HL Deb 28 March 1957 vol 202 cc943-9

7.23 p.m.

LORD WINSTER rose to ask Her Majesty's Government if they have any statement to make regarding the reception by the parties concerned of the statement recently made regarding Cyprus. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for any personal inconvenience which I may be causing him. It may perhaps be some small consolation to him to know that I am inflicting great inconvenience on myself. In putting the question standing in my name, I should like to make just one or two points. I am sure that the noble Earl will believe that nobody could be more anxious than I am to forward a settlement in Cyprus, and all I want to ascertain by my Question is what the Government are doing to that end. The Radcliffe Constitution has been published for some time, and has been communicated to Governments and interested parties, but I have been unable to trace exactly what Her Majesty's Government are doing to bring about that Constitution.

The last time I asked, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, was unable to give me a clear reply on the point. In fact, since the negotiations broke down last November, I do not feel that any very definite steps have been taken aiming at a resumption of negotiations. These delays are very bad. As recently as the 21st of this month The Times said: The whole story of Cyprus has been one of delay, blunders, bloodshed and mounting suspicion. But I think the "blunders, bloodshed and mounting suspicion" have largely followed on the delay, to which The Times has called attention. Then again, the Sunday Times, last Sunday, March 24, said this: The Government's latest declaration on Cyprus"— that is what I call the N.A.T.O. declaration— has created the impression that it does not seriously want negotiations with the Cypriots at this stage and is still pursuing a policy, attributed to Sir John Harding, of trying to finish off E.O.K.A. and achieve a political settlement with Archbishop Makarios. Talks within N.A.T.O. with Greece and Turkey, but without negotiations with the Cypriots themselves, including the Archbishop, are unlikely to be productive.

Those are two quotations from two papers which, in general, support the Government; and to me they are striking. The Greek Government has already turned down the N.A.T.O. proposal, but I feel that it has twisted the United Nations resolution. I think that Monsieur Karamanlis is not justified in saying that the United Nations resolution calls for negotiations between Britain and Cyprus. But while I agree on that point, I think we are hardly justified in regarding that resolution as excluding the Cypriots and dealing only with Greece and Turkey. Our Government having sponsored the Radcliffe Constitution, surely we are clearly committed to direct negotiations with the Cypriots. Otherwise, why the Constitution? N.A.T.O. may well have a useful rôle to play in the matter, but not to the exclusion of negotiations with the Cypriots, to which, it seems to me, the Constitution in honour binds us.

Negotiations there must be. But with whom do Her Majesty's Government con-template conducting negotiations? That seems to me to be the essential question. I feel that the Government have been, and may be at this moment, reluctant to face the fact that without bringing Archbishop Makarios into negotiations they can get nowhere. When I spoke following the expulsion of the Archbishop, I said I thought that by expelling him the Government had gone up a cul-de-sac and were beating their head against a brick wall at the end of that cul-de-sac. When the noble Marquess the Leader of the House replied, he said that, on the contrary, by deporting the Archbishop, they had removed a road block. It is the first time I have heard of removing a road block with the result that all the traffic stops. For it certainly has stopped ever since the Archbishop was deported; and I am fairly confident in prophesying that the traffic will not get started again until that road block is put back where it was taken from. That, no doubt, is an unpalatable fact—the Archbishop has not commended himself to many of us—but I am afraid that, while unpalatable, it is also a certainty.

The Government have been reluctant to give way, and apparently are reluctant to give way at this moment, over Archbishop Makarios. But they have been reluctant about other things. They were reluctant about conceding a Greek Cypriot majority in the Legislative Assembly. It was on that point that the November negotiations broke down. But when the Radcliffe Constitution was published, we found that the Government had given way on that point and had agreed that there should be such a majority. Then they have given way about the Archbishop—at any rate, they are setting him at liberty, with a bar on his going to Cyprus. So that we see that the Government do give way on points which they have obstinately resisted. But the unfortunate thing is that they give way too late, and by doing so they have to give more for less in return. Surely, the objective in this matter must be to concede what is just to Cyprus. The objective should not be to achieve a military situation in Cyprus which will make it easier for us to get what we want; and yet, following the course of conduct which the Government have pursued, one could be forgiven for thinking that that has really been the Government objective. If that is so, that would account for the delays to which The Times calls attention. Sir John Harding must inevitably take a military view of the situation in Cyprus. That is not attributing any criticism or blame to him. A man cannot follow the profession of a soldier all his life and then not instinctively take a military view of a situation which is completely novel to him in its political aspect.

I must point out that if that is the Government objective and the Government point of view, a military success, however complete, will not necessarily be followed by a political success. You may finish off E.O.K.A., but you may find that the old political difficulties persist. Just as in the shipbuilding strike we all know that sooner or later there must be negotiations which will settle the matter, the same thing is true of Cyprus. Negotiations will have to come, and a settlement will have to be effected. But to whom do you look forward to carrying on those negotiations with? As seems to be a reasonable supposition from the past course of actions in this matter, do the Government really believe that it will be possible to settle the Cyprus question by by-passing the Archbishop? If they do, then I fear that they are in for a grievous disappointment. The idea that you can settle E.O.K.A. and then by-pass the Archbishop, and proceed to negotiations with some mythical moderate Greek Cypriots, who have remained firmly in hiding for the past ten years even when the Island was at peace, I believe is a complete misapprehension.

As regards Turkey, my own view is this. Turkey is mentioned in connection with these negotiations. I think that the Turkish Cypriots are entitled to safeguards for their minority rights. If there is to be a settlement and self-government, I should think it a good thing to ask the United Nations to appoint a Minority Commissioner for the first years of self-government so that the rights of the Turkish Cypriots may be fully guaranteed. I think, equally, that Turkey is entitled to a guarantee of her security, and there I think N.A.T.O. can play a useful part. But I do not think we ought to allow Turkey to assume a power of veto on Cyprus matters. The Prime Minister, when he was Foreign Secretary, made a solemn declaration in the House of Commons in which he said that we recognised the principle of self-determination for Cyprus. But it seems to me that since then there has been a tendency to let Turkey say, "No" on the question of self-determination for Cyprus; and I can never believe it is right for a solemn declaration by the Foreign Secretary of this country to be put on one side by Turkey and that declaration to be made of no avail. Whoever the negotiations are carried on with, I hope that that will not be allowed to take place and that we on our side will stand by the declaration which I have mentioned—that we recognise the right of self-determination for Cyprus.

The object of my question is to ask what steps are being taken, what is the programme, and what is the course of action proposed for getting negotiations started. I recognise the difficulties of the noble Earl who is to reply at this moment, and I do not wish to press him unduly. I recognise that the Government must have time to get their breath after receiving the reply of the Archbishop. But I hope that what I have said and what I have quoted from events in the past may impress upon the Government the dangers of delay. I must confess that I am surprised, after all that has happened—the constant calling of the Governor home for consultations, threshing out and exploring the situation from every possible angle—that the present declaration of N.A.T.O. and the reply of the Archbishop apparently finds us so much at a loss and unable to give any indication of what the immediate course of action is going to be. I beg to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

7.36 p.m.


My Lords, I appreciate the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, that he is sorry if he caused me any inconvenience, but there was no such inconvenience. My worry was that I had a conference to attend and was not sure that I would be able to get back in time to do him the courtesy of answering his Question. The noble Lord referred to various papers and their articles of last week. All I would say in that regard is how wrong the papers have been proved in the light of what has happened to-day—that is, the statement which I made earlier. I was not sure, in listening to the noble Lord, whether he was in fact in the House when I made the statement, or, if he was in the House, whether he understood the full implications of it and the subsequent answers that I gave to other questions raised by noble Lords. Because, in making the statement, and in the answers to various of the supplementary questions, I think I met and answered many of the points that he has just raised. However, with regard to one or two of them, I shall be glad to go over the ground again.

First of all, I would say that I agree with him that the Greek Government has twisted the U.N.O. resolution. Further, I agree with him—and the Government have certainly always maintained this stand—that we must discuss the question of the internal situation with the Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish. In that connection I would answer the noble Lord when he asked with whom we are to negotiate, by saying what I have already said to-day that we are only too ready at the right time to negotiate with a body of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and that if, as is no doubt the case, the Greek Cypriots choose to nominate the Archbishop as one of their number, that is for the Greek Cypriots to decide. Therefore, when the noble Lord says that it is a question of by-passing the Archbishop, I do not think he has any ground for making that remark.

Lastly, he said that what he wanted was a just solution. So do we all want a just solution, including Sir John Harding, as much as anybody else. But for a just solution, certain things are necessary. For example, there cannot be a just solution when there is violence and terrorism. Peace is a necessary part of a just solution, as indeed was recognised by the United Nations when they made their appeal the other day. I do not believe that there is anything more I can usefully add to what I have just said because, after the statement to-day and the action we have taken to-day, we must have a little time to see what may be, and what we hope will be, the reaction of other people who are so vitally concerned in this question.