HL Deb 17 April 1975 vol 359 cc480-3

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they support the principle of an all-Party Parliamentary delegation visiting Cyprus, as a good will and fact-finding mission, with a view to obtaining first-hand knowledge, an on-the-spot assessment and the true facts of the situation there and whether they will use their best endeavours to promote such a visit.


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government support the principle of such a visit. We hope that any such delegation would comprise a wide cross-section of Parliamentary views and that it would also visit Greece and Turkey.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his reply and also for his statement of Her Majesty's Government support for this suggestion. Is he aware that, so far as it goes, the statement will be welcomed by the several hundred British people who are resident in Cyprus, apart from others?—for we are a guarantor Power. May I ask the Minister whether he would not agree that an all-Party Parliamentary delegation as a good will mission could very effectively investigate and report on the plight of misplaced and unemployed persons, whether Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, or even the British element? Will Her Majesty's Government say to what extent funds would be available for this?


My Lords, not only the composition of such a delegation but also its inquiry should be as comprehensive and wide-ranging as possible. In regard to what we could do in my Department to assist such a delegation, we shall certainly, as always, place every possible facility at their service, as we are now doing for two Members of another place who are to go on a visit of inquiry to Cyprus and who are being assisted by my Department and by the High Commission. As to funds, I know of no precedent whereby, Departmentally, I could help in this regard, and I am afraid that, even if there were a precedent, we do not have any money at the moment.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the European Parliament is also considering sending a delegation to Cyprus? Does he not think that, despite the fact that the Party opposite is not so far represented in the European Parliament, it might be preferable to send one from that Assembly?


My Lords, it could very well be so when the time comes. The noble Earl knows that the Council of Europe has sent a delegation to Cyprus, with very useful results.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that some of us, while welcoming the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, that we should send an all-Party delegation to Cyprus, believe that the situation in Cyprus is so grave that what we need is a meeting of Turkey, Greece, ourselves, the United States and the Soviet Union to bring peace to the tortured island which is suffering so much quite undeservedly?


My Lords, I am sure that the whole House would agree with the fundamental proposition made by my noble friend.


My Lords, while welcoming the Minister's favourable response to the suggestion that there should be a Parliamentary delegation, which I believe might be of value at this moment, may I ask him whether the Government recognise that as the third guarantor Government of the Constitution they have a special responsibility to play a leading, and perhaps rather more active, part in bringing the two sides together?


My Lords, I think that we showed last summer how ready we were to play a fore-most part in bringing the parties together. It certainly was not the fault of my right honourable friend that those very promising talks in Geneva failed. We stand ready still to intervene to help in every possible way, subject only to the premise that the people of Cyprus, as represented by the various parties, are agreeable to a course of action and to a solution that we can usefully promote.


My Lords, will the Minister bear in mind that very often the intervention and the diplomacy of one party in bringing two other parties together is more successful than these large international conferences, which often come to nothing?


My Lords, that is for consideration. It can be in certain connections, and the noble Lord has experience of these matters. In other regards and in other contexts, sometimes it is advisable that there should be a more comprehensive meeting. At the moment I cannot say what our conclusions are regarding the Cyprus question, but certainly the options which the noble Lord has posed are in our minds.


My Lords, while agreeing that the possibility of a delegation visiting Cyprus at present may be useful, may I ask my noble friend whether he will also remember that our troops were in Cyprus for so long trying to achieve the very objective now under discussion? Those of us who have been to Cyprus, and who saw what our young boys had to do in jeeps and small military vehicles, at the same time drinking coffee with the Greek or Turkish Cypriots in the villages, realise how difficult it is for us to step in at this juncture. This problem must be worked out by the Cypriots themselves. We have lost too many lives already in Cyprus.


My Lords, there is a great deal of truth in what my noble friend Lord Popplewell says. I know that the whole House will agree that the deportment and performance of our troops in Cyprus was always such as to command admiration and respect.


My Lords, does the noble Lord know whether any progress has been made in the context of the D'Avignon procedure to try to achieve a common policy between the Nine Members of the EEC regarding Cyprus?


My Lords, I cannot give details of international exchanges, but naturally we are in constant consultation with our friends, including the Nine, and, indeed, with members of NATO.


My Lords, would my noble friend also agree that of all the purposes which we must bear in mind the immediate need is that the discussions, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in Vienna later this month, must be started in the best possible atmosphere? Will the United Kingdom Government do their utmost to ensure that no preconditions are imposed which prevent the satisfactory beginning of these important discussions?


My Lords, I can give that assurance.