moment to look the N.A.T.O. offer too closely in the mouth. I think the situation must be allowed to develop. I can only say that with all my heart I wish the Government success in the step which they have taken.


My Lords, may I ask one question, before the noble Earl answers the questions that have been put to him? In a debate in this House a short time ago, it was proposed that there should be a re-assessment of the value of Cyprus in regard to its strategic position. If there is going to be any consideration of the matter with the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, would it not be much better that he should be perfectly free to make his suggestions, without any idea that Her Majesty's Government are determined that Cyprus should remain as a strategic base without any question? Would it not be much better, if this matter is going to be considered with the assistance of N.A.T.O. that it should be considered perfectly freely, on the basis of what was best from a general consideration and strategic considerations in general?


My Lords, may I remind the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who has answered a large number of questions most handsomely, of my first question, to which noble Lords on his own back Benches seemed to attach special importance but to which he did not reply—namely, whether the request to the Archbishop is for cessation of violence for all time or for suspension of violence for the time being?


My Lords, I am sorry that I did not answer the noble Earl's question before. It does mean cessation of violence, and not suspension for the time being. The congratulations of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, are most welcome. As to his question of whether the Archbishop would be the leader of the Greek Cypriots in any negotiations, I think that that again is something which we can see only as circumstances develop. If I may, I will leave it at that for the moment. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, I think that the answer must be that just what N.A.T.O. may want to do, or what way they approach it, will determine how we ourselves will react, and how we will answer any questions they may raise. It would be premature for us at this moment to give any indication one way or the other on that.


My Lords, we are glad to have the last statement, because I think it is extremely important that in the first place we should concentrate on getting peace, and the end of the bloodshed and terror that is going on. That must be first. With regard to the question of the permanent use of Cyprus as a base, surely that is a matter for discussion in the N.A.T.O. Council itself, with our representatives there, to find out what is the exact attitude not of the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, but of the General Council of N.A.T.O.


There is one further point I should like to raise, although I do not like trespassing on the time of the noble Earl who has been very good to us. After the truce offer last August, there was a suspension of the execution of the death penalty for the time being, until the offer fell through. Will the Government consider asking for a suspension of the execution of the death penalty while the E.O.K.A. offer is still open?


My Lords, we have discussed that question with the Governor, bearing in mind that there are at the moment several terrorists who are under sentence of death. The Governor has said that he will be prepared to consider the cessation of the terrorists' activities as a relevant consideration of a public nature to be taken into account in the exercise of the Prerogative, although it would not be the only, or decisive, factor in cases of violence against the person. I do not think I can go any further at the present time.