§ 4.14 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS AND FOR THE COLONIES (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, this might be a convenient moment for me to repeat a statement on the situation in Cyprus which is being made by my right honourable friend in another place. It is as follows:
"The United Nations Force in Cyprus became operational on 27th March. On assuming command, General Gyani expressed his admiration for the manner in which our British troops had been carrying out their peace-keeping task; and he 38 praised the courage, restraint and patience which they had shown.
"At present the United Nations Force consists of 4,500 men from Britain, and 1,200 from Canada. There are also some small advance parties from the Republic of Ireland, Finland and Sweden. The main contingents from these three countries, totalling rather over 2,000 men, are expected to arrive within two or three weeks.
"One British battalion has already been withdrawn from Cyprus, and we shall be able to make further reductions as soon as our troops can be relieved by contingents from other countries. The planned strength of the United Nations Force is approximately 7,000, of which we have offered to provide, if necessary, up to half.
"Since recent incidents have caused some anxiety, I think it right to inform the House that we are satisfied that the directions under which the United Nations troops have been operating give them adequate authority to use such force as may be absolutely necessary for self-defence and to enable them to discharge their mission. The Secretary-General has assured us that he recognises that the Force must have the powers necessary to fulfil its tasks."
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Duke for giving us this statement, but I am disappointed in its actual contents—that is to say, in relation to the Private Notice Quesion I put—because I had hoped to get some information as to what really was behind the business of British troops being held up at arms' point, arrested and in custody for some time before they could be released, and to know exactly how it happened. The statement says nothing about this. Of course, we get the assurance in the statement that the troops who have been, and are to be, employed by the United Nations Force are entitled to defend themselves if they are attacked. But I think we really knew that before. We have not a picture in the statement of what the incidents have been like which have led up to our pressing for information both here and in the other place. I am not 39 blaming the noble Duke for this, but I hope for an opportunity of getting rather more information.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I would certainly associate myself with the noble Earl when he expresses disquiet at recent incidents: indeed, any such incidents towards British troops in the United Nations Force can only be described as deplorable. Those troops are now part of the United Nations Force and come under their command, and General Gyani, as political adviser, has made both oral and written protests in the strongest terms to the Greek Cypriot authorities.