HL Deb 19 June 1958 vol 209 cc1129-37

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I now propose to make the statement on the Government's policy on Cyprus which the Prime Minister had intended to make on Tuesday but which, with the forbearance of the House, he decided to defer at the request of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council.

The policy of Her Majesty's Government in Cyprus has had four main purposes: to serve the best interests of all the people of the Island; to achieve a permanent settlement acceptable to the two communities in the Island and to the Greek and Turkish Governments; to safeguard the British bases and installations in the Island, which are necessary to enable the United Kingdom to carry out her international obligations; to strengthen peace and security, and co-operation between the United Kingdom and her Allies, in a vital area. These are the aims which Her Majesty's Government have consistently pursued and which have guided their efforts in recent months to find common ground on which an agreed settlement might be reached. It is deeply regretted that all attempts in this direction have hitherto proved unsuccessful.

In view of the disagreement between the Greek and Turkish Governments and between the two communities in Cyprus, and of the disastrous consequences for all concerned if violence and conflict continue, an obligation rests with the United Kingdom Government, as the sovereign Power responsible for the administration of the Island and the well-being of its inhabitants, to give a firm and clear lead out of the present deadlock. They accordingly declare a new policy which represents an adventure in partnership—partnership between the communities in the Island and also between the Governments of the United Kingdom. Greece and Turkey.

The following is an outline of the partnership plan:—

Cyprus should enjoy the advantages of association not only with the United Kingdom, and therefore with the British Commonwealth, but also with Greece and Turkey.

Since the three Governments of the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey all have an interest in Cyprus, Her Majesty's Government will welcome the co-operation and participation of the two other Governments in a joint effort to achieve the peace, progress and prosperity of the Island.

The Greek and Turkish Governments will each be invited to appoint a representative to co-operate with the Governor in carrying out this policy.

The Island will have a system of representative government with each community exercising autonomy in its own communal affairs.

In order to satisfy the desire of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to be recognised as Greeks and Turks, Her Majesty's Government will welcome an arrangement which gives them Greek or Turkish nationality, while enabling them to retain British nationality.

To allow time for the new principle of partnership to be fully worked out and brought into operation under this plan in the necessary atmosphere of stability, the international status of the Island will remain unchanged for seven years.

A system of representative government and communal autonomy will be worked out by consultation with representatives of the two communities and with the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments.

The essential provisions of the new Constitution will be:

There will be a separate House of Representatives for each of the two communities, and these Houses will have final legislative authority in communal affairs.

Authority for internal administration, other than communal affairs and internal security, will be undertaken by a Council presided over by the Governor and including the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments and six elected Ministers drawn from the Houses of Representatives, four being Greek Cypriots and two Turkish Cypriots.

The Governor, acting after consultation with the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments, will have reserve powers to ensure that the interests of both communities are protected.

External affairs, defence and internal security will be matters specifically reserved to the Governor acting after consultation with the representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments.

The representatives of the Greek and Turkish Governments will have the right to require any legislation which they consider to be discriminatory to be reserved for consideration by an impartial tribunal.

If the full benefits of this policy are to be realised, it is evident that violence must cease. Subject to this, Her Majesty's Government intend to take progressive steps to relax the Emergency Regulations and eventually to end the State of Emergency. This process would include the return of those Cypriots at present excluded from the Island under the Emergency Regulations.

A policy based on these principles and proposals will give the people of the Island a specially favoured and protected status. Through representative institutions they will exercise authority in the management of the Island's internal affairs, and each community will control its own communal affairs. While the people of the Island enjoy these advantages, friendly relations and practical co-operation between the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey will be maintained and strengthened as Cyprus becomes a symbol of co-operation instead of a cause of conflict between the three Allied Governments.

Her Majesty's Government trust that this imaginative plan will be welcomed by all concerned in the spirit in which, it is put forward, and for their part they will bend all efforts to ensuring its success. Indeed, if the Greek and Turkish Governments were willing to extend this experiment in partnership and co-operation. Her Majesty's Government would be prepared, at the appropriate time, to go further and, subject to the reservation to the United Kingdom of such bases and facilities as might be necessary for the discharge of her international obligations, to share the sovereignty of the Island with their Greek and Turkish allies as their contribution to a lasting settlement.

That is the statement of Government policy. I now use the Prime Minister's actual words as he concluded his statement in another place:

"I am aware that I have taken up much of the time of the House, but since the words were chosen with care, I thought it my duty to give the full text to the House. It will be available as a White Paper this afternoon.

"I would only add this. I have myself sent a personal appeal to the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey to approach this policy in a spirit of co-operation and moderation. I have given the House the main outlines of the plan. There are, of course, many details which will require to be filled in after discussion. We are therefore not asking for immediate acceptance of our policy in every particular. While I recognise that some initial reactions may be unfavourable, I believe that further consideration will lead to the recognition of the genuine merits of this policy. Meanwhile, it is a great support to the Government in discharging their heavy responsibilities in this matter to have the good will and understanding of the North Atlantic Council. Their assistance in the process of conciliation is proving, and I feel sure will continue to prove, of the highest value. Finally, I trust that our efforts which are constructive and fair, will commend themselves to the House and to the country."

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the House is much indebted to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for putting, such a statement before us this afternoon. People in all parts of the country, of all kinds of political and religious opinion, have felt very deeply for years past about the serious state of affairs in Cyprus, and many have been praying that peace may come to that troubled island. This, therefore, is a day of considerable importance, when a plan of such breadth and imagination as this is placed before Parliament as a preliminary to its being submitted to the various parties concerned in the discussions about Cyprus. The statement is fairly long and I am bound to say also looks complicated. Of course, the situation in Cyprus is so complicated that it is necessary to deal with all the complications involved, and I do not suppose that that can be done by a simple State memorandum. My noble friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence will remember our difficulties in dealing in the preliminary stages with the communal and racial difficulties in India, and I do not suppose that the size of the place makes much difference to the depth of feeling upon these matters.

I feel sure that it would be wise for us not to think of being for this or that point in the proposed plan. I think we had better examine it in the greatest detail. I am sure that all your Lordships want to be helpful to any discussions on this matter which may succeed this announcement. Perhaps all these questions can better be dealt with in a debate which, whilst I feel it cannot be long delayed, should not now be brought about until all Parties in Parliament have had a chance of studying this imaginative memorandum. I should like to express my personal hope that at last this may be the first step in bringing about such discussions as would bring peace and good will to this troubled community in Cyprus.

My only other point is that I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he has told the House as much as he can about consultation with the Council of N.A.T.O. and whether we can feel that we are really able to rely upon widespread help in conciliation in this matter from that Council.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Viscount. I am sure that he is right. This question is necessarily complicated, although when the White Paper has been read I do not think that it will appear quite so complicated as it does of necessity as I read it out. Of course we shall have a debate arranged through the usual channels when we know what another place is going to do. So far as N.A.T.O. is concerned, the noble Viscount may not know, but there were discussions this morning, of which I have not had a full account, but I am informed that in these discussions it was clear that the Secretary-General and the Governments of the twelve countries not directly concerned welcome the United Kingdom plan as a basis for constructive discussions. Their help has been, is and I hope will continue to be, extremely valuable.


My Lords, I feel sure that this constructive and imaginative plan will commend itself to almost all sections of your Lordships' House. I agree with the noble Viscount opposite that we do not want to ask a great many questions to-day; they can be held over for a future debate. The best contribution we can make to-day is to throw the whole influence of this House behind the acceptance of this plan by the parties concerned. Having said that, I hope your Lordships will not regard the two questions which I should like to put to my noble friend as in any way put in a spirit of criticism. The first question I should like to ask him is: what will happen if, unhappily, the present efforts to find a solution of this tragic problem fail? The second is: what would happen if, at the end of the period of seven years, no further agreement were reached as to the future procedure to be decided upon?


My Lords, I do not want, and I do not think that the House will want, either to think or to talk in terms of failure. What we have to do to-day is to try to concentrate on making this plan a success and making it work. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord has said, we must face the realities of the situation. To-day, on behalf of the Government, I have put forward a plan for seven years, and we have looked beyond that to an even greater partnership. If in the long run all our hopes are dashed and all this fails, then the pledges given by the British Government will stand.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, as I have so frequently spoken about Cyprus in your Lordships' House, I should very much like to be allowed to say a word or two this afternoon. I welcome most sincerely the fact that the Government have come to a decision and have put forward a proposal which, whatever its ultimate fate, is an imaginative proposal which bears evidence of great labour on the subject. I think it is a proposal which certainly forms a basis for negotiation; it will be a great thing to get talks started again in Cyprus, and this proposal certainly forms an adequate basis for such talks. At this stage I hope that no criticism of the offer will go out from Parliament at this particular moment. I think the offer should have a fair run, and those outside this country who have to come to fateful decisions should not be distracted at this moment by conflicting Party voices from this country.

Criticism there must be at some later date, although I warmly agree with the noble Earl the Leader of the House that we need not this afternoon contemplate the failure of this proposal or wonder what we shall be doing in seven years' time. The time for criticism will come, but this most emphatically is not the time. In saying this, I particularly have in mind the Governor of Cyprus, who has the most difficult task to perform in putting this proposal forward and in endeavouring to commend it to the parties concerned. I remember that the Governor has inherited a most damnable legacy which has been none of his making. Let us not complicate his task in any way at this moment by raising discordant voices here at home. What is wanted above all at this time is deliberation by all concerned in a spirit of calm and toleration, seeking not the good of a particular view but the peace and security of Cyprus. So, my Lords, I will say nothing more at this moment, though the time will come when, no doubt, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and myself will have some things to say to each other. But that time is not yet, and all I want to do is wish the Governor of the Island well and beg those who have deciding voices in this matter in Cyprus to rise to heights of responsibility at a crucial moment and to discard angry passions which have grown up in the past in favour of a calm consideration of the Government's proposal.


My Lords, I should, of course, agree with what the noble Lord has said, and of course we all should. Nobody must approach these proposals in a negative, and certainly not in a hostile, spirit. But I hope the noble Earl did not mean that we cannot ask for elucidation. It is an extremely interesting and very novel scheme, and it is most important that we understand exactly what it portends. I do not propose to ask any questions to-day, because we have only just heard the scheme and it is difficult in a few minutes to understand its full purport. I was grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition for suggesting that we might have a debate at an early date, and I hope that when that debate comes the Government will understand if we do ask questions for purposes of elucidation, because, after all, it is not only the Government but this House which will bear ultimate responsibility for future policy in Cyprus.


My Lords, I am first of all obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who speaks with authority as a former Governor of Cyprus and whose words will carry the more weight for that. Secondly, I would say, in response to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that we will certainly have a debate, as I said to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition. This is a scheme of considerable complexity and considerable significance, and it will be your Lordships' wish to ask all sorts of questions about it. So far as elucidation is concerned, I hope that the Government will not fail to face all the questions but will be able to give answers which will satisfy your Lordships on the details of the plan.


My Lords, as one who has been concerned in earlier proposals for the Constitution of Cyprus, may I take the opportunity of saying one word, and it shall be only one word, with regard to the declaration of policy that your Lordships have just heard. Your Lordships, of course, have no wish to debate it to-day, but I should like to take this opportunity of saying how much, for my own part, I welcome a list of proposals of this kind, and how ardently I hope, for the sake of Cyprus and for the sake of peace in that part of the world, that progress may be made by discussion between the parties in developing what are at this stage only outlines. These proposals, I believe, contain the essential things that are needed to cope with the tragic situation that has developed, whatever the past contained, and they have, I think, this outstanding advantage: that they explicitly invite the two countries, Greece and Turkey, who have much responsibility for the situation that has developed in Cyprus, to associate themselves with ourselves for the future in the government of this territory, and to bear their share of responsibility for developing peace and security there.


My Lords, everybody knows that the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, has given a great deal of his time and his great talents to putting forward constructive proposals in this matter for the future of Cyprus. We were at the time and are now grateful for his work; and to have his generous support for the approach which has now been made will not only be very valuable to Her Majesty's Government but, I hope, will make everybody think very carefully about this plan and realise that it is put forward as a constructive effort to help to solve what has seemed up till now to be an almost insoluble problem.


My Lords, may I associate myself, as one who has also had some experience of Cyprus, with those Members of your Lordships' House who have urged that this plan should be considered calmly and earnestly by everyone concerned? May I go on and suggest that your Lordships should express the view that people should not take up positions on this plan until they have had time to consider it earnestly and seriously and to discuss it quietly among themselves?


I am grateful to the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Harding of Petherton. The House has probably not had much opportunity to show their gratitude to him for all that he has done in these very difficult years, but we should like to do so. I am indeed grateful to him for the words he has said this afternoon.