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Volume 200: debated on Wednesday 19 December 1956

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5 p.m.

My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to make a statement on Cyprus. The statement is as follows. Lord Radcliffe's report on a Constitution for Cyprus is being published to-day as a White Paper in the United Kingdom and in Cyprus. It is a statesmanlike document and the whole House will, I am sure, be grateful for the vigour with which Lord Radcliffe has carried out his task and the wisdom which he has shown.

The Report is in two parts: the recommendations for the Constitution and a covering note which explains why Lord Radcliffe has preferred his conclusions to other possible arrangements. Lord Radcliffe recommends a single chamber Assembly with 6 seats reserved for members elected by voters on the Turkish Cypriot roll, 24 for members elected by the rest of the population and 6 for members nominated by the Governor. Very careful arrangements have been devised to protect the interests of all communities. There will be a Cabinet with a Chief Minister, responsible to the Legislative Assembly. These arrangements will give to the people of Cyprus the widest possible measure of autonomy compatible with the reservation to the Governor of defence, external affairs and public security.

Her Majesty's Government have brought these proposals to the attention of the Greek and Turkish Governments, and, as the House knows, my right honourable friend has just visited Greece and Turkey for discussions on them. Her Majesty's Government, after consultation with the Governor of Cyprus, accept, as a whole, the proposals which Lord Radcliffe has made. In our view they represent a fair balance between the different and often conflicting interests which are involved.

Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to introduce such a Constitution as soon as we are satisfied that a situation exists in Cyprus in which genuine elections can be held free from violence and intimidation. A start is at once being made with the drafting of the necessary constitutional instruments so that elections may be held as soon as conditions allow.

As the House knows, the Terms of Reference given to Lord Radcliffe envisaged a Constitution for a self-governing Cyprus under British sovereignty. As regards the eventual status of the Island, Her Majesty's Government have already affirmed their recognition of the principle of self-determination. When the international and strategic situation permits, and provided that self-government is working satisfactorily, Her Majesty's Government will be ready to review the question of the application of self-determination.

When the time comes for this review — that is, when these conditions have been fulfilled— it will be the purpose of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that any exercise of self-determination should be effected in such a manner that the Turkish Cypriot community no less than the Greek Cypriot community shall, in the special circumstances of Cyprus, be given freedom to decide for themselves their future status. In other words, Her Majesty's Government recognise that the exercise of self-determination in such a mixed population must include partition among the eventual options.

Her Majesty's Government will keep in close touch with the Greek and Turkish Governments on the international aspects of the problem. I hope that we are on the eve of a new and happy chapter in the long history of Cyprus. It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to do all that it can to bring this about.

My Lords, we on this side of the House should like to be associated with everything the noble Lord opposite said by way of thanks to Lord Radcliffe for drafting, this Report, which is certainly a great public service. Furthermore, we share with him from the bottom of our hearts the hope that these proposals will lead to the end of the bloodshed and violence that have been going on in Cyprus for nearly two years. This state of affairs could be ended by an honourable agreement based on these proposals, and we sincerely hope that all concerned, whether Her Majesty's Government in London, or persons in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, or the Seychelles, will do their utmost to see that such an honourable agreement is reached about the political future of Cyprus.

So far as the question of a debate in your Lordships' House is concerned, I think that we should wish to wait until we have had time to digest these proposals, and, indeed, until the delicate discussions which, clearly, will be taking place have had a chance to bear fruit. I should like to ask the noble Lord one or two questions. The first question concerns Archbishop Makarios. Will the Archbishop be informed of the contents of Lord Radcliffe's Report? If so, will he be allowed to discuss the Report with persons with whom he may wish to discuss it, whether they be members of the Ethnarchy Council or representatives of the Government of Greece? Further, when the Archbishop has made up his mind, will the Government consult his view about the Report, or is it being submitted to him as a matter for his own information and examination? Finally, I should like to know whether the Constitution set out in the Report, which Her Majesty's Government have accepted, is a "negotiable instrument", in whole or in part, or whether it has to be accepted or rejected in its entirety? I might add that I should prefer the noble Lord not to answer any of these questions if the answers are likely to be in the least embarrassing or prejudicial, in view of the discussions which are likely to take place.

3.41 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to associate noble Lords on these Benches with what the noble Earl who has just spoken has said to Her Majesty's Government. We particularly appreciate, as does the Party of the noble Earl, the valuable work which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Radcliffe, has done, and we should like an expression of our gratitude to him to go on record. As for the actual Report it is a remarkable document, but at present it is too early to have any debate upon its contents. I hope that the noble Lord who is in charge of this matter will give us an opportunity fairly soon to discuss it in detail.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, two questions? The first is whether the proposed Constitution lays down that certain Ministerial posts in the future government of Cyprus shall be reserved for members of the Turkish community? The second question is whether the Government have considered sending this Constitution out to the Seychelles by a person of high calibre who would be able to have preliminary discussions with the Archbishop, with a view to arriving at a degree of agreement, that would enable the Archbishop to express his disapproval of any more terrorism, and who would then be able to bring the Archbishop back to Cyprus and conduct final negotiations about the Constitution in the island?

3.43 p.m.

My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, I should like to associate myself, on behalf of my Party, once more with the expressions of gratitude which have been tendered to Lord Radcliffe for his efforts in arriving at some kind of a plan. One is forced to say that that is said without prejudice, because we have not actually seen the plan. But we in this House all recognise how long and how sincere have been the efforts of Lord Radcliffe to arrive at some plan which would be acceptable to both parties. I am sure that no-one is better qualified than Lord Radcliffe to put forward such proposals. I should also like to express appreciation of the fact that Mr. Lennox-Boyd went out personally to discuss these proposals with all the parties interested. Further, I should like to ask whether the Government could not consider making some real gesture to the people of Cyprus. I realise that they have withdrawn some of the more objectionable regulations which we on this side of the House criticised a week or two ago. That is all to the good. But if it were possible to discuss this matter in a happier and more friendly atmosphere by making a real gesture to the people of Cyprus, it might well make for a more satisfactory solution of these problems.

I notice that the question of partition is mentioned in the statement. I do not expect that the noble Lord can say any thing more upon that matter. To me that is a new idea. I do not know whether other noble Lords have had occasion to consider the possibility of the partition of Cyprus. It seems rather an extraordinary and revolutionary idea in the case of a small island like this. I must say that my first reaction was rather sceptical, having regard to the experience of partition in connection with another island with which we have been closely associated and about which the noble Marquess has just made a statement. But we will wait and see. Finally, it will, of course, be desirable. I am sure, to have a discussion on this subject, and I imagine that this will take place soon after we return after the Christmas Recess. In the meantime, may I ask whether any discussions arc taking place with both Greece and Turkey following on the visit of Mr. Lennox-Boyd?

My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, I should like to put a further question with regard to the matter which has been referred to by my noble friend. Before doing so, however, I should like to associate myself with what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has said, speaking from these Benches. I do not press this question if it in any way embarrasses the Government, or if it should be thought that it could possibly be to the prejudice of negotiations. The word "partition" was a word in the statement which struck me particularly. I should be interested to know whether I am right in thinking that "partition" as it is used there means "geographical partition". I should like to be clear that that is the meaning.

3.47 p.m.

My Lords, may I begin my reply by thanking all noble Lords who have spoken for their helpful approach to this problem, and also for what they have said about the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, who has devoted an enormous amount of time and all his exceptional talents to producing what I think all your Lordships will consider, when you have read it, a brilliant Report. The matter is one of enormous complexity, and I think that the Report is a very remarkable document. I know that your Lordships— as you always do in such cases— will study it with great care. I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and others were right in saying it would be a great mistake to have further discussion until people have had time to digest this document, not merely in your Lordships' House but elsewhere also. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for the tribute which he paid to my right honourable friend.

I will try to deal with the various questions which have been put to me. First, the noble Earl asked me whether Archbishop Makarios would be informed of this Report. The constitutional proposals and the statement which I have just read are being shown this afternoon to the Archbishop in the Seychelles. To-morrow Lord Radcliffe's secretary and a senior Greek-speaking officer of the Government of Cyprus will arrive in the Seychelles to explain the proposals to him in greater detail and answer questions which he may raise upon matters about which he may wish to be further informed. Furthermore, should the Archbishop wish to have discussions with someone from Cyprus or from Greece, Her Majesty Government are prepared to provide the necessary facilities.

The noble Earl asked me whether the Constitution was negotiable. I should have thought it would be almost impossible that it should be, because I think that when the noble Earl has read it he will see that it is a very finely balanced document, and I should doubt whether, if you began negotiating on bits of it, you would not destroy the whole thing. I should therefore hesitate to say that one could negotiate about it. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, asked me whether, under the Constitution there would be a Turkish Minister. If the noble Lord looks at the document he will see that there is provision for a Minister for Turkish Affairs, who will deal with all Turkish matters. I think I have already answered his question about consultation with the Archbishop; I hope I have dealt with it to his satisfaction.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked whether we could not make a gesture to the people of Cyprus. We are very anxious to make a gesture to the people of Cyprus. The difficulty is to make a gesture to the people of Cyprus without making a gesture to the terrorists. As I think your Lordships have seen, the Governor has removed a number of restrictions recently in an endeavour to make a gesture at this time. I hope that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, has seen that already one point which he raised only last week has been dealt with. It is very difficult to make gestures where people's lives are at stake, and I could not go further than to say that the Governor will, at all times, have regard to the preservation of law and order and the security of the ordinary citizen of Cyprus, and that I do not think that gestures which would expose them to further risk would be justified even at the present time.

I was asked several questions about partition. At the moment partition is a hypothetical question. The noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, asked whether it would be geographical. I think that any partition, if there were to be such a thing, would have to be geographical. All that my statement says is that the conception of partition as one of the eventual options must inevitably flow from the conception of self-determination for the Turkish as well as for the Greek Cypriots. If one conception is conceded, the other automatically flows from it. Finally, I was asked whether discussions were continuing with Greece and Turkey. I have already said that Her Majesty's Government are keeping in close touch with the Greek and Turkish Governments on the international aspects of the proposals. My right honourable friend has just been visiting Athens and Ankara to explain these proposals to the Governments concerned, and until their reactions are known I do not think that any further discussions would be useful.