§ 6.26 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY rose to move that, following the resolution of the North Atlantic Assembly on September 29, 1971, urging "the Governments and Parliaments of the North Atlantic Alliance to use their political influence" towards the restoration of 1747 political freedoms in Greece, this House requests Her Majesty's Government to do so. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to put this Motion to your Lordships' House, I should like, first of all, to express my thanks to the Government Whips for their courtesy and for the help which I have had in finding time for this debate. In return, I should like to do a double courtesy. First, I would inform your Lordships that towards the end of this debate I shall be asking your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Motion, because I think that what we have to say here, from all points of view, had better be left to stand by itself, rather than be in any way swamped by a Vote which might really depend upon which of one or two groups of people were better at whipping. Secondly, I have asked some of my noble friends—in the widest sense of the term—whether they would keep the debate slightly shorter than it might otherwise have been, by giving myself and others who agree with me the points that they wanted to make. I am glad to tell your Lordships that there are at least three or four noble Lords who have made this self-sacrifice, and I, in that consideration, will do my best to set your Lordships an example by keeping my speech short.
The resolution referred to in my Motion was carried by the North Atlantic Assembly in September, 1971, by 46 votes to 9 with 12 abstentions, and its text—which I am afraid is rather long, but it is very important—is as follows:
Recalling that in the past international organisations, including the European Communities and the Council of Europe, have expressed, unequivocally, the view that human rights and political freedoms in Greece have been drastically restricted;
Noting that the House of Representatives of the United States Congress has called for the right to suspend arms deliveries to Greece;
Considering that in the NATO context, the continuing political efforts of the democratic representatives from the other member states of the Alliance have not been able to convince the Greek Government of the urgency and gravity of the situation;
Recognising that Greece's membership of the North Atlantic Alliance gives Greece not only rights but also responsibilities, one of the most important being to end the political injustice which characterises Greece's internal situation;
Affirming that for parliamentarians of the countries of the Atlantic Alliance"—
that is ourselves, my Lords—
Greece not only represents a problem with respect to the moral credibility of our Alliance but also poses a question concerning the political posture of NATO;
Expresses its renewed condemnation of any repression of democratic freedoms in Greece as dangerous to the internal cohesion of the North Atlantic Alliance bearing in mind the text of the Preamble to and Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty;
Urges the Government in Athens to undertake, immediately, serious steps leading to the restoration of democratic freedoms;
Urges he Government in Athens to underments of the North Atlantic Alliance"—
of which we are one, my Lords—
to use their political influence upon the Government in Athens to achieve this goal".
The stance of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance is an alliance to preserve democracy. It is explicitly stated. The Preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty says:
The parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisations of their peoples founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law".
The President of the United States of America—that is the present President of the United States of America—reaffirmed these ideals on the 20th anniversary of NATO in 1969 when he said:
NATO means more than arms, troop levels, …",
and so on, but beneath it
we touch a set of elemental ideals, eloquent in their simplicity, majestic in their humanity; ideals of decency and justice, and liberty, and respect for the rights of our fellow men".
§ In fact, my Lords, the Governments of NATO—at least, some of them—do not appear to be answering this call. They appear, if anything, to be encouraging the régime. Our Government themselves are seeking arms orders; British troops, on manoeuvres in Greece, have been photographed marching under National Government banners, which gets headlines in the Greek Press; there have been the visits of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, which are always given maximum publicity in the Greek Press—all, it seems, in pursuit of that peculiar principle that if you supply arms and troops and combine on manoeuvres you do not interfere with the internal affairs of the country concerned 1749 but if you refrain from doing those things you do interfere with them.
I think this is an appropriate moment when I might ask the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, whether, when she comes to speak, she would say just a word in explanation. There has been a certain amount of disquiet voiced to me by some people about the fact that the Greek Ambassador was invited to the Foreign Office yesterday, I think to see the noble Baroness, prior to this debate. Of course I am not suggesting that there was anything improper about this, but I think it would help to allay fears if the noble Baroness were to say whether this was a regular practice in similar cases; whether, in particular, this happened before the last time we debated this subject in 1969; and perhaps even what she said to the Greek Ambassador. We cannot avoid the suspicion, my Lords, that in this Governmental reinforcement of what goes on in Greece—and I am talking about not only our Government but other NATO Governments—the political complexion of the Junta has a certain effect. Madame Vlachas, that extremely eminent and respected Conservative newspaper-owner now living in this country, said the other day:
If it had been the Left that had shattered the peaceful life of Greece, if it had imprisoned, beaten up and tortured thousands and muzzled the Press and deprived the Greek people of all their rights, then the West would have come to our rescue. They would have remembered alliances and signatures, our battles, our wars and our traditions
Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that once already since the war that has happened, and we have—
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? If he says that, then why do we not go to the help of Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Poland? With due respect, the noble Lord is talking drivel—complete drivel.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, there is an immense difference which the noble Viscount, who accuses me of talking drivel, may not have particularly noticed himself. He may not have noticed that we are not in fact in alliance with Hungary and these other countries; that we are not in fact tied with them in an alliance to defend 1750 democracy. If we were, I would say exactly the same things about them; but we are not. We are involved in a democratic alliance, and I am speaking of this in terms of the North Atlantic Treaty, as I think my Motion makes entirely clear.
§ LORD SUDELEY
My Lords, perhaps I may also ask the noble Lord a question. Why, then, should we not do the same with Portugal as he suggests we should with Greece?
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I certainly think we should. In the debate on December 9, 1969, the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, who I think is to speak later in this debate, said at column 526:To conclude, my Lords, should we therefore not trust and support Greece, our ally and friend, and leave the timing, procedures and machinery involved in a stable return to Parliamentary democracy to the Greek Government?I shall be interested to hear from the noble Lord how far he thinks there has been a return to democracy and a turn from oppression in the three and a half years since that debate, during which, on the whole, the timing, the procedures and the machinery involved have been left to the Greeks. The Junta say that they want to return to democracy, but many dictators and oligarchies have said this, from Caesar Augustus onwards. Some people say that this regime is less bad than some dictatorships. But, my Lords, Augustus gave way to Tiberius, and Tiberius to Caligula. The saving grace of democracies, however bad they are, is that they always have the seeds of reform in them. The trouble with dictatorships is that they carry the seeds of further corruption.
We are told that Greece is necessary to the defence of NATO. There are many of us who have considerable doubts about this, and I shall listen with particular interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, I suspect, has to say on this subject: because so many of the most senior and most respected officers of the armed forces have been purged out; there is an inter-Service rivalry, whereby the Junta is not supported by the Navy or the Air Force, on the whole; there is a real internal security problem, and in any case of crisis there would be an even 1751 greater one. I would ask what kind of use Greece would in fact be as an ally in a situation like this. But in any case, whatever the answer to that question, I should like to quote the Manifesto issued by a number of very brave and eminent Greek people on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of Independence, in which they said:It is inadmissible that the liberties and the dignity of the Greeks should be sacrificed to the alleged defence requirements of other free nations".My Lords, I shall listen with great interest to what your Lordships have to say on this important issue. My major task in opening the debate is to ask that we do not underrate it. Ralph Dahrendorf, that extremely able and one of the most brilliant Western liberal democrats, one of the Commissioners at Brussels, said in one of his latest books:I concur with the common belief that the struggle between free societies and totalitarian societies is the dominant issue of political conflict in our time".I would conclude with some words written by Sir Robert Fraser, the ex-Director General of the I.T.A., in a slightly different context which speak for what I should like to say both from my head and from my heart:Only a very few people for a very brief time have been able to govern themselves, a tiny proportion of the world's population for a tiny proportion of the centuries of history. I see that even today democracy, a word that half the world has stolen and other parts do not even bother to appropriate, is safely and successfully practised by only a small group of nations. …This has deepened my sense that self-government is the happiest of all human achievements, but also my sense that it is a rare flower of man's total accomplishment, and that those of us who tend it had better be conscious not only of its beauty, for human freedom is beautiful, and in danger if we do not feel it to be so, but also, in the long tides of history, of its fragility.My Lords, I beg to move.
Moved, That, following the resolution of the North Atlantic Assembly on September 29, 1971, urging "the Governments and Parliaments of the North Atlantic Alliance to use their political influence towards the restoration of political freedoms in Greece, this House requests Her Majesty's Government to do so.—(Lord Beaumont of Whitley.)
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for creating the opportunity for us to take part in a debate that without doubt will prove to be of great itnerest. It may be convenient to your Lordships if I speak on behalf of Her Majesty's Government early in the debate and then, if given leave by your Lordships, endeavour to reply at the end. This debate is evidence, if we need it, of the deep and continuing interest in Greece which exists in Britain. This is hardly surprising in view of the many links—intellectual, cultural, historical and personal—which bind our countries together. Not only do we owe an enormous debt to the civilising influence of Greek thought, but many of our own countrymen fought with the Greeks in their War of Independence. We have of course also been allies in two World Wars. It is, therefore, inevitable, in a debate of this kind, that feelings should be deeply held. Too many members of this House know and care about Greece for it to be otherwise.
Before discussing the Motion before the House, I should like to reply at once to the direct question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, when he asked me why it was that I invited His Excellency the Greek Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and what it was I said to him. May I say that I should find it most surprising for any Minister in any Department to reveal confidential talks. May I also say that His Excellency the Greek Ambassador called on me at his own request as a courtesy call, as he had recently arrived in London.
The noble Lord's Motion refers to the North Atlantic Assembly's resolution of September, 1971, urging Governments and Parliaments to use their political influence towards the restoration of political freedoms in Greece and urges Her Majesty's Government to do so. But it must surely be clear that since 1970—not September, 1971—Her Majesty's Government have consistently stated in Parliament and to the Greek Government how much we should welcome the early restoration of true democracy. My noble friend Lord Carrington, when he 1753 said just this to the Greek Prime Minister and the Greek Deputy Prime Minister in Athens last September, also made clear that the question of political prisoners was one which caused deep concern in this country. Therefore the policy of Her Majesty's Government is of much longer standing than the date in the Motion before the House, and I am glad to hear that the noble Lord will seek leave to withdraw it at the end of the day.
Also, whatever one's feelings, Greece is a sovereign independent State, and it is not for us to try to dictate to the Greek Government how to run their internal affairs. After all, we should resent any appearance of intervention in our own domestic affairs. Her Majesty's Government's policy towards Greece since June, 1970, has therefore been to work for constructive relations with Greece as a NATO ally.
We have consistently argued that it would not be helpful to discuss the internal situation in Greece in the NATO forum, still less to call in question Greek membership of the Alliance. Perhaps I should recall to noble Lords that the previous Administration also opposed action against Greece in NATO. It would prejudice the security of the Alliance without bringing any benefit to the Greek people. The noble Lord argued that Greek membership of NATO is incompatible with the requirements of the NATO Treaty. I do not think I can do better than to remind your Lordships of the words spoken in a debate in the other place on December 16, 1969, when the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said:Action against Greece in NATO would not necessarily help the Greek people but would undermine the security of the South-East flank of NATO, thus putting at risk democratic ideals and Parliamentary institutions on a scale far wider than Greece.So our policy is guided by a rational assessment of British and Western interests in Greece and the Mediterranean. Greece occupies a strategic position of importance and Greek membership of NATO is necessary for the stability of the whole southern flank.
Any weakening on the flank of NATO would be particularly unfortunate in present circumstances. In the strategic 1754 field the relatively recent Soviet military presence in the Mediterranean has added a new dimension to the problems inherent in the area. In the political field, Western Governments are already involved in preparatory talks in Helsinki with the Eastern European countries and the uncommitted countries of Europe on a possible Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. There are also the exploratory discussions in Vienna on mutual and balanced force reductions. These developments are welcome as well as very important. We discussed them in some detail in our debate following the Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, last week. But while we shall continue to work for a lowering of tension and improved relations throughout Europe, we believe that the cohesion and solidarity of NATO remain of paramount importance to those ends, as well as in their own right.
We believe that the entry of Britain into the Common Market offers great opportunities for British businessmen in Greece and we hope that they will grasp them. This has no implications in terms of our political relations with the Greek Government: we believe that trade and politics should not be confused. It is a view which I think was shared by the previous Administration because they invited the Greek Minister for Industry on an official visit to Britain in 1969. That is why I say that I think we do have good commercial relations with Greece. Her Majesty's Government are working hard to promote British trade interests. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, mentioned the official visit to Greece by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry, the noble Earl, Lord Limerick. I am sure that it was right that he should undertake that visit in this context.
The Greek Government knows perfectly well that Anglo-Greek relations would undoubtedly improve with the restoration of democracy in Greece. I would suggest to all noble Lords who are to take part in this debate that the present balanced policy of Her Majesty's Government is more likely in the long run to serve not only British interests but those of Greece and of the Western world as a whole.
1755 I hope that the House will agree that the decision how best to use influence to bring about the desire for the restoration of democratic processes in Greece is one that must be left to the judgment of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, I would support this Motion for the following reasons. For some years all over the world there has been what I think is a tragic increase in the use of physical force and an increase by totalitarian Governments of the considered practice of the torture of their political opponents. Owing to the action of some brave writers we know now what has been going on in the forced labour camps of Russia and their new, revolting practice of incarcerating in mental hospitals those who do not agree with the Party line, on the ground that if they do not agree with the Party line they must obviously be in need of psychiatric treatment. The degree of torture which is carried out in Brazil is well known. In November, 1969, the European Commission on Human Rights, on massive evidence, found that there was:An administrative practice of torture in Greece.As we all know, in consequence Greece would have been expelled from the Council of Europe if they had not, perhaps wisely, resigned.
I cannot for myself for one moment accept, if I may respectfully say so, the view put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, that anyone who cares for human rights can take up the position to-day that so long as a Government tortures only its own citizens, that is a domestic matter with which nobody else is concerned. In fact, of course, the European Commission was concerned with all its members. I should say, having during the war been in Belsen concentration camp within a few days of its being taken, that I regret now that before the war I was not as vocal as I should have been about what was going on in Hitlerite Germany.
In June of last year several non-Governmental organisations accredited to the United Nations delivered to the appropriate body there a massive dossier, supported by due statements and affidavits, of the tortures which were then being 1756 employed in three countries of which Greece was one. I see in to-day's Times at page 6 a statement dealing with Mr. Alexandros Panagoulis. The Times states:According to reliable reports, Alexandros is kept in a specially built unlit cement 'tomb' without running water and has been repeatedly tortured.My Lords, in June, and again in October, I was in Athens and had long discussions with many who had recently been tortured in the prisons of Greece. Perhaps I should explain how this came about. Early in the year I had been invited to go there in May to deliver a lecture on human rights and I had accepted that invitation, while explaining that I should not attack the Government of Greece and I would decline to have a Press conference. In fact, the speech was not delivered for reasons I will explain, but in my speech I would have said:I would like to say that I have not come here to attack the Greek Government. My reasons are, first, that I am a visitor to your country; secondly, that I know of no country in the world to-day which has an unblemished record in the field of human rights and, thirdly, that it is for the citizens of every country to do what they can to secure the observance of human rights in their own country; and as circumstances vary in each country I do not think that it is for a foreigner to loll people of another country what they ought to do. I would only add, I think, that in every country there is a special onus on lawyers to take the lead in seeking to uphold the rule of law and human rights.My Lords, the society I was to address was a society called the Society for the Study of Greek Problems. It was a society mainly of intellectuals who were ordinary democrats and therefore, naturally, opposed to the Colonels' Government, while naturally taking care not to say or do anything which was illegal. The three principal officers of the society were Professor Pesmazoglu, well known in this country as a Professor of Economics and former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Greece, the man who negotiated the economic terms on which Greece was to become an associated country of the Common Market; Mr. Peponis, a former Director-General of the Greek Radio and Professor Koumandos, a well-known Professor of Law. They had previously been addressed in Athens by, for example, Monsieur Jean Ray, who had been President of the European Community, and the well-known German author, Mr. Gunther Grasse. I had, of course, advised 1757 the Foreign Secretary and our Ambassador in Athens of my visit. The night before I was due to leave the Foreign Office rang up and told me that the Colonels had that day obtained an order from the Greek court declaring the society an illegal society as having gone beyond their objects, and the three officers of the society had been forcibly deported to villages in the North of Greece for a year. They had not, of course, been charged with anything, or had any opportunity of saying anything at all.
My Lords, I imagine that the Colonels thought that in those circumstances I should not go. But I do not react very well to that sort of thing, so I went. I thought it right to see the three officers, with the permission of the Government, which they gave. I motored altogether 600 miles in Greece to these rather inacessible villages, over roads where your first puncture is not the trouble; it is when you get the second puncture before you have mended the first that there is trouble. The officers of the society were not allowed outside the last houses in the village. At the same time the Government obtained a similar order from the court dissolving the students' union because they wanted to elect their own officers instead of having officers appointed by the Colonels, and some of them also had been deported. All these people were given an allowance of 17 drachmas a day, which is not even enough to pay the rent of the accommodation that they were forced to occupy. There is, of course, no social welfare in Greece. In those circumstances you can live only with the support of your family.
While in Greece I saw the last legal Prime Minister, more than one former Minister of Justice and judges. As the House may know, after about a year the Colonels dismissed about 30 judges who had given decisions that the Colonels did not like. I suppose that the first principal rule of law is closely bound up with the independence of the Judiciary. They included Mr. Sartzetarkis, the judge in the film Z. He appealed to the Conseil d'Etat and the Conseil d'Etat ruled that his removal from the Bench was contrary to the Constitution and made an order that he should be restored to his position. The only result of that was that the 1758 Colonels dismissed the Chairman of the Conseil d'Etat.
I went back in October to hear the appeal of the society. This was obviously useless. The main evidence against them was that at previous lectures people had smiled and had appeared to be enjoying the lectures. It was not suggested that anything was said in the lectures or printed in any publication of the society which was in any way subversive. It was a curious form of appeal, because although affidavits were admissible, the society was limited to one oral witness only. The questions were all hostile questions. They were told, "Your objects include studies; that means reading books in libraries. There is nothing in your objects clause about lectures, so you should not have had any lectures." Then they were told, "Your objects include research. Who did research? You should have submitted the result to the Colonel in charge of education for him to decide whether it was right." On both occasions I met members of all political Parties. On both occasions I met and had long talks with those who had recently been tortured. Had any Member of your Lordships' House been there I do not believe that he would have had the slightest doubt that they were telling the truth.
My Lords, it has been said that the Red Cross in some report have cleared the Colonels' Government of torture. This, as I understand it, arose because the American Ambassador made some statement, or is reported to have made a statement, that during the year 1970 to 1971 when the Red Cross were given access to prisoners in Greece they found no evidence of systematic torture. The International Commission of Jurists have issued the following statement with regard to that matter. They say: Well, we all know that it is not the practice of the Red Cross to publish their reports. They submit them privately to the Governments concerned. They go on to say:It is, however, within our knowledge that the Red Cross delegates did make a number of reports of accounts they had received of torture of political prisoners and copies of these reports were sent to the Greek Government:It is not for the Red Cross, which is not a judicial or quasi-judicial body, to make an assessment whether there was systematic torture. The European Commission of Human 1759 Rights made a finding in November 1969 that there was an 'administrative practice' of torture in Greece.The agreement of the Greek Government, empowering the Red Cross to visit all places of detention, was operative only during the year after this finding of the European Commission. All available information indicates that torture of prisoners in Greece was at its lowest level during this year. It is in itself significant that the Greek Government refused to renew the agreement, and it confirms the need for humanitarian action of the kind carried out by the Red Cross.Apart from the evidence published today, we have received other statements showing that the torture of Greek prisoners is continuing up to the present day. We are unable to publish these statements at present owing to the danger involved for the persons who made them.We have evidence that when the Red Cross asked to see prisoners who had allegedly been tortured on several occasions, they were frequently moved to other prisons to avoid the Red Cross being able to see them.The reference to "the evidence published today" consisted of a signed statement by 54 political prisoners in Korydallos Prison in Athens. It was brought out of prison on October 3 and refers mainly to the torture of Wing-Commander Minis. Wing-Commander Minis was a hero of the Second World War. He fought in the Battle of Crete, and was wounded at Alamein. He was later dropped into occupied Greece, where he joined the underground resistance, and was decorated by both the Greek and British Governments. When he was arrested in April,Wing-Commander Minis made to the examining magistrate of the military court a full confession of the offence for which he had been arrested. He admitted that he had manufactured and placed near the French Embassy an explosive (which caused no personal injury). This was done as a protest against a visit by a prominent personality from abroad. After the examination, Wing-Commander Minis was returned to the civilian prison to await trial. On June 15 he was illegally removed by the military police and taken to the interrogation centre at their headquarters. He was detained there for 111 days, believed to be the longest period that any prisoner has been continuously held there. There can have been no purpose in taking him there other than for interrogation, and the wholly exceptional period for which he was detained is itself evidence that he was not a willing or co-operative subject for interrogation".Mr. Sartzetarkis himself was later arrested. He was kept in prison for over a year. No proceedings were taken against him. He was then released.
Of course, although I could do so, I am in difficulty in relating what any specific 1760 person has told me. Bearing in mind, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has reminded us, that the preamble to the Treaty confirms the determination of the parties to safeguard thefreedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples founded on the principles of democracy"—there is none in Greece—individual liberty"—there is none in Greece—and the rule of law"—which plainly does not exist in Greece; and that Article 2 enjoins on us theobligation to aim at strengthening the free institutionsI must say I have the greatest difficulty in understanding how we can properly continue with Greece as a member of NATO. If we had a Communist country which was a member of NATO, on the ground that it was willing to join NATO and it was convenient for us, I suppose that would be equally acceptable. Whether it is Communist or Fascist, I cannot see that it makes any difference. I cannot believe, though I bow to those with more military knowledge than I have, that we cannot defend democracy without a country of this kind being a member.
I found in Athens that the Americans are already at the moment very unpopular there, as of course always happens when you have foreign troops in a country. It may be convenient that the Greeks should have 25 Phantoms, as I think does Turkey also; but if there was an attack by Communist countries on the West, does anybody really imagine that that is going to make the slightest difference? In view of the support which the Colonels are now giving to Colonel Grivas, as against Bishop Makarios, is it perhaps more likely that the 25 Greek Phantoms and the 25 Turkish Phantoms will be used in a war against one another? Western democracy, I feel, must indeed be in a sad way if it is not possible to defend it without allies of that kind.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, I felt that I must take part in the debate on this Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley (and I thank him for the opportunity), not because of my natural philhellenic feelings or my classical education at Oxford 1761 but because of my recent contact with present-day Greece and a sense of lack of fairness on the part of the Western nations of Europe, due perhaps to a want of understanding on their part of the realities of present-day Greece. My family connection dates back many years. I knew the great Venizelos. I did lessons with the widow of the young Venizelos, the sometime Liberal Prime Minister; and I remember with pleasure and interest a long talk I had with the present Prime Minister, Mr. Papadopoulos, in 1970, and I came away with a very strong impression of his patriotism and his personal integrity. I have to weigh that personal feeling against the personal feeling I get when I hear accounts that a certain lady who has written a book recently gives on hearsay evidence of what happens in Greek prisons. When people talk of torture I think they ought to be a little careful, because in the public mind torture means the tearing off of finger nails, burning with cigarettes and things of that sort. Some forms of interrogation which we used in Ireland were described as torture, which I believe was making people stand for some period of time. Of course one does not wish to have that either, but one must not give the public an exaggerated feeling of what torture conveys when you talk of it in this context.
While I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, because I am sure of his desire to see Greece back among the community of Western European nations, I cannot agree with his Motion, because I think it shows a lack of understanding of the actual circumstances in which the change of Government took place and the results which have ensued. I think we are also inclined to forget that present-day Greece is a new country. Greek independence was born and became a matter of European interest after the battle of Navarino, won by our Admiral Codrington against the Turks.
Modern Greece is not a reproduction of Classical Greece and its present geographical boundaries are very recent indeed. There is a sort of obstinate conviction, I feel, that because in classical days the Athenians invented democracy in a very small town and enjoyed it for a very short time, it is a form of ethnic suicide that Greece has not pursued exactly the same pattern. Perhaps I may just remind your Lordships of the Greek 1762 history in two very short sentences. We forget Alexander the Great; the Roman Imperium; the Byzantine Hegemony; the piracies of the Crusades; the invasion of the Turks; the First World War; the shambles in Asia Minor and the sack of Smyrna (with the resulting transfer of almost half a million Greeks to the homeland); the Second World War with the German occupation; the subsequent sanguinary civil war, the to-ing and fro-ing of their non-indigenous kinds; and the persistent interference of the European Powers, whether English, French, Russian or American. The historic tides which have swept over Greece make one wonder how Greece has managed to survive at all.
Changes in the form of Government are endemic in Greek politics. I have learnt from a recently published book that between 1922 and 1936 there took place 19 changes of Government, three changes of régime and seven military revolutions. This kind of cataclysmic history explains a certain instability in the Greek character so far as politics are concerned. One must add to all this the disintegrating effect of the geographical layout of the country. The continent of Greece, as your Lordships know, is very mountainous in the North, and its fingers stretch out somewhat spastically into the sea and take in a number of islands, each with its own history and ethnic background. Who are we to say how this difficult country is to be governed? Have we really made such a success ourselves of Northern Ireland?—because at the moment we are very much in trouble about things happening there that have happened also in Greece. I do not think we have a right to dictate to any nation what its Government should be. What Greece needs above all is a period of stability, which she has enjoyed far too rarely in her history. She is getting that at present, with a promise to return to a system of elected Government which I have personally been given and which I believe will take place. But when that is to be, surely, it is for Greece to say—
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
In 1970, my Lords. After all, we have elections only every four or five years, and this is only three years. Meanwhile, 1763 I hope that the Press and the mass media in this country will cease to base their information on hearsay and use only firsthand information. For example, in a book recently published by a certain lady, most of her accusations, if not all of them, were based on hearsay. The author did not stay very long in Greece and during the short time she was there she was incommunicado, and she has since been back in this country. I believe that if the mass media and the Press do in future base their information not on hearsay but on knowledge, they will then find that the "thousands" of prisoners—a phrase so often bandied about—can he resolved now into some 300, and the majority of those were convicted of criminal violence. Military tribunals have been abolished, except in Athens, and I hope very much that these, too, will go soon. The Press has been liberalised and a large amount of civilian expertise has been taken into the Government. The so-called "Colonels" gave up their military rank many years ago. Incidentally, I am rather sorry that there should be this sort of smear on a very respectable Army rank. Nobody has ever thought that General de Gaulle should not have kept his title. I believe that our present Prime Minister is a Colonel. I cannot see anything wrong with people being Colonels; but in any case the Greek Colonals gave up their rank quite a long time ago.
I should like to give your Lordships these very few figures, if I may. During the present régime, Greece has witnessed a rapid and steady growth in national production and income—among the highest in the world. The G.N.P. in 1970 was 8.1; in 1971 it was 7.2; the rate for 1972 is not yet known. The G.N.I. in 1970 was 7.6; in 1971 it was 7.6; and in 1972 it went up to 8.5. Unemployment has dropped dramatically from 83,500 in 1967 to 30,040 in 1971. The gross tonnage of shipping has doubled. The balance of trade has nearly doubled also. The Greek percentage of armed forces to population places her in second place among NATO countries, Greece has retained conscription because she has the longest border (other than Western Germany) to defend against Communist countries. She is, however, on good terms with her Communist neighbours 1764 and also with Turkey, and has strongly deprecated any violence in Cyprus. The position and policy of Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean has already been dealt with by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, and really needs no stressing. If I have emphasised some of the other points, it is because I believe we have been less than fair to the present régime.
I appreciate the feelings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, from the legal point of view. I am sorry that there have probably been mistakes there—because there always are at the beginning of a revolution—but I believe that even there one can understand that this country is being reconstituted, and that takes a little time. It may well be that in the meantime (as in Northern Ireland, for instance) some things on the legal side have not been such as we should have liked them to be. I believe that this Greek Government is a transitional one and that it will resolve itself by degrees into a pattern which will fit better into the E.E.C. and therefore make Article 138 of the Treaty of Rome applicable. I suggest that it is not for us, or for any other country, to dictate to Greece when or how this transition should take place. Meanwhile I believe that friendship, understanding and trading will do far more good than reviling, criticising and pushing people aside.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
My Lords, although I disagree with much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, has said, I would echo the tribute which she paid—a tribute, which was also paid by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir— of our indebtedness to Greek civilisation and Greek culture, and our appreciation of the wonder of the re-emergence of Greece after centuries of slavery just over 150 years ago. Politicians of the extreme Right are inclined to be indignant about totalitarian régimes of the Left; but at the same time they are less concerned where there are dictatorships of the Right. The converse is equally true: Left-wing politicians are often silent, with some honourable exceptions, about totalitarian Left-wing régimes but protest with fervour against Right-wing dictatorships. Examples may be seen in the differing attitudes of the Right and the Left to, say, the tragic suppression of freedom and 1765 independence in Czechoslovakia not so long ago and the persecution of intellectuals like Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, by the Soviet Union on the one hand, and on the other hand the denial of elementary political rights by the regimes of Spain, Rhodesia and South Africa. The truth, however, is that there is only one freedom. Freedom, as Litvinov said of peace, is indivisible. There is one true conception of the worth of the human person, and that is enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights. We have to concede that the free countries of the world have to co-exist with nations whose citizens do not enjoy the freedoms that we so often take for granted, often forgetting the sacrifices of the Servicemen in two wars that preserved for us those freedoms.
We have also to concede that power politics often prevent us from refusing to accept what we are too weak to alter. But there are times when there are special reasons which make it our duty to declare our faith in freedom, and to protest against its denial to our fellow human beings. What is happening in Greece is just one such special case, as I hope to show, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and to Her Majesty's Government, for providing us with an opportunity to talk a little about the régime of the Colonels.
We believe in NATO, in the defence by the free countries of the world of freedom itself. The Preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty affirms the determination of the nations concerned,to safeguard the freedom, the common heritage and civilisations of their people founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law".Article 2 of that Charter enjoins on the Parties the obligation, "of strengthening their free institutions". It is against that concept of NATO that we must examine what has happened in Greece in recent years, for Greece is a member of NATO and in theory, at any rate, accepts the principle that I have quoted.
I speak as one who, during a long life, has made many visits to Greece; one who loves the Greek people, one who, like every scholar, owes so much to the glory that was Greece. I went there some years ago in the last days of democracy in Greece as Speaker of the House of Commons. There was at the time a fairly Right Wing Government in 1766 power. A general election was in the offing. It seemed that the Conservative, or perhaps Liberal-Conservative Prime Minister, Mr. Kanellopoulos, war-time hero and Greek representative of the Resistance Movement at an Allied conference during the war in Alexandria, would lose the election, and that the next Prime Minister would be the Left Wing Mr. Papandreou, also a hero of the Resistance Movement. It was soon after that, on April 21, 1967, that a group of Army officers seized power and the freedom was abolished, at least for the time being, in one day. There was no general election.
I recently had a discussion in London with a distinguished Greek Army Officer, who supports the régime of the Colonels. To him the issue is simple. He believes the Army struck to prevent the Communists from taking over Greece. He had fought them in the civil war; he had fought against the Germans in World War Two. He was utterly sincere. But the Communists had been beaten, thoroughly beaten, in the civil war which had ended a number of years before. What was at stake in the general election was not whether the Communists would take over, but whether a democratic Government of the Right would be replaced by a democratic Government of the Left. It had happened before. To me, the excuse of the Colonels matches that of the Soviet Union when it claimed it was preventing a counter-revolution when it overthrew the more Liberal Communist, Dubcek. Both excuses are equally specious both of them equally false.
If any proof were needed of this, it can be found in the fact that one of the first men arrested by the Colonels was Prime Minister Kanellopolous, friend of many British soldiers in the war. Later, Helen Vlachos, now in England, a true-blue Conservative and editor of Tory newspapers in Athens, found her newspapers destroyed and taken from her. Both of these people, like another distinguished friend of mine, Speaker Papaspyrou, who has been in and out of prison these past few years, are opposed, as we are, to tyranny from the Right or from the Left. What they want, and what I believe most of the Greek people want, is what we have, and what they have temporarily lost—a free Parliamentary democracy. Mr. Christopher Woodhouse, 1767 a Member of Parliament, who played a noble part in the Greek resistance struggle in the war against the Nazis, has written:The communist conspiracy has long been exploded as a myth.On March 6, 1969, Colonel Papadopoulos himself said, "We had few communists in our country.".
In 1959 the American Assistant Secretary of State, writing to some fifty Congressmen who were troubled about America's attitude to the Greek régime, set out the American problem clearly:This then, is the dilemma … how to deal with an ally with whose internal order we disagree, yet who is a loyal NATO partner working closely with the United States in furtherance of the purposes and obligations of the NATO Treaty.I believe there is no such dilemma. Free Greece has been a loyal NATO member, and free Greece will again carry out its NATO obligations even more than the Colonels are doing at the moment, especially as those obligations include the preservation of human rights.
As it is, the régime of the Colonels, supported by America, has been condemned by an investigating committee of the Council of Europe, and Greece resigned from the Council to avoid being expelled from it. The report of that investigating Committee makes distressing reading and would make even the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, dissent from some of the things that she said. The former Speaker, Mr. Papaspyrou, one of the noblest men I have ever met in my life, himself made a speech before the NATO Parliamentarians some two or three years ago, protesting, on the one hand, against the lack of freedom in Greece, but also expressing the passionate desire of Greece to carry out its NATO Treaty obligations.
Political resistance in Greece is largely and understandably underground. I admire the courage of those who still dare to make open protest in Greece. I deplore violence, as do my democratic friends in Greece, but one must also equally deplore the system to which the noble and learned Lord, the former Lord Chancellor, referred in his speech. Evidence of this is in The Times this morning, that Panagoulis has been in solitary confinement since 1968 in a specially built unlit cement tomb without running water in a military prison, where 1768 he has been repeatedly tortured. Nothing can justify that.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to speak? This report comes from a certain lady.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
My Lords, there is no indication in The Times that the information is from the lady. I do not know whether or not it is Lady Fleming to whom the noble Baroness is referring. I said that political resistance is underground, but there are striking signs of what the Greek people really believe. On November 3, 1968, there was the funeral of the man who might have been Prime Minister, Mr. Papandreou. That day there was a demonstration of citizens in Athens of a number which has been estimated as something between 300,000 and 500,000 citizens, crying: "We want freedom! We want elections!" And in September, 1971, at the funeral of the famous Greek poet and Nobel Peace Prizewinner—how dictatorships hate Nobel Peace Prize-winners!—George Seferis, something like 100,000 Greeks demonstrated in a token of resistance against the Greek Government.
My Lords, I believe that international pressure is not without its effect on the Greek Government. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, speaks out boldly and consistently, as the noble Baroness has done to-day, on our desire that Greece will return to democratic Government. I do not share the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, that we want Greece outside NATO. We want her in. The Greek people are our friends. They are freedom-lovers. The word "democracy" and the very idea of democracy they gave to the world over 2,000 years ago. The funeral oration of Pericles to the Atheneans has been a beacon light to those searching for just Government, for something to live for, something even to die for. After centuries they won freedom from the Turks. They fought against heavy odds against the Nazis in the Second World War. It was my privilege to meet in the Isle of Crete individual civilians, sole survivors of civilian families who had been shot by the Nazis for joining the resistance movement. My Lords, a noble Lord went a 1769 long time ago from this House and this country to become the most famous Englishman in the minds and hearts of all Greeks until Churchill came to share that fame; and the noble Lord, Lord Byron, wrote:The mountains look on MarathonAnd Marathon looks on the seaAnd musing there an hour aloneI dreamt that Greece might still be free.I would hope that this debate will convey to our friends the Greek people and to the Greek Government, the desire that Greece may return to the fold of free people.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I am quite sure that most Greeks, or all Greeks, will be very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, brought into this debate the name of Lord Byron. In fact, I happened to be in Missolonghi in October, 1971, and was at the foot of the statue of Lord Byron, and am therefore very conscious of the strong feeling the Greeks have for Lord Byron. To turn to the Motion, it refers to "the restoration of political freedoms in Greece" and urges political influence by Governments and Parliaments of NATO countries to that end. Governing a country seems to me to involve priorities, and I think that also should include the government of Greece. It can be said, I think, that politics and economics go hand in hand and also that economic issues inevitably shade into political issues. At the outset I should therefore like to refer to that country's, Greece's, stability and economic growth—certainly matters, I think, if taken with the question of the standard of living of the people, which affect the man in the street as much as, if not more than, the issue of the immediate restoration of political freedoms.
If one starts off by considering a preceding similar period of time to that during which the present Greek Government has been in power, there were, one sees, 13 different Governments in Greece. Surely stability and continuity of purpose appear only remotely possible when a Government is in power for only a matter of months. Imaginative implementation of long-term plans in the economic field is certainly difficult to achieve. Combined with an intelligent overall economic strategy, these things have now been 1770 realised, however, by the present Government. The signs are—and I think they are certain—that at the end of five years the position of the Greek economy is stronger than it has been for quite some time. The period from 1968 to 1972 saw an average annual rate of increase in in the gross national income of about 7.5 per cent.—one of the highest rates ever recorded in Greece. In fact, recently the Financial Times carried an article headed, "Economic Oscars—The 1972 Awards—Best All Round Performance" and I quote:The high incomes countries' award goes to Greece for attaining a growth rate of 8½ per cent. alongside a strong payments position and an exceptionally close approach to monetary stability.
§ LORD BETHELL
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt my noble friend for a moment. I wonder whether he is aware that Mr. Henry Tasker, the United States Ambassador in Greece, said last year to a sub-committee of the United States Congress:I think the economic situation of Greece is not the result of the policy the Colonels followed. I think it is the result of the policies that were followed by Karamanlis, who did a very brilliant job on the economic side.Mr. Tasker is not usually known as a dyed-in-the-wool supporter but a dyed-in-the-wool opponent of the Colonels' régime.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bethel, that some of the groundwork for economic development was laid by the Administrations prior to April 21, 1967, but it is in effect the present Government which gave it dynamism and carried it through to the point it has reached now.
Referring to the O.E.C.D. Economic Survey on Greece of last November, under the heading "Price/Wage Policy", it says:Greece's favourable inflationary performance throughout the recent phase of generalised inflation abroad no doubt owes much to the policies pursued on the wage/price front.Other encouraging signs come, for instance, under the heading "Capital Imports". To quote two: Foreign exchange deposits and real estate investments. These have increased steadily between 1967 and 1970 with a steep increase in 1971.
1771 With reference to Greece's banking system, it is interesting to note en passant that out of seven foreign banks established there, five have established themselves during the last five years. Consider shipping, my Lords, even more important than tourism as a source of foreign exchange. That has expanded rapidly over the past several years. My noble friend Lady Emmet gave some figures in that respect. Tourism, with its particularly good prospects, increased its foreign exchange earnings from around £50 million in 1968 to approximately £170 million in 1972. Industry, according to the O.E.C.D. Survey, has also expanded rapidly over the last few years, aided by Government policies. On the wages front, according to a London Chamber of Commerce publication, Commerce International, Government controlled wages have been rising at a rate of some 10 per cent. per annum without reaching the point of affecting the overall pattern of prices. The purchasing power of the country has in fact remained good. An interesting table can be found in last September's Monthly Economic Letter of the First National City Bank, which shows the following comparative indexes of value of money—
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, before the noble Lord reads out any indexes, although the House is always most catholic about relevance I wonder whether the noble Lord is soon coming to the Motion, which speaks not of economic performance but of political freedoms?
§ LORD MERRIVALE
Yes, my Lords, but as I was saying, politics and economics are very closely linked, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will know and what I am trying to show in effect is that—
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, is the noble Lord disagreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, or the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, who said that business and politics were completely distinct?
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, let whichever noble Baroness it was speak for herself. What I am saying is that in effect politics and economics are closely allied, and the point I am trying 1772 to make is that Governments have, in effect, certain priorities. What I am trying to show now is what the Greek Government have achieved for the people of Greece over the period of time that they have been in power. Also, to my way of thinking it is possibly as important to see that the standard of living of the people is taken care of at the same time as there is an evolution towards Parliamentary democracy.
Now if I may return to what I was saying on the question of value of money, if one takes the basis of 100 in 1961, in 1966 Britain declined to 84 and Greece to 89. In 1971 Greece had only dropped to 80 while we had gone down to 64. On glancing through the recent book of Mikis Theodorakis, Journals of Resistance, I was struck by an extract from an article which appeared in Le Monde on April 23, 1969. It saidThey"—the new régime—have undertaken a Herculean task in reforming the State and installing a modern technical and administrative apparatus.Further on the article ran:Measures have been taken to help wage earners, public officials and retired people. The farmers continue to be the government's main concern".Perhaps at this point one should remember that agriculture still provides a living for two-fifths of the population of Greece. Therefore at this point I am wondering—and indeed in view of the interruption I am wondering even more—whether those who are so critical of the pace taken towards a return to Parliamentary democracy sufficiently take into account the particular circumstances of Greece and what is being done for the people. The raising of living standards is certainly a pre-occupation of the Government, whether it be in terms of education, health or homes. In fact, budgetary allocations for education have trebled since 1966, to reach this year the figure of 450 million dollars, and according to the O.E.C.D. survey to which I previously referred, in 1970 Greece completed 12.9 dwellings per thousand inhabitants while we completed only 6.5 dwellings per thousand. As for doctors, Greece has 1.49 doctors per thousand inhabitants whereas in this country in 1967 we had only 1.18 doctors per thousand.
1773 I had intended to go on to the question of NATO but I think the assurances given by the noble Baroness were quite explicit. Therefore there is no point in saying much regarding the allegience of Greece to NATO, except perhaps to draw attention to an editorial which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on September 8 last and which saidGreece, because of her key position, is one of the most important members of NATO. Her effort in relation to her capabiliies in support of the Alliance is second to none, as is also the clarity of her recognition of East-West strategic realities.Perhaps in view of the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, I might recall the words of NATO Secretary-General Mr. Joseph Luns in December, 1971, when he was questioned on the political, psychological, military and strategic consequences of a withdrawal from NATO by Greece. The Secretary-General said:It would be for the Mediterranean a definite loss and that would make the Eastern Mediterranean very difficult to defend. That is a fact and you cannot escape it.Earlier in my speech I used the words "for the people", and that is why I should like noble Lords, although they may not agree with my feeling towards the present Government, to understand that my concern also is for the people of Greece. That is one of the reasons why I have given examples of what in effect has been done by the present Government to raise the standard of living of the people and to encourage economic growth. Therefore, as this question of "for the people" is very important, and what is being done for them, I should like to refer to an editorial which appeared in the daily newspaper, Eleftheros Kosmos on January 4 last, in which the editorialist commented on the speeches of Mr. Papadopoulos of December 16 and 20 last. I should say that the article of January 4 particularly commented on the speech delivered by Mr. Papadopoulos on December 20 at Chanea, in which the Prime Minister launched his new slogan:The Revolution for the people, with the people, by the people".The last three words, according to Mr. Savvas Constantopoulos, clearly implying that the Greek people will gradually assume the exercise of certain powers. He—the editorialist—goes on to say that 1774 this evolution will take place in stages with completely free political life restored in Greece by 1980.
In conclusion—and possibly this answers the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont—I feel that in this respect the Government and the Prime Minister are totally genuine, because I have had the pleasure of being received by a number of Ministers, and in fact more recently than the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, by Mr. Papadopoulos. That was in October, 1971. Therefore there is no question of my doubting the sincerity of the Prime Minister and his Government. The present pace towards achieving Parliamentary democracy may seem slow to some, but we must ask whether it suits an increasing number of Greeks and whether it is appropriate for Greece under present conditions. I go there two or three times a year and I know a number of Greek people. Bearing in mind the country's present stability and economic development, and remembering her past governmental instability, low rate of growth and Parliamentary upheavals, I believe that the answer to both questions is "Yes"—that is, if one wishes that friendly country and ally to consolidate her increasingly firm foundations.
§ 7.51 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, not for introducing this Motion, about which I had grave misgivings, but for saying that he would seek to withdraw it at the conclusion of the debate. That saves me having to go into the Lobby to indicate by that means that I am not entirely in sympathy with him, nor even with the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, nor with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in addressing our advice to the Greeks as suggested.
When I saw Mr. Pattakos, the First Deputy Premier, with a man who was a kind of overlord for home affairs, he said, "We are always willing to hear the advice of our friends. What is your advice to us?" I said, "I am obliged to reply with another question. What is your advice to us in the handling of Northern Ireland? On that let us call it quits and talk about something else". I do not think we can absolve ourselves in this way and give instructions to others about what they should do when we have 1775 blots as great as that. I will refer later in my short speech to the quite striking remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, who has the great distinction of having pointed out and carried the day in the matter of what I would call the "whiff of the inquisition" in Northern Ireland. I will refer to that at the end of my remarks. Meanwhile, I wish to go back a little.
When we left Greece with our troops in 1941—a beaten army having failed to rescue the Greeks, who had themselves put up the first gallant resistance against the Axis forces they had halted Mussolini and forced him to summon Hitler to his aid—as the last of our generals, retreating from the South, was on a mountain top, a shepherd came up to him and, through an interpreter, said, "You are going, but you will come back. Take my crook with you and when you come back bring it and give it back to me." That was not an isolated case. Our own dispirited troops rumbling with their vehicles through narrow towns in the Peloponnese were feted with flowers and chocolates by the women and girls as heroes of a victory instead of remnants of a retreating army.
What did we do during the war for Greece? I happened to be sent as a staff officer, and shortly after as an administrator for a year, after the Germans had begun to withdraw. We were joined in Petras one morning by Mr. Kanelopoulos who had landed alone or in a Jeep or a similar vehicle in the Southern Peloponnese and had arrived in the company of a notorious brigand, the head of a force of 2,000 troops in British uniforms and carrying British rifles and ammunition. This was a Communist force and we asked Mr. Kanelopoulos, "Why do you associate yourself with this man?" and he replied, "You see that I am alone with a lance corporal and perhaps one or two others. I had even to borrow a vehicle from this man. He is the only man in authority and when I arrived he was carrying out the customary liquidation by means of the black list. Six thousand people had already been executed in this way and at my request, and in the name of the legal Government, he abstained from doing it further." He then asked me. "How many troops have you got under Jellicoe?", who was ahead 1776 with the paratroops and special boat service, and I replied, "About 100." He then said, "Here is this man with 2,000. Tell me what you are going to do with this man?".
The problem was shifted on to us. We all know about the civil war which ended only, I believe, because Tito quarrelled with Moscow and no longer kept an open door, a running ulcer, between Yugoslavia and Northern Greece, and although they were defeated I have, in following up the subsequent history, noticed and believe that there was a deep chasm between the Communist-minded in Greece and others and that every Government has been presented with this great problem and every Government has been of a rather unstable character.
The Administration is characterised by what we outsiders would call corruption and graft and what they see simply as the Greek way of life. It is anybody's guess whether that threat was there at the time when the so-called Colonels decided to overthrow the Government of Mr. Kanelopoulos and take charge. The country is unquestionably divided. What is the cause of this great division? We must acknowledge that Greece has wallowed in poverty compared with most other European countries, divided by mountains and cut off here and there. It was my task immediately after the occupation had ended to go round and see what people had to eat and provide supplies ahead of UNRA. They are a poor people. No wonder they have resorted to desperate means. I do not like revolutions. Mr. Kanelopoulos has been my friend for 29 years and I do not like coups anywhere, but we must take account of the facts of life. Power is in the hands of the Colonels and not in the hands of Mr. Kanelopoulos. I would not have gone to Athens if I could not have seen Mr. Kanelopoulos, but I was told by the authorities that I could go anywhere and see Mr. Kanelopoulos or anyone else.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, that the economy of Greece under the Colonels has been bounding ahead and that there is the prospect in the next ten years of reaching the kind of affluence which the rest of Western Europe has reached and of Greece becoming full members of the E.E.C. This has taken everyone by surprise, including, I suspect, the Colonels, and I think it is making 1777 eventually for greater stability and for the elimination of that poverty in which shism festers and has always festered.
I see with pleasure and surprise the affluence of Greeks all over the country. I am not a regular visitor like the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, but I go there from time to time. I think that the Colonels have to some extent abolished something of this corruption. I do not think they are all unpopular. The Financial Times responded to the invitation of Mr. Pattakos, to accompany him anywhere, at any time, and let him see and talk to the people. The Financial Times took him at 7 o'clock in the morning. He got out and drove off in his car. He does not have an escort and I do not think he carries weapons—I did not "frisk" him when he came to my cocktail party—but he was as popular there as he evidently was in the market with the housewives shopping in the early morning. His domed head is conspicuous and he makes it more conspicuous than it need be by polishing it, and he is immediately recognisable everywhere. He does not bear the marks of some of the dictators that one has seen, but he takes his life in his hands. He is responsible, I suppose, for the arrest of people, for keeping them in prison, and for such torture as there is.
Torture is always resorted to by security forces when the danger to their security is the greatest. We have noticed it with the most eminent of countries: with France, where there were horrible scandals of electrical tortures in Algeria. Regarding what was uncovered in Northern Ireland, I noticed that the moment that it was brought to the notice of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, it was brought to an end—even before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, had contributed his Minority Report on the subject. But we have been doing that all over the place—in Aden and Kenya—so it was said. I know nothing of these things, and it was only in Belfast that it came to light and was stopped. It is a horrifying thing and it is abominable. I do not know what information was at the disposal of the noble Lord.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, would the House permit me? I find it difficult to sit without interrupting. The noble Earl will remember that at the time of the events in Aden, and indeed at the 1778 time of the events in Belfast, this country was, and remains, a member of the Council of Europe and that proceedings against it in the Human Rights Commission under the head of torture have not been promoted by any other countries.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I regret that I do not quite follow the point made by the noble Lord. All I am trying to say is that it was stated in one of the White Papers in connection with the events in Northern Ireland that our methods of interrogation there were the methods which had been well and truly tried in Kenya, Aden and so forth. I am not saying what anybody else said about them; I am saying only that my knowledge is what the Government White Paper said about them.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, would the noble Lord give way for one moment? I apologise for interrupting, but in this country there has been a Parliamentary outcry against "hola", against some of the things that happened in Belfast, but in Greece this cannot happen. There is a tyranny of Colonels who had given their oath of allegiance to the Crown and then broke it.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I appreciate the point, and there is a difference. I must add, however, to what I have said in somewhat adverse tones about this country. At the present time we are conspicuously sliding into anarchy and there is a quite definite risk of a dictatorship on one side or the other. We cannot boast of our security and freedoms. We are in peril. I do not think that we can join in this sort of exchange of reproaches. I want to do it, as it were, with the shepherd's crook in my hand rather than with any kind of stick or rebuke.
I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, has raised difficult issues and I wish I knew more about them. I suppose that if he had been with me when Mr. Pattakos said, "Anybody you consider ill-treated, unjustly held, tell me and I will investigate." the noble and learned Lord would, I am sure, have said that that will merely lead to the further persecution of that man. I have tried to find out about this in a very immature way, and as regards totals for instance, I believe that Mr. 1779 Karamanlis had more people detained than are at present detained by the Colonels. I am not sure that the numbers in Northern Ireland do not correspond more or less.
As to torture, that is a most difficult thing. A friend of mine went to Amnesty International who had denounced the torture of some people and he said to them: "Tell me by name and I will go and see them." He went to the individual concerned whom Amnesty International had said had been tortured and my friend said: "My dear fellow, I hear that you have been tortured. What have they been doing to you?" And the man replied: "Isn't it torture enough that a man in my position is deprived of his freedom?" In one sense, that is torture, but it is not what we mean by poking things under fingernails or being held on the wall and other such things. It is most difficult and I hope that Mr. Pattakos, if he reads the Hansard report of this debate, will respond to the earnest and grievous charges made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. Whether or not it is a dictatorship out of necessity, it has the obligation to be decent, and if these things are happening they should be brought to an end quite independently of other political freedoms. It does not follow that a dictator must be a monster. My Lords, I have said enough.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, in rising to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for introducing this subject and for asking our commendation of this Motion, I should like to make three preliminary observations. The first is that this Motion is not concerned with the project of endeavouring to dictate to any other sovereign Power what its internal affairs should be. The words are that we should use our "political influence", which is a perfectly respectable thing to do, and I seek to claim that it is a very necessary thing to do at this time. In the second place, if it can be argued that there is a slow but recognisable process on the part of the people in Greece to recover that political freedom which they have lost, then to a certain extent this debate would be invalidated. But I hope to 1780 show that that is by no means the case; indeed, that the contrary is the case.
Perhaps I may be permitted a third comment by way of introduction. It is not necessary in one speech on one particular topic too frequently to remember, and to say that you have remembered, that there are other evils in the world besides the one to which you are addressing your precise remarks. Professionally, I take a comprehensive view of sin; but in political, economic and social terms, we are now dealing with one aspect of it, or endeavouring so to do. Therefore I shall not further apologise for the fact that it could be quite easily demonstrated that similar enormities are practised in other parts of the world and were the debate on those matters I should endeavour to pass my judgments, such as they are, on them.
I now want to say something from the religious standpoint on this matter of the denial of political liberty in Greece. I do so not because I am overflowing with evangelical zeal, but because in three respects the religious issue is of paramount importance. In the first place it demonstrates the increasing tyranny of the régime. I shall try to demonstrate that in a moment. In the second place, this particular régime is ostensibly founded upon a religious culture; and to that I will refer. In the third place, there is evidence that if we are to make such representations through whatever channels which will help towards the recovery of political freedom in Greece, now is a very opportune moment because of a new development within the religious situation there.
However, to begin. Within a few days of April 11, 1967, the aging Archbishop of Athens and All Greece was sacked and a rather inconspicuous Court Chaplain named Ironimos was put in his place. He quickly called and reconstituted the Holy Synod, and from that day forward has practised a dictatorship of which there is such overwhelming evidence that I will only present a little of it, but it does represent in an acute form the problem that faces any freedom-loving person in those islands.
There are required of every would-be clergyman the answers to ten questions. I will not talk about most of them 1781 because they are the typical questions—Have you got into trouble?; Has your family been respectable?; Have you ever been associated with particular parties of undesirable nature?—but I will refer to No. 9. Any candidate for the Greek ministry—that is, the Orthodox Church—is required to answer this question:Are you prepared to serve our country, our national ideals and the legally established authority with faith and devotion"—that is not so bad, but here is the end of the sentence—and to carry out the will of the State?Thereafter candidates for ordination are required to complete this specially printed questionnaire and submit it to their Metropolitans, the local Bishops.
Here is the further point:The Metropolitan will then send these printed forms and declarations to the general directorate of national security of the Ministry for Public Order. Metropolitans will ordain as priests only such candidates who after the relevant investigations are regarded as loyal, providing of course that they have the requisite qualifications.I have been most careful not merely to trust my memory but to read the exact words, shocking, and from every Christian standpoint impermissible.
It is not surprising that this Archbishop Ironimos makes presentations, which were published in the Athens evening newspaper only a few months ago, that the Church has regained its authority and the liberation of the Church from restrictive dependence on the State has been achieved. If you hobble the horse there is no reason why you should not set it free. In matters ecclesiastical this is a pseudo-Fascist paternalistic tyranny. It has grown worse. And in addition to these particular restrictions there are evidences which accumulate of the practice of torture and the denial of freedom. A certain priest whose name is Kalavos and whose credentials are unimpeachable, the evidence for which I could present in detailed form, has been in prison twice and tortured once. He was imprisoned and tortured because he removed from his Church a picture of the Prime Minister which was put there by a policeman.
I went to Zgorsk, not very far from Moscow, to one of the remaining seminaries where priests of the similar Orthodox Church in Russia are trained for the 1782 Ministry. I remember quite clearly that among the various Icons and pictures, angels and archangels and some of the company of heaven, there was a largish picture of Lenin. I have no doubt that similar tyrannies to those practised in Greece are practised elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is, in my judgment, with respect, impudent to pretend that in this country to which we are directing our attention at the moment there is not an anti-Christian and a totally undemocratic denial of freedom, and that that denial of freedom is as expressive and as restrictive as ever it was in the earlier days of the Revolution.
To come to the second point, it would, I suppose, in one sense not be so bad if this particular community in Greece were dedicated to a non-Christian ideology. Let me quote the first Deputy Premier—who was not a Colonel; he was a Brigadier; his name is Pattakos, and he has been responsible for more garrulous, or eloquent, if you like, expressions of what is the true nature of the Revolution in Greece. It is called a Helleno-Christian Revolution, and it claims to assimilate and combine the best elements that belong to the Greek tradition, the great historic and Periclean tradition, and the Christian tradition. I must say, in parenthesis, that what eloquence has been expended on this very amorphous theme has largely been directed to 1821, not to any of the Periclean period at all, but it is important to realise that it is impossible to relate the principles of Plato's Republic, which is a corporative State, to the fact that the civilisation, so often vaunted, of democracy in Greece was based on slavery. These are indubitable facts.
It is, therefore, not surprising that though they make this tremendous claim to be the inheritors of the great Hellenic-Christian tradition, in fact their best friends have been telling us—and Minuzzo, the Italian historian, is one of their best friends—that the régime there is, as I said, increasingly a pseudo-Fascist paternalistic tyranny, and that the tyranny has much more in common with Spain or with the South American countries than it has, let us say, with Fascist Italy.
I believe that there is ample evidence that this particular kind of tyranny stems from an attempt to make use of a Christian faith which in its principles 1783 entirely denies it. May I give your Lordships one piece of almost contemporary evidence? I have in my hand a report of January 31, only a little while ago, of the Athens evening paper presenting a photostat of certain Christmas cards that were sent out from the Korydallos Prison on the occasion of Christmas. A number of the quotations in these Christmas cards were deleted by the censor, but it was not very effectively done, and it has been possible to read what the deletions were. Let me mention two of them:Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only …That is from James, Chapter I, verse 22. The other is an even more dangerous one, I suppose:Give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our way into the paths of peace".Any community which will prevent people from reading and assimilating and being comforted by words like that is an intolerable and, in my judgment, a completely impermissible kind of régime.
It is for that reason that I associate myself entirely with the proposition that as we claim to be a Christian country, and they claim to be a Christian country, too, there is every reason why we should endeavour, by the best means we have, of persuasion, and better still, as I firmly agree, by example, to demonstrate this, in our interest and theirs, and, above all, in the interest of the very faith they pretend or claim to profess, to influence them towards the kind of democratic principles from which they have very largely and widely strayed.
But there is a practical application of this issue to which I will refer in a final moment. It so happens that on February 11 there was presented to the Government of Greece protests on the part of certain elements of the Church in Greece. Those protests were not all coming from the side of the radical priests like Davalos. In fact, two of them came from ultraconservative priests who are at this moment in a condition almost of revolt against the pretensions of Ironimos, his absence, his absentee landlordism, his existence on an island, his having practically nothing to do with affairs except to direct them in terms of dictatorship, and the fact that he has now found himself in his Holy Synod in contradistinction 1784 to and indeed in contravention of two of the decisions of the Irenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is the official ecumenical authority for the Russian and Eastern Orthodox Church in general. Those decisions rest upon two edicts, one of 1850 and the other of 1928, which have been abrogated by Ironimos, and the claim is that he is therefore in schism and that the whole structure of the religious edifice is now in contempt. This has been postponed. The decision of the Governing Council is that they will look at it again in a month's time. What I believe is evident is that within this situation, which is so uniformly dark, there is now the opportunity, if we are prepared to use it wisely, charitably and humbly, of appealing to a Christianity in Greece which is already revolting against the kind of tyrrany to which it has been subjected for long enough.
This is perhaps not the most important of the issues, although I think that it is much more relevant than the economic standards of a great many Greek people at the moment. I think that it is much more relevant than to compare our present troubles in Northern Ireland and say that we have no right to do anything. It is relevant because we ought to be seeking whatever opportunity presents itself to us of driving a wedge between the true demands and desires of the majority of the Greek people and the kind of tyranny under which they have been increasingly compelled to live, a tyranny against which, in non-violent ways, many religious people are now revolting. To stimulate and encourage that kind of revolt is one of the most constructive things that we can do in this country, not only for them but for democracy generally.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I rise for only a few minutes because I think that I am the only person in this debate (which has been an extremely interesting one) who has been, and still is, a member of the North Atlantic Assembly. I have been a member of that Assembly for a number of years. It started off by being the NATO Parliamentarian Conference, and it changed a little while ago to the North Atlantic Assembly. It is a very important Assembly, and it is interesting that the 1785 noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, should have initiated this debate as a result of discussions of the Assembly, because it is the one assembly in Europe which every year brings to Europe great numbers of Parliamentarians from North America, and particularly from the United States and Canada. Therefore, for a short period every year we have a number of senators and congressmen, and Members of Parliament from Canada, debating and discussing what is relevant to the NATO Alliance.
I agree very much with a great deal that has been said in this debate, particularly with what the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, has said so admirably and also what the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, said. I think I agreed with everything that the noble Lord said. There are aspects of the work of the NATO Assembly which one must not ignore. It is an assembly which was founded on the NATO Alliance for Defence. It was founded in 1948, and still has the same number of members, except the French, who have gone out of the NATO forces, although they insist (and they are of course welcome) on coming to the Assembly, and they send their Parliamentarians there.
The first obligation of the NATO Alliance is defence, and both Greece and Turkey are important countries in the defence of that South-Western flank of Europe, which could be very vulnerable if ever there was an attack from Communist forces in that area. In 1951, the defence forces were united in the organisation called SHAPE. It is important to remember that ever since 1951, as a result of NATO and of SHAPE, no part of European territory has fallen under direct Soviet domination. We all remember the attack on Hungary. Although the Soviet domination of Rumania and Bulgaria has no doubt lessened—I have not been there, but so one reads in the newspapers—it is impossible to say that it does not exist.
I deeply regret that Greece, a very friendly country to the United Kingdom and an ally of many years, should have no Parliament. Everything that has been said here about what is happening in Greece is deeply distressing. I agree again particularly with the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, that the way to try to alter that situation is not by very 1786 severe censorship, although one may feel that strongly, but through friendship and a desire for that country to return again to democracy. That is where our influence should be pressed. I am sure that public opinion and world opinion—or rather European opinion, because we are talking about Europe—is something that people do not ignore. As many people have said, they go to Greece and they know a number of Greek people; that must also influence Greek people, even although it may be a slow process.
My visit to Greece is so far back that it is almost forgotten. I went there as a fairly young girl in 1924, and I remember the terrible conditions that existed then. I had a very close association with the late Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, and I was given the most extraordinary reception in various villages. I was simply there as a tourist, and this welcome was for no other reason than that I was a sister-in-law of Mr. Asquith. That shows that this friendship has gone on for many years. I cannot help feeling that this is something that we must not lose. We can influence them if, as I believe, the Greeks are anxious to remain our friends.
Since those days no one can deny the appalling experiences through which the Greek people have gone. They have not only had their own internal problems—which have been described much more eloquently than I could do—but they have also had terrible wars and experiences in wars. There is no doubt that it is very difficult indeed to reorganise a country in the way in which we should like to see it reorganised, but I hope and pray that what we can do to help will be done in a constructive way. Of course I hate dictatorships. Anybody who has lived, as I have done, through the horrors of the pre-Hitler and Hitler period—and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, alluded to the fact that he felt that as a young man he could have fought much harder in those days against the Hitler régime, and many of us feel like that—will remember that we did not want war, and that it was one of the things that we desperately tried to avoid. We were wrong, but I do not want war now, and, above all, I do not want a war with one of our very oldest allies.
If we can, as I believe we can, through the NATO Alliance and through the North Atlantic Assembly, try to influence the 1787 Greeks to return to the kind of democratic government that we hope to see, that is what we should do. I do not believe that it will be done by shooting down everything, and anyway, nobody is prepared to use force these days. But by isolating the Greeks we shall never get them to come back to the kind of régime that we want to see. It is only by encouraging them to take part in European affairs and in the North Atlantic Assembly—they were not there last year and have not been there this year because they do not have a Parliamentary Government; if they did have a Parliamentary Government they could come and take part—that we can help them to get a Parliamentary Government.
So I would support the view of Her Majesty's Government, that what we want cannot be achieved by violence and by isolation. It must be done by trying, in every way we can, to infiltrate the good things of democracy, believing that, in the end, the people whom your Lordships all know and have met—I have not met them, because I have not been there recently—who are anxious to rebuild Greece will triumph, and that there will will be a change, as there has been many times, towards a democratic government. I hope very much that we shall encourage that line and not an isolationist line, however disagreeable we may find some of the things going on there today.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ LORD MILFORD
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for initiating this debate. Ever since I was in Athens, on that fearful night when a handful of Army officers with tanks in the streets and machine-guns on the roof tops brought Parliamentary rule to an end in Greece, I have been more or less alone in initiating discussions on what is happening in Greece, and in urging successive British Governments to exert all their powers to bring about a return to a democratic Parliament in that country. However, this debate to-night reflects the growing concern of the British Parliament at the total lack of democracy in Greece, at the distortion of justice, at the plight of the political prisoners—many of them very ill and kept in atrocious conditions 1788 —and at the continuation of martial law in Athens after six years.
Last December, the Conservative Prime Minister of Greece at the time of the coup in 1967, told journalists that the Army-backed Government had no intention of ending the tragedy of the political detainees and their families. A big trial held recently was observed in the courtroom by Mr. Paul Rhodes, M.P., and he has written in the British Press that he found that justice, and not the defendant, was on trial in that court. He described how one of the defendants was still blind and had to wear dark glasses because of the treatment he had received before the trial. The fact that many of your Lordships have shown such concern to-night will be heard and read about by thousands in Greece in the next few days, and that will give heart and encouragement to those fighting for the release of the political prisoners, to the prisoners themselves and to those determined to win back democracy. So that this debate has been well worth while.
As an original trustee of an organisation set up to do all it can to help the prisoners and their families, I stress again how much I welcome this debate. But as to the Motion itself, I find that I cannot give it unqualified support. I am convinced that the time has now come when statesmen all over the world should devote themselves to dissolving all military blocs—NATO and the Warsaw Pact. I believe, also, that this could be brought about with the present atmosphere in the world, and it should be the aim of all Governments—East and West. Just think, my Lords, of the wealth and energy and invention which will be released for the benefit of all mankind when that comes about. This Motion, as it stands, aims at perpetuating and strengthening NATO, or attempting to give it a cleaner face. It is asking Her Majesty's Government to urge the Greek Government to make it possible for it to be embraced with open arms. But it is NATO itself which was largely responsible for the coming into being of the military dictatorship. I was in Greece a few days before and during the time of the coup. Whatever Government had been elected, even if it were a Government of the people, it would not have been a Socialist Government, let alone a Communist Government. Yet from talking to people 1789 one learned that they felt that NATO was apprehensive of a more Left Government coming in, and the Colonels used that apprehension to gain power. They knew that, in a way, NATO would sigh with relief that there was not a Left Government. In other words, the military dictatorship is NATO'S baby and the Colonels use NATO quite blatantly to keep them in power. So one aspect of this Motion with which I cannot agree is in asking NATO to give its baby a spanking.
It is horrifying for those who love going to Greece, and who love its coastline and its countryside, to know that the Sixth Fleet is now in the Piraeus, and that has become a huge military base with its pollution, prostitution, corruption, camp followers and hangers on of all kinds. But I am glad—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, said—that the Greek people themselves hate this military presence and are revolting against it. The whole atmosphere is simmering against it. But, of course, to the Colonels it is wonderful. It bolsters them up and makes them feel more secure. They get more military know-how and more arms. Last summer a Minister had a holiday yachting in the Greek waters, and he has admitted that he discussed arms with the Greek régime. I am worried about this question of arms in the hands of the Colonels, for they could—and no doubt would—use them against the Greek people if the Greek people struggled to get them out.
We read every day that the Portuguese—another Fascist ally of ours in NATO—are using napalm and other NATO weapons in Africa, but neither NATO nor the British Government rebukes the Portuguese for what they are doing. Of course they are our oldest ally. Although I have made such sharp criticism of one aspect of this Motion, I support strongly the way it urges Her Majesty's Government to do all they can to restore political freedom in Greece. I think that those who have put the question of freedom for all political prisoners, and a return to Parliamentary government, right in the foreground will to-night have helped the Greek people enormously in their struggle. When I talk about the Greek people I do not mean only the Left politically in Greece. Even the Greek Right-wing Press, which is in opposition 1790 to the junta, is saying, "We have had six years of this set-up. Where are we? We are shut in and ostracised."
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLES
My Lords, with some feeling of regret I must express a little sadness at the way in which this Motion has been proposed, because in the way it is worded it is asking Her Majesty's Government to exert political influence on another sovereign State—a kind of influence which must of its nature involve interference in the internal affairs of that other State. It seems to me that this is in complete contradiction to the terms of the United Nations Charter: a Charter which we all observe and the tenets of which we try to follow; a Charter recognised as a guide of behaviour, a code of conduct, in all international political forums, and indeed recognised by all civilised nations. It is indeed contrary to those rules and practices of States in their relations one with another to interfere in or comment on what are essentially domestic and internal matters of an independent sovereign State. Even more so, my Lords—and I say this with hesitation because I am a very new Member of your Lordships' House—I find it very regrettable that the conduct of one Government in their own country, whether we approve of it or not, and in relation to only certain aspects of it, should be discussed and considered in another national Parliament.
We have been talking of the rule of law. I have always understood, in all humility, that one of the essential rules of law is that if you attack somebody they should have the right to defend themselves. But in the national Parliament of one country no other country can defend themselves. They have to rely on hearsay, whether it be attacking or defending. I therefore frankly say how much I deplore the wording of this particular Motion. We can discuss the activities of one Government if the lives and property of our own nationals are involved. Indeed, it is our right and duty to do so. But here, my Lords, that is not the case. Thousands upon thousands of tourists from our own country go willingly and gladly every year to Greece and to its islands, and they move freely about from one end of the country to the other without any let or hindrance, as indeed the vast majority of the Greek 1791 people themselves do. They receive our nationals with friendliness, hospitality and courtesy, even to the extent of allowing our nationals to buy property in their country and to build houses; and they may choose to remain and live there.
There may indeed be a Government of which some may not approve, but we cannot really say that it can compare with a totalitarian Government. Anybody who has lived in a totalitarian country would not dare to compare the state of Greece as it is to-day with that of, say, Nazi Germany of some years ago, or even Soviet Russia. We should not forget, my Lords, that many of those living in Greece to-day, reading of this debate, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Milford—which I think would of itself show that it cannot be such a totalitarian State as the noble Lord wishes to make out—will be surprised at the wording of this Motion, and will be bitterly offended that some of your Lordships might suggest that they should be removed from the NATO Alliance, when many of these people remember those of their own families who died, either on the mainland of Greece or, in particular, on the island of Crete, defending their land alongside British forces in 1941, fighting for their freedom; and these very people still look to the United Kingdom for friendship and support. I do not think that we are giving the kind of support that is wanted by our friends.
I therefore do not propose to dwell on the internal matters of Greece, but just very briefly to mention three matters concerning the international aspects of this problem. First, in the field of commerce, as a result of the unfortunate reactions of part of Western Europe in 1966, I wish to refer to a negotiation which was going on between this country and the Public Powers Corporation of Greece in order to build an electric power station. That negotiation immediately fell through, and at the end of November last year we heard that a contract had been signed between the Soviet Union and Greece in order to build that very power station in Phillipoi. It involved Soviet technicians going there; and I only have to say that this place is in Eastern Macedonia, on a very vital part of the NATO frontier in that part of Western Europe, to show the importance of the kind of reaction that 1792 occurs when people behave irresponsibly. We should also be aware that other countries in Western Europe—for instance, the French—are only too ready to step in and take advantage of a growing economy; and if we were to even consider the kind of proposals put before your Lordships' House, we should be damaging the commercial and historic links between our two countries.
Secondly, my Lords, Greece, in fulfilling its international obligations—which, incidentally, includes (and this certainly cannot be applied to all our Western Allies) strict observance of Resolution 253 of 1968, banning commercial transactions and other relations with Southern Rhodesia—did, as I should like to remind your Lordships, offer homes to Uganda Asians when we were desperately seeking homes for these people. Not all countries in Western Europe offered this outlet and facility, but Greece did; in its limited capacity, admittedly, but it did offer homes to Uganda Asians through the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees. In the NATO Alliance, the United Kingdom and Greece together share responsibility in the defence and security of Western Europe. Again without going into detail—and my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie has already mentioned this, of course—the size and position of the Soviet Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean is sufficient evidence of the strategic importance of Greece.
The Government of Greece, indeed, fully accept their responsibilities and fully perform their duties within the North Atlantic Alliance. This was recognised by Dr. Luns, the Secretary General to NATO, when he stated, speaking on the matter of Greece's contribution in December 1971—and I quote:Your armed forces and what you spend for them are impressive. You have about 200,000 men under arms, which is a great thing for a country of about 9 million inhabitants. You accomplish more than about 7 or 8, or perhaps 9, members of the Alliance, so in that field you deserve credit; and it is everywhere understood that Greece pulls her weight, and perhaps something more than some of her allies, in the common defence".That seems very relevant to the Motion before your Lordships' House.
I can only repeat that I regret the form in which this Motion has been tabled, and that our own House should 1793 be asked to debate the conduct of a nation which has long ties of friendship with our country and which, we hope, by our understanding and comprehension of Greece's difficulties, will very shortly not only be with us in the field of security and defence but will join us in a wider European Community.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ LORD BETHELL
My Lords, there can surely be no Member of your Lordships' House in this Chamber who fails to share the hope expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, in her speech earlier this evening that Greece will soon be restored to political freedom and democracy. This is a hope which I imagine is shared by most people in Europe; and apparently it is a hope which is shared by the Greek Prime Minister, by the Greek Regent and by the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs. They are the same person—Mr. Papadopoulos. For in 1968 he gave his word to the rapporteur of the Council of Europe, Mr. Max Van der Stahl; he gave his word of honour as a Greek, as a soldier and as an officer that democracy would be restored. There must have been many people at that time, and I was probably one of them, who felt that in the circumstances, in the light of the instability of Greek politics, in the light of the unfortunate political past of Greece, with its successive Governments failing to be able to maintain themselves and falling one after the other, that a strong military régime might be able to introduce a Constitution which would provide something more stable.
A year or so later we had a Constitution. It is true that some were sceptical. A commission, of which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, was a member, expressed reservations and felt that at best it could provide only a demi-democracy. But it seemed logically to give some promise that we should have a Parliament and some form of democratic system as soon as the Constitution was approved and implemented; and I feel sure that this is one very good reason why the Constitution was approved in a plebiscite. After all, Article 56, paragraph 3 of the Constitution promises that Parliamentary elections shall be carried out simultaneously throughout the country. It does not say when; but it does say they will be carried out. Paragraph 4 of the same Article 1794 promises that the right to vote shall be obligatory. The trouble is that no Greek has yet had the chance to exercise this right. Article 58(1) promises that political Parties shall be founded freely by Greek citizens having the right to vote; that these Parties, through their activities, shall express the will of the people and must contribute to the advancement of the national interest.
This was a promise of progress. Many Greeks, whether or not they approved of the Greek Government of the time, took it into consideration before casting their votes at the ballot. It was only a year or so after this that my noble friend, Lord Merrivale, was able to be reasonably convincing when he said in a debate in your Lordships' House that it would perhaps be better for us to leave the timing of the restoration of democracy to the Greek Government; that they were in a better position to decide about such things than were we foreigners; and that really it was impertinent of us to interfere in such timing.
But the months passed and the years passed; and in 1970 again we had hopes that something might be done. On June 9, 1970, Roger Davis, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the United States of America, said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:It is my belief that the assurance we have received from Athens that the Constitution will be implemented in full by the end of this calendar year will be carried out.This was in June, 1970. A few days later, in the Congressional Record of June 29, 1970, one reads:The Greek Government has announced that in accordance with a specific time table to which it has thus far carefully adhered the institutional structure of a democracy prerequisite to elections will be in place by the end of this year.That was in 1970, three years after the coup.
But what has happened since then? Very little; nothing, in fact. It is no wonder that the Greek people have become disappointed; it is no wonder that the U.S. Congress has become particularly disappointed and has become more or less out of sympathy with the U.S. Administration on this issue. It was, I think, if we look at the record, about this time that the Greek Prime Minister began to talk less about democracy; and 1795 I suspect that the reason why he stopped emphasising his intention, or his supposed intention, to carry out the promises he had made was that he realised that he would never be able to do so without losing power himself. It had surely ceased to be a matter of timing and had become a matter of retention of power by a military clique. One looked hard for signs that he was taking some initial step; one looked to see if some political Parties were being formed which would be a necessary pre-requisite to elections; one looked and hoped to find some form of local elections which normally would be expected to take place before the national elections. But no; nothing.
As the months passed and as the years passed the pressure grew on the Greek Government to hold elections. As the pressure grew, the excuse for not holding elections became more and more thin; because really the Greek Government can put a stop to all this criticism to which they are being subjected. They can put a stop to the "flak" that they are receiving from this House, from the United States Congress, from influential people throughout the world. All they have to do is to hold elections and to abide by the result and they will have fulfilled the pledge they gave and the Constitution they composed for the approval of the Greek people. They have every incentive to hold elections. If they can hold and win them, those of us in this House who have said that they are undemocratic, that they are a clique that lack support, will eat our words.
But I fear that one must say that the converse also applies, and since they have steadfastly refused to hold elections this is extremely powerful evidence for the fact that the present Greek Government does not command substantial support and that they are not capable even of winning elections which would be held under their own control—which is not necessarily quite the same thing as free elections. They do not feel that they have the confidence to plan elections or even to organise their own political Parties, to restrict political activities, to hold even any form of election and win it. One must conclude that they are convinced that were they to do this they would lose. I take the point made by 1796 my noble friend, Lady Elles (and I am sorry that she is not in her place), that it is wrong that we should interfere directly in the internal affairs of a free country. But this in no way prevents us from looking after our own affairs and from being extremely careful about the arrangements that we make with foreign countries, about the treaty arrangements and the various agreements that we have with Greece. Greece finds itself in a rather special position here. It may not be the most vicious and cruel dictatorship in the world—I can think of many crueller and, like many of your Lordships, I have spoken out against dictatorship, for instance, in the Soviet Union. I feel that this is an excellent reason why I should speak against a dictatorship in Greece.
The aggravating factor in the case of Greece is that we have our Treaty arrangement, and the E.E.C. connection, frozen though it may be. There may come a point—whether it will be before the Foreign Ministers Conference in Copenhagen in June or not I should not like to guess, but it may not be very long after that—when various members of NATO must seriously consider this issue. Are we backing a loser in supporting the present Greek Government?—not in supporting Greece but in supporting the Greek Government. Are we attempting to cash in on a short-term advantage of a Government which is trying to bolster itself up and ingratiate itself with us and which shows itself willing to accept large military bases a few miles from its capital city? Are we in danger of accepting these short-term gifts and by doing so giving up the long-term goodwill which the people of Greece have always felt for Great Britain, for Europe and for the ideals of democracy, and the hatred which, by and large, they have shown that they have for totalitarian rule. The evidence, surely, is that unless we make alternative plans, or unless the Greek Government, either voluntarily or through persuasion—which may legitimately be done in the interests of the countries which wish to have good relations with Greece—move positively closer towards democracy, we may find that we have an unreliable ally in NATO; with the Greek people becoming more and more opposed to the principles of NATO which, of course, are based on democracy, freedom and the law.
1797 I say this, my Lords, in full memory of the great and moving historical connections that bind Greece with this country—Byron, Canning, Codrington; the great affection which the Greeks felt far Churchill; the great contribution Greece made and which the Greek Army made in the fight against Fascism and Nazism against Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and the great contribution which Greece made between 1944 and 1949 in the fight against Communist dictatorship. Unless we take a stand of some sort at this stage we may find that the Greek people will slip away from us. A note has been passed to me pointing out that only today the Greek authorities have enforced against 37 students, believed to be opposed to them, an order calling them up for military service. I feel that this sort of thing will continue; it will become more severe, and I am not in the least optimistic about the outcome if we try to go in for short-term profit. The alternative, my Lords, is that the prophecy which again was made by Mr. Papadopoulos may very well come true. In one of the very few statements he made where I think that he was talking total and utter truth, he said to a group of Members of Parliament in April, 1968:The Greek cannot stand a régime that deprives him of his free rights; be in no doubt of this.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ LORD SUDELEY
My Lords, reference has been made, particularly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, to the plight of political prisoners. I think that on this subject criticism should be directed not against the form of government but against the character of the Greeks. It has always been in the character of the Greeks, no matter whether it be under a dictatorship or a democracy, to treat their political opponents foully. They have always been this way, charming though they may be as hosts to their guests. Moreover, the treatment of political prisoners under the present dictatorship is not wholly without benefit. Somebody yesterday at the Greek Embassy was telling me of a man who had been sent to prison in Greece and decided that while there he would undertake a translation of Proust. The authorities promptly took the attitude, "For heaven's 1798 sake keep him there so that he may finish it".
My Lords, the Motion speaks about "the restoration of political freedoms in Greece". I gather that the kind of Government that existed in Greece before the coup was not one that was acceptable to the present political taste, but was something that conformed more to the state of affairs in this country in the 18th century than to democracy which we know existed in the twentieth. Elections were unfairly conducted. I know that it may be thrown at my head that those involved in the murder of Lambreekis, at a trial which took place some time afterwards, were convicted not of murder but merely of culpable homicide. But I have seen it stated in David Holden's book, Greece Without Columns, that Lambrakis was killed with the connivance of the police.
I have discussed the Greek elections with one of our diplomats in Athens whose task it was to inform Her Majesty's Government, so far as he could, of what he saw around him. The diplomat told me that the police were in on the elections. Furthermore, it was often known how a Greek voted. We are accustomed at English elections to voting for someone because we agree with the principles he stands for. In Greek elections things are quite otherwise. A man gets his votes on account of the material benefits he might confer on his supporters. Somebody becomes a politician in Greece by building up his own circle of private patronage in the form of christening presents, dowries for brides and so on. You could not extend such largesse unless you were quite a rich man, so that Greece never used to be a democracy in our conception of the word, but a plutocracy, in which the power belonged only to those clever and sharp enough to get money. Once elected, the politician used his seat in Parliament in order to gratify his clientele in new ways. So it mattered less to him whether his Party was of the Right or the Left so much as whether it was out or in. It was only when his Party was in that he could extend to his supporters such benefits as legal aid, examination passes, beds in hospital, exit visas and so forth.
So it should not surprise us much that half of the people, the politicians who served in the Cabinet under Karamanlis, 1799 had served previously under other Governments. The Government of Karamanlis lasted for a period of time that was phenomenal by Greek standards. One good reason for this was that Karamanlis had in hand, in the form of American aid, an excellent source of patronage for the reward of his supporters. In 1963, Karamanlis was defeated by a coalition of Parties called the Centre Union. These Parties were not united by any matter of principle so much as by the consideration that the supporters of Karamanlis had had a sufficient turn at the wheel and that it was time for others to take their place and reward their supporters.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? He has made a series of allegations against the Greek voters with no possible form of proof whatsoever. I could say that the noble Lord has blonde hair. He does not. He must prove what he is saying.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, will allow me to intervene. I could say that I can bear out exactly what he has said. I have seen it and heard it myself.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, the noble Baroness is making allegations and with the greatest respect—I have a great deal of affection for her—she has produced no evidence for the allegations whatsoever.
§ LORD SUDELEY
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, very much for supporting me as an eye-witness. I have never been an eye-witness, and I was relying on accounts of others that I have read. I was saying that at the time the Centre Union came to power the American civil aid came to an end. The new Prime Minister, Mr. Papendreou, decided to continue with patronage on a large scale, if only because he felt that his supporters had been out of office for so long that they were all the more hungry for benefits. That was as good a reason as any for the great inflation under which the Papendreou régime suffered. We are accustomed in this country to the idea of Her Majesty's 1800 Opposition; but if such an Opposition exists, it and the Government must work together: and it is worth observing that that did not always happen in Greece. Towards the end of his term of office Karamanlis found that he could not govern because the Opposition would not sit in Parliament. Ultimately, Karamanlis was defeated because he was exposed too much for his fraudulent management of the polls. But despite his defeat, he was a representative still of more than one-third of the Greece electorate, and, as such, he did not remain sitting in Parliament. Judging that his life was in danger, or at least that things would be made very uncomfortable for him, he left for Paris. So much for my criticism of the democracy.
Now, my Lords, I should like to consider the attitudes to the dictatorship which might be taken individually by the Right and the Left. There are certain points of acquiescence between the democratic Right and the policy of the Colonels. Both would share a sense of national tradition, though I think in the Colonels' case that would have to be tempered by the sort of understanding they might have of their philosophy and history. Both would support the Church; and both share a dislike of sexual permissiveness, which weakens the family. But the democratic Right such as we have in this country might resent the disappearance of the king. They would say: "Let us restore democracy, and then we shall have a king back; it is always such a pity when a throne goes". But that is not the only attitude a Royalist can take. Opinions may be divided as to whether the army has been Royalist in sentiment.
But after the coup the Colonels needed the king, if only to give to their régime that fiction of legality which it is always so necessary to preserve when you change the form of government. Even after the counter coup the Colonels wanted the king. They sent many emissaries to him in his exile, and prayers were said on his behalf in Greece. The king ought to return, otherwise the Greeks will forget that they ever had one, and that will really be the end of the monarchy. Moreover, the position of the monarchy was not inviolate even under the democracy. I have mentioned inflation under Papendreou. In the midst of this, 1801 Papendreou wanted to put his own forces with the king over the armed forces. Papendreou wanted to put his own people into the army. The king refused. Papendreou used this as a reason for resigning from the premiership. Then he challenged the king as a hereditary monarch. Once the attention of the Greeks was deflected in this way by a constitutional issue, they quite overlooked the great inflation which had been created by Papendreou as their own elected representative. The king was much afraid that if there were to be an election it might be fought and won by Papendreou on the issue of "The king or I."
Now I should like to address a few remarks to the Left, so much more vehement than the Right in its condemnation of the present régime. I think the Left should recognise that the Colonels' Government, so commonly regarded as being of the Right, is really in most important respects of the Left like themselves. The rule of the sophisticates, who were clever and sharp enough to get money, has been taken over by that of the simple Colonels, men of humble origin who kept the values of their humble origin, and so are concerned so far as possible to look after the welfare of the ordinary Greek. In this they launched an attack on middlemen and profiteers.
Under the democracy the farmers were heavily in debt to negotiators and middlemen. The Colonels have wiped these debts out. Under the democracy certain Athenians imposed an artificial restriction on the market in bakeries. The Colonels have stamped out this abuse, and after they came to power the price of bread went down. Under the Colonels expenditure on health and pensions has increased. There has been a great increase in employment, particularly, so as to reduce the exodus of Greeks going to work in Germany and elsewhere. This increase in employment has been particularly necessary owing to the ill-effects of American aid. Some months ago we had a debate in this House on overseas aid. I think certain noble Lords pointed out the extraordinary position reached now, whereby the countries giving the aid get more out of it than those which receive it. In the receiving countries there has been, in particular, 1802 an unfortunate drift of population from the countryside into the cities. The Colonels have done much to reestablish on the Greek countryside the Greek population which came in this way to live in Athens and could not find employment there.
I have concentrated on Greek domestic affairs, but I should like to conclude by supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, in her powerful plea that we should not take any action over Greece, whatever we may think about it as a foreign Power. This Motion conforms to a particular tradition of the Left, that of interfering in other men's quarrels. A hundred years ago the Turks massacred the Bulgarians and the English public enjoyed one of its great fits of moral indignation. Gladstone said that we should intervene, but the greatest Leader of my Party, Disraeli, said that it was none of our business. It seems to me that there are certain members of the Left who have not recovered from the victory of the Right in the Spanish Civil War. In 1957 the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, went on a private visit to Portugal and later drew up a report on matters which perhaps were really the domestic concern of the Portuguese—matters such as who were the political prisoners; whether freedom was enjoyed by trade unions and what was the quality of their franchise. This Motion seeks to interfere with the private affairs of Greece. It does so on account of Greece's being a member of NATO. But NATO needs Greece. We cannot afford to estrange the present Government; and so I am afraid that this Motion is one that would be most heartily endorsed and encouraged by our enemies the Russians.
§ 9.15 p.m.
My Lords, at this late hour I will try to be very brief. Unlike other noble Lords who have spoken, I cannot claim to have had a classical education. My connection with Greece began during the war when I got to know the Greek Army. Whereas many of them fought magnificently under extremely difficult conditions when their country was occupied by the Germans, yet at the same time they had a tradition of turbulence and there were two quite significant mutinies which in a way is in parallel with their civilian life in times of peace. They should not 1803 be condemned wholly because their standard did not conform exactly with the thinkings and feelings of other Allied armies. Soon after the War I became a Member of another place and in 1946 was chosen as a member of the British Parliamentary Delegation to Greece. I stayed on later to see a referendum on the restoration of the Monarchy. During most of my time in Parliament I have been a member, and, for part of the time, Vice-Chairman, of the Anglo-Greek Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
As a Parliamentarian, I must say that I cannot be other than distressed that the Parliament of Greece at the moment is not functioning. I am naturally as concerned with its restoration as any other Member of either House of Parliament. But there is one thing which does not help. Since the war I have noticed in Parliament and among journalists how many people are sitting in judgment upon Greece as a favourite pastime, and are quite certain that their judgment must be right. I believe that particular habit is to be found more among those of the Left than of the Right. These people cannot believe that any Government in Greece other than one of the Left could deserve respect. I can remember that when I was in Greece in 1946 the other members of the delegation held the opinion, which reflected the opinion of very many in the House of Commons, that because the Populist Party had won a general election shortly before we went out to Athens the victory could not be other than the result of some sort of fake and that conditions in Greece could not be of a kind which deserved our respect. It was an ideé fixe. I am not saying that the same sort of feelings are not found also on the other side, but they are found more often on the Left side than on the other.
Secondly, I would claim that it is an error to judge everything in Greece by the same standards as we use in judging the West—and the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, has been making that point. Greece is not a Western European country in the same way as we, Belgium and Holland are Western European countries. I say this in spite of the fact that a number of Greeks whom we meet have an international outlook and social qualities in a way that we find very easy to get on with. But the bulk of the people within Greece 1804 are different from that. They think differently; they have a different tradition, a different education and they have different neighbours—Albania and Bulgaria who are hardly Western. No one, possibly with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Milford, would attempt to judge Greece by the same standards as we should use for the Bulgarians or the Albanians. That, again, I believe to be wrong; but it is also wrong that we should be so ready to judge Greece by the same standards as those by which we judge the smaller Western European countries.
A few years ago I had an interesting experience, because I worked for a week in the Committee room in the Greek Parliament. I was one of a party consisting of two M.P.s and one of the officials of another place, who had been invited by an Anglophile element in the Greek Parliament to be present during the discussions on a Bill to amend their Parliamentary procedures. They wanted to be able to have nearby people with whom they could discuss the various points as they arose. They were people familiar with the procedures in our Parliament which they admired. That was a time when the Greek Parliament was losing respect, chiefly because of its inability to get anything done. Perhaps I could mention filibustering. We listened to debates for many hours during that week, and though we are familiar with filibustering as it sometimes takes place in another place here when we feel there is usually a strong reason, we saw these same procedures in the Greek Chamber produced night after night as a sort of routine. Some badly needed reforms of their procedures were obvious. I dared to stress only one and I did not think that it was entirely impertinent to do so. I pressed for a change to the Standing Orders to limit the speeches to one per Member per Motion, because if they were allowed two, as they did allow them, there was no end to obstruction by even quite a small group. I quote that only as one pointer to why the system was overturned.
Our interest here is to see a genuine and effective Parliamentary system restored in Greece. I should like to see the assurances by Greek Ministers which we have heard quoted from both sides of the House this evening implemented, 1805 or at least to see some movement in the right direction. Criticise the Government, yes, but why colonels should be sneered at I do not know. I was once a colonel and I do not understand why it should be assumed that if you were once a colonel you should be sneered at in public life. I am not prepared to say what support the present Greek Government does or does not enjoy. Having travelled a good deal in Eastern Europe. I would claim that if it were a choice of living either in Greece or one of the countries of Eastern Europe where the Communist Party is the single Party, there are not many people who would not prefer to live in Greece. How are we going to help bring about what we all want to see? Not, I submit, by ostracism, but by the contacts which the noble Baroness has spoken of, the contacts which lead to understanding and to the influence which grows from understanding.
§ 9.22 p.m.
My Lords, may I mention one small point which I had expected other speakers would have made. One must give the Colonels credit for having calmed down the simmering pot of Cyprus. I am firmly convinced that had there been a democratic Government in Greece, with its volatile character which is traditional there, the Enosis movement would have been stirred up. There would have been a landing of the Turks in Cyprus, incidents would have occurred and there might have been horrible slaughter as a result. The Greeks have been given great credit for their magnificent fighting during the war. I do not think people realise that it is at least arguable that but for the Greeks, and our army in Greece, the Germans might have invaded Russia a fortnight earlier, and with the army divisions which were fighting in Greece it is quite possible that Russia would have been defeated, and so should we.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, Greek liberties occupy the British Parliament from time to time. It is inevitable that they should, because when they disappear it is so conspicuous, since liberty itself was first described, to our knowledge, in the Greek language. When Greek liberties are discussed in the British Parliament, 1806 how absolutist they make us become! We always talk about Pericles; we always forget that he was the leader of a slave state. We always talk about Byron; we usually forget the kind of democracy which the Greek nation he helped to liberate was able to achieve. I shall try to be a little less absolute and, along with the great freeman of Misolonghi who is commemorated under the name of Mpuron, I will remember the second English freeman of Misolonghi, Mpephin—otherwise Ernest Bevin—who was also among the freemen of NATO.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, is very much to be congratulated for bringing up the Motion, even though it was irregularly done according to the delicate web of understandings which regulate the Business of our House. I think the wording of the Motion itself seems in human common sense and justice to be unexceptionable, and I shall end—although the Government and the Liberal Party are agreed that there shall be no vote on the Motion, and although my noble friends and I would not wish to force one—by hoping, and indeed expressing confidence, that behind the scenes in point of fact the Government are doing exactly what the Motion calls upon them to do.
The noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, speaking for the Government, used for the first time (it was often used afterwards by other speakers) the phrase "Not to dictate"—we should not dictate to the Greeks. Of course we should not, and of course the Motion never suggests for a moment that we should. It simply speaks of political influence. I am never quite sure what it is, but if we are not to use political influence to help, urge, impel the Greeks to come back to the democracy they had, I do not know what we are to do. It was perhaps setting up a bit of an Aunt Sally for the Government to huff and puff against the idea that they might be dictating to the Greeks. Of course they are not. Who said they would; and what is gained by saying that they will not? Nobody asks them to dictate to Greece. What we ask is only that they should use their political influence.
I am always sad, and I expect most Members of this House are sad, when they see military officers breaking their oath of allegiance. I do not myself mind 1807 a people throwing out their king. It has often happened. It is sometimes justified. But to see the general staffs of armed forces, military officers, who are under oath of allegiance, throwing out their king is a matter that I believe can seldom indeed be justified; and I do not believe that there is really anybody on the other side of the House who believes that on this occasion it was, because what is the value of a soldier who has broken his oath, either as a human being or as a soldier, thereafter?
We have been told by my noble friend Lord Soper how the religious liberties of the Greek people have been destroyed by the insertion in the oath enforced upon priests of an oath of loyalty to the State—not to God, not to the Church, but to the State. That takes us back to the 16th century, does it not? We have heard from my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner a detailed picture of the suppression of political liberties. He told us in some detail about how one organisation went down before the tyranny, before his very eyes when he was there. We have heard from him also about the torture. Democracy they have ended, and we all talk politely about how we can best encourage them to return to democracy. We express polite hope that the Colonels may in their goodness deign to restore to the Greek people the democracy of which they have robbed them. Is it a matter for polite hope?—I should have thought, no longer.
We heard from the last speaker but one a plea for the increase of understanding between, I suppose, our people and the Greek people, or our Parliament and—not the Greek Parliament; there is not one. An increase of understanding. Well, my Lords, there was a perfectly good understanding between us and Greece before 1967. What was wrong? What was lacking? We were two democracies. Theirs was a bit "ribby", if you like, but it was a democracy, and it was destroyed. What need is there of increasing understanding between us and the Colonels? All we need is a return to the freedom which they have, of their own mere motion, abolished.
Let me come now to the institutional question, NATO, which is what I think worries people most. I believe that the right way to look at this is not so much 1808 at NATO. NATO does not embody our conscience. It does not embody our freedom. NATO is a military alliance. There are organisations which come far closer to embodying our conscience and freedom than NATO does. They are, to a certain extent, the European Parliament, which is a reflection of West European democracy on a working level, which of course has a whole Committee existing, a permanent Committee which exists, in order to do nothing else but to try to deal with relations between member countries and Greece to see whether any means can be found of persuading the Colonels to allow their people freedom again.
And even more than the European Parliament, the Council of Europe which, with its Human Rights Commission, is the crucial body in this field. Of course many years ago now the Greek régime found it necessary to get out of the Council of Europe before they were kicked out. They were arraigned before the Human Rights Commission, which found as a fact that there was the administrative practice of torture in that country and, as is obvious, that such a practice was incompatible with membership of the body which embodies the common ideal of what human rights are, which we have in democratic Europe.
We have had some unusual speeches; rich ones. The noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, told us that there had been mistakes committed by the Greek régime "as there always are at the beginning of a revolution". It is now six years, and six years from the beginning of the Nazi revolution was 1939. Would the noble Baroness have excused Hitler's mistakes in 1939 as the kind of thing that one expects at the beginning of a revolution? She also said that she could not see anything wrong with being a colonel. Nor can I. And I can see nothing wrong with being a Member of Parliament, and I can see nothing wrong with being a king. But the Colonels could.
Then we had a speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale. He proved conclusively that the economic felicity of the Greek people was on the increase. That is not what this debate is about; it is about something else. So I presume that on this occasion the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, was not speaking, as he sometimes does, for the C.B.I., because 1809 if he had been one would have noticed that he was vying with the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, as to which of them had had the pleasure of being received most recently by these people. The noble Lord said that there was no question of his doubting the sincerity of the Greek Government; no question of his doubting the sincerity of that régime, who are traitors to their king, torturers of their people and only the latest in the sordid succession of tyrants who have robbed the people of their civil and religious liberties.
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord and I was waiting, perhaps, for somebody else to say something. I was a little surprised to hear him, perhaps jokingly, describe one of my noble friends as speaking for a particular organisation. I think we speak for ourselves in this House.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, may I say that I did not even know what the noble Lord was referring to.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I was referring by name to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and the C.B.I. Of course the noble Earl the Leader of the House is quite right: noble Lords do speak for themselves; but sometimes they place quite explicitly before the House the views of certain organisations, and when they do so repeatedly one learns to associate their names with those organisations. I think it is not unfair or improper to remind the House of established associations—half in fun, as the noble Earl has pointed out—when the thought crosses one's mind.
To turn now to the question of what can really be done, I think that very much hangs on the Americans. We are not propping up the Colonels. It has not been established in this debate today that the Americans are doing so, and I am not sure to what extent it can be established; but I think there could be no one here who would believe that any initiative could be taken by our Government, although opinions will differ about what might be done in the international organisations.
I come at last to the great question of NATO. NATO is not really an alliance of democracies. I wish it were. It is an alliance for the preservation of 1810 democracy; and it is an alliance the overwhelming majority of the citizens of which live in democratic countries. The great majority of the countries themselves have fully democratic régimes. But it is, unfortunately, an alliance composed only mostly of democracies and at the edges there is always a bit of doubt. I think it is fair to say that Portugal has never come anywhere near being a democracy throughout the existence of NATO, of which it is a longstanding member. The question of Turkey varies quite frequently. The question of Greece is a glaring example of what we are debating to-day.
The unfortunate fact is, I fear, that when it is a question of choosing between a big ruffian and a small one—lest I be accused of being vague I am referring to Russia and Greece—it may sometimes be necessary to make friends with the little ruffian to secure oneself against the big one. One hopes that the little ruffian will not remain one for long and that it will never be necessary to have more than two or perhaps two and a half dictatorships in NATO, which exists for the defence of democracy. At the moment that is what we have and I think we have just got to put up with it, unpleasant though it is.
We have the Greek régime. We are reduced, as they are reduced. We are reduced only in our integrity because its existence contravenes a clause in a charter we have signed; but they are reduced in their liberty, which is their human essence. May it soon be restored to them! And in the meantime misfortune makes us sad bedfellows.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, with the leave of the House I will briefly speak again after what I think all will agree has been an absorbing debate. Noble Lords have spoken with a great deal of knowledge and indeed affection for Greece and, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, rightly said, they have spoken in many cases in an absolute way. It almost seems that we feel so strongly about Greece that somehow we feel that we have a special responsibility for her.
I want first to deal with some of the main points that have been brought out, and in particular the serious matters 1811 raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. I am sure that everyone everywhere will deplore torture wherever it is and wherever it is proved. But the noble and learned Lord also spoke about the political prisoners in Greece, and I repeat what I said in my earlier remarks—namely, that the Greek Government know that the question of political prisoners is causing grave concern in this country. There are, however, two aspects of this question which I am bound to put to the House. The first is that where Greek citizens are concerned we have no formal standing to intervene on their behalf. Secondly—this is very important from the practical point of view—representations of that kind are unlikely to be effective because no Government wish to appear to move as the result of foreign pressure.
Indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, even seemed to feel this himself because he said that one should not tell a country what to do. Yet at the same time if I may say so, that is precisely what he was doing in the earlier part of his speech. He said he thought that Greece should no longer be a member of NATO and he quoted the preamble and Article II of the North Atlantic Treaty, to which I referred earlier. Taking a contrary view, the noble Lord, Lord May-bray-King, said that we believed in NATO and we believed that Greece should be a member of NATO. I am sure he is right; and I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, who thought in particular that we should try to influence Greece by contact and not by isolation, a point which was brought out clearly by my noble friend Baroness Elliot of Harwood.
The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, spoke rightly of the economic situation in Greece and how it had improved. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, told us that Greece had wallowed in poverty and pointed out that it was in those conditions that schism festered. I am sure that there is a great deal of truth in that; and the fact that Greece has been able to increase her economic strength is of great value not only to herself but also to the NATO Alliance itself.
The noble Lord, Lord Milford, on the contrary said that he thought there ought 1812 to be a dissolution of all military alliances, including NATO and the Warsaw Pact. I cannot agree that to dissolve NATO would be anything else than dangerous folly because the North Atlantic Alliance remains as necessary as at the time of its inception.
I should like in particular to refer to the speech made by my noble friend Lady Elles, because she summed up the whole case against the Motion before us. She drew attention to the United Nations principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. One can say, as noble Lords have said in this debate, all that one feels, but it is very important that we should sustain the argument that we do not interfere in an independent and sovereign State. I should like also to thank her for what she said about Greece and what the Greek Government tried to do in accepting some Ugandan Asians, because we were, as a Government, very grateful to them for what they tried to do.
The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and indeed many noble Lords, spoke in particular about the long time it is taking to restore democracy in Greece. I have already made clear the position of Her Majesty's Government on that question. We have said, and say now, that we hope there will be a restoration of all democratic processes. The fact that Greece to-day does not meet all the requirements of a democracy is not, I suggest to the House, in dispute, because the Greek Government themselves acknowledge that the full 1968 Constitution has not yet been carried out. M. Papadopoulos has undertaken eventually to hold elections and, as the Greek Government know, we have often said in public and in private that we hope this will happen soon. I do not think that I can go into the fascinating points raised by my noble friend Lord Sudeley about pre-coup politics. All that, of course, happened before we had the responsibility of government, but I agree with my noble friend Lord Inglewood, who spoke as a member of the Parliamentary delegation to Greece, that it is very important indeed that Parliamentary democracy should be restored and that the influence of Parliamentarians should be used in whatever assembly or of whatever delegation they happen to be a 1813 member. I agree with my noble friend Lord Hawke when he said that Greece has calmed down the situation in Cyprus. That was referred to also by my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley, and it is a matter of great importance to us at this very difficult time.
The noble Lord, Lord Soper, spoke in a fascinating and disturbing way about the Greek church—he sent me a note to say that he could not remain—but I do not think it would be suitable for a Government to refer to the state of the church in Greece. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that NATO an alliance for the preservation of democracy. I have recently taken part with him in a debate on the whole question of security in Central Europe. I would agree with him that whatever we may feel about the necessity for the restoration of democracy in Greece, nevertheless Greece has been a loyal ally, both in the last war and as a member of NATO. Her Majesty's Government understand very well why there is so much interest and concern in Britain about Greece, but we cannot claim for ourselves the right to interfere in Greek internal affairs. Nor, I suggest, can we apply different and unique standards to Greece. There are many countries in the world whose internal politics we would not endorse but with whom we maintain normal external or defence relations. As for Greece and NATO, nothing positive is served by endangering the Alliance. It would not only damage our security but would not bring any benefit at all to the Greek people. Therefore I suggest to your Lordships that neither constant pressure on the Greek Government nor isolation or ostracism would do any good at all. We should all welcome an early return by Greece to democracy, but in the end this is for the Greeks to achieve themselves.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, we have had a very full and a very good debate, in the sense that all views have been expressed, and I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part. I was particularly sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, was not able to take part, because I know that he would have had some very interesting things to say about the military side. He explained to me why he was not able to take part, and I express, I am sure on behalf of all of us, regret. 1814 The noble Lord, Lord Soper, has apologised that he has not been able to stay to the end.
I will not take up much of your Lordships' time, but if you will allow me there are some points to which I should like to reply. For instance, among minor points, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, put into the mouth of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, a remark which I think needs to be counteracted, since it is on the Record. He said that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, might say that he could not intervene on the part of certain prisoners because it would bring worse treatment for them. I should like to say that from the experience of all people who have been trying to help people in Greece it does not do that. I am sure Lord Gardiner would not have said it, and it ought to go on the Record that in fact to highlight the problems of individual prisoners does do good and can help them.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, may I interrupt. The noble and learned Lord is here to say what he wishes to say.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I am not particularly worried as to who did or did not say it, but merely to say that what was implied was inaccurate. I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, made a very good and sympathetic speech, if she will allow me to say so without appearing patronising. I wish I shared her optimism, because I know she wants the same thing as almost all of us do. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, in fact answered her speech with his analysis of what the situation is now, again with moderation.
The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, said that the democracy before the Colonels came into operation was not acceptable. All I can say is that it was acceptable to a lot of good Greeks of both the Right and the Left, intellectuals and artists and politicians, and even some of the more ordinary people of whom the noble Lord was speaking; there are very many of them who would rather have that than what they have to-day. One or two people asked why we sneer at the Colonels; that colonel is a very honourable rank. Of course it is a very honourable rank. The point is that they 1815 are colonels, except, I gather, for one, who was a brigadier. We started calling them "Colonels" because they were colonels. The fact that they are oath breakers and torturers means that it is they who are bringing dishonour on the name of colonels, not we who refer to them as colonels.
May I turn for a moment to the arguments of the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, because she put forward a doctrine of what she considered proper in your Lordships' House which I should not like to go unanswered. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will correct me if I go wrong in any part of this. The noble Baroness implied that it was improper for us to be discussing this Motion in this particular way, and improper for me to have put down the Question. I know that she did not mean it personally.
§ BARONESS ELLES
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? I certainly did not imply that anything was improper. I merely regretted the way the Motion was worded; I certainly did not imply that it was improper.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for what she says. She made the distinction that when our nationals are involved, it is our right and duty to discuss this. But our nationals are involved. We have a defence pact with this country; we will fight for them, or with them, and it is very proper that we should examine an alliance of that kind when we are pledged to them. Secondly, I do not think that such a doctrine exists in your Lordships' House. I have not looked back through Hansard but I think that we have discussed Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and even suggested that we might be able to put pressure on Governments to do things about situations like that.
Thirdly, I would beg the noble Baroness to examine the alternatives from someone who speaks, as I do, as a democrat, and who believes that an alliance to defend democracy that includes dictatorships is improper. The alternatives that I suggest are that either we should 1816 expel Greece from NATO—which I have not suggested to-night, and which I am sure she would not wish—or, alternatively, as many people on all sides of the House have suggested to-day, we must go on trying to persuade Greece that she should come back into a form of democracy so that we can accept her as a full ally within the alliance.
Now I come to the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, and the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale. Before dealing with them, may I say that I do not equate the State of Greece with the State of Nazi Germany, except in the sense that I personally regard all democracies, however bad, as better than all dictatorships, however good. I think that democracies have the seeds of improvement in them, whereas dictatorships can easily get worse. When I heard the noble Lord and the noble Baroness talking about prosperity and suggesting that torture was not torture, and saying that their personal impression of the leaders of Greece to-day was that they were people of integrity, I seemed to be reading columns of Hansard from the 1930s, and I wondered why someone did not say that the trains were running on time—though I suspect the reason that they did not is that they are not.
Now may I turn to the Government's position. The noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, asked one question which I thought I could well answer; she asked how would we feel if another country interfered in the internal affairs of this country. Well, if we had been hijacked by a dictatorship, I would welcome any other democrat who interfered. What is more, I suspect that the noble Baroness herself would be doing a "John MacNab" on the hills of Scotland as a freedom fighter, and would welcome any other democratic allies that she could get. I am delighted that she and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and others, have been speaking out, and saying that they wish for this return to democracy. I wish they would speak out a little louder. There is an awful feeling that we so need Greece in NATO, but we fail to realise how much the Greek régime needs to belong to NATO. Nevertheless, I think it is clear that we can send out a message from this House—certainly from 1817 all three Front Benches as well as from a large number of other Members—that it is the dearest wish of our majority that this hijacking should be brought to an end and the captive nation released to its freedoms. It is with that knowledge and with that message that I beg 1818 leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at four minutes before ten o'clock.