The Opposition have asked for time today to discuss Cyprus. One reason, among others, is that it is nearly a year since the House discussed the affairs of this island, and then only in a spontaneous argument which arose out of two rather ill-wedded announcements made by Ministers of the Crown. The first was that the Middle East headquarters was to be moved from Suez to Cyprus; and the second was that a constitutional offer had been made to Cyprus which many of us on this side regarded as inadequate and undemocratic in that the elected members were to be in a minority as compared with nominated members.
At that time various aspects of the constitutional offer were quite unclear, and the House was told that discussions were to take place. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) made it quite clear that the Labour Party's position in this matter was reserved and that we would look at the whole question again. Since last July the House has not had an opportunity to consider the affairs of Cyprus, and that is why we are doing so today.
We would like to know—I think the House has a right to know—what progress has been made in the discussions which, we understand, have been going on about the constitutional future of Cyprus. Has the Governor been able to find any Cypriot of authority or anybody in that country in a responsible position who has been prepared to talk to him about it? Because, unfortunately, Cyprus has been under direct rule for so long—since 1931—we on this side fully appreciate the difficulties of negotiating with persons of any status or authority.
The only people in Cyprus who have any electoral sanction at all are the Archbishop, who, rather unusually to our way of thinking, is elected by adult male suffrage in the island, and the mayors of the six municipalities, three of whom are Conservatives and three of whom are members of the Progressive People's Party, usually known as Akel and normally regarded as Communists. We understand, however, that none of these men, from Left or from Right, will even talk about this constitutional offer. We understand the difficulties which this raises, for we had a similar experience when my right hon. Friends waited from 1948 to 1951 for a more liberal and hopeful constitution to commend itself to the people of Cyprus.
We would like to know whether the Governor has been able to talk about this to the trade union leaders, Communist or anti-Communist, or to the leaders of the political parties, the Conservatives and the Communists, or the small Labour Party, which we on this side would like to see grow to greater influence and activity as a democratic alternative for the right and fair demands of the working people of Cyprus.
Has the Governor talked with representatives of professional organisations—for example, the doctors, the teachers and lawyers? I very much fear that the answer to all these questions is "No." If, in fact, the discussions have been limited, as is rumoured, to representatives of the Turkish minority and to people with no organisational backing, there seems no future for them whatever, and the sooner this is faced the better.
It is no use saying that people who are in favour of the Constitution are afraid to say so or are afraid to organise, because we cannot put the constitutional future of Cyprus into the hands of mute and frightened men who have no support from the whole range of public opinion, from extreme Left to extreme Right, from Conservative to Communist. It is most unusual in the history of Europe that there should be a solid line-up on such a broad front. The only recent example that I can remember is that which obtained in the Maquis and other resistance movements of the last war. When we get a situation in which Left and Right, Christian and anti-Christian, are all saying the same thing, that in itself is a very strong reason for our listening to what they are saying.
The present political impasse in Cyprus dates from 1931. Neither party has been able to break through it; let us face that frankly. May it not be—I put the question no more strongly than this—that we cannot go forward because we have not been on the right road?
Sometimes, in mountaineering, one reaches an impossible point—it has happened to me very often—and the sooner one stops, looks round carefully, makes a reconnaissance, accepts the inevitable and tries an alternative and often a very nearby route, the better. With delay, as any mountaineer knows, come darkness and danger. The blackest pages in our history have often been those which tell of actions taken and decisions made after a long lapse of years, decisions which could equally well have been taken years earlier and saved a tremendous amount of unfriendliness and bitterness. We on this side, and, I think, all good friends of Cyprus, feel that something like that may be happening in that very beautiful island.
The world is full of intractable problems, but Cyprus is not intrinsically one of them. Although folly and obstinacy may make it so, it is not intrinsically an intractable problem. The people are, as many hon. Members know, courteous, friendly and well-disposed towards us. I know that the Secretary of State knows this from personal experience, and that he himself is remembered in the island. The reports which we have received of violence in Cyprus are a matter of deep regret to us all. These are methods which no responsible people in Cyprus or this country can support. I am sure that we are all completely united in utterly deploring them.
But, having said that, where do we go from there? Often, when I was in Cyprus, men of great friendliness to Britain, men of wisdom and of moderation, put their dilemma to me. "We are not a violent people," they would say; "we tell our wild young men that Britain is friendly and fair and that we must negotiate for what we want. We must not behave, like Egyptians or Palestinians, to get rid of the British, but try to part as friends." But what answer can the moderate men give if Britain refuses to talk about the problem which concerns the people most?
Greeks especially like to talk. They did in the days of Pericles and they still very much like to talk, even more than most people, but when the British Government oppose the discussion of Cyprus in the United Nations, when it is said in this House that any change in sovereignty is undiscussable—I use the deplorable, ugly word coined, I believe, by the Secretary of State—it is those friendly men who lose face in their own country and the others who profit and who say to them, "You see, your way does not work with the British."
The settling in Cyprus of thousands of British Service men brings added urgency to this problem. We have brought these men from Suez because we do not want them in bases surrounded by hostility. I am sure that there is no instinctive unfriendliness to our soldiers by the people of Cyprus. For me, in the words of Othello, it is true to say of the Cypriots that
I have found great love amongst them.
But it is what the soldiery represents that causes trouble and friction.
There are, too, serious practical problems when an army arrives on a small island the size of Cyprus and takes 7,000 precious acres of land—that is a lot to the land-starved peasantry in Cyprus. The economy is bound to be disturbed and the cost of living distorted when an army starts spending—as we have been told in the House our Army is to spend in the next ten years—£30 million. Already, inflation is having a serious effect on the cost of living of the ordinary people of Cyprus. None of these things helps in a situation of constitutional difficulty.
I hope that other hon. Members will deal more fully with the strategical aspect of the problem. I would say only two things. First, I hope very much that in these days of nuclear weapons, those responsible are fully and deeply convinced of the usefulness of putting a base in a confined island space which could be completely obliterated by one explosion. Secondly, I cannot help thinking that the security and usefulness of a base is in direct relation to the degree of co-operation and consent of the people in whose country it is situated and whose lives are endangered. A base freely and willingly leased to N.A.T.O. would seem to be worth infinitely more than one planted by a colonial Power in an unwilling country.
I believe that it is long past the time when this House must face honestly and without prejudice the one issue which has confounded our relations with Cyprus from the beginning.
I must refer to the demand for integration with Greece, started as long ago as 1878, when the first British representatives were greeted in Cyprus by the Archbishop, who expressed the hope that British rule would be the golden bridge by which Cyprus was returned to Greece. It is not my business here today to plead the Greek cause. What we do on this side of the House is reaffirm our belief in the right of colonial peoples to self-determination. We see no cause in morality or reason why the people of Cyprus should be made an exception.
The difference between the two sides of the House was made clear in the debate on 28th July, 1954, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said, speaking of Cyprus:
… we have always declared that self-government within the Commonwealth will reach the stage at which they will be, within the meaning of the Statute at Westminster, independent and entitled at that stage to decide for themselves their future relations with the Commonwealth.
My right hon. Friend reserved our position on Cyprus. On the other side, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs said:
… there are certain territories in the Commonwealth which, owing to their particular circumstances, can never expect to be fully independent … I have said that the question of the abrogation of British sovereignty cannot arise—that British sovereignty will remain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 507–8.]
We say today that that right of self-determination may involve the abrogation of British sovereignty, as it did in India and Burma, and more recently in the Sudan.
May I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) that later in the debate the then Secretary of State, now Lord Chandos, intervened to say that the Minister of State had not used the word "never" and that it was not strictly true. He also added "at no time in the foreseeable future," or words to that effect, which come to much the same thing.
A much more important statement was made in this House as long ago as 1946, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Attlee), then Prime Minister, who said:
We invite, but we do not compel people to stay in the British Empire.
That is still our attitude on this side of the House.
Is it not time, in the interests of all, to make a fresh approach now? Each side in this House has said at different times that a change of policy cannot be considered, talked about or asked for, and all progress has been broken on that rock. A rather unhelpful statement came from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on 23rd July, when he said:
I trust that we shall hear no more of this agitation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 1852.]
The locusts have eaten the years while we have carried on arid arguments about the Greekness of Cyprus. I will not weary the House with a repetition of this case, which inevitably becomes a lesson in history, geography, mythology, philosophy and philology, and all sorts of other things. Any useful discussion must start with the assumption that Cypriots, apart from the Turkish minority, are Greeks. I ask the House to believe, not me but Sir Ronald Storrs, a former Governor, who said in 1931:
The Greekness of the Cypriot is indisputable. No sensible person would deny that the Cypriot is Greek-speaking, Greek-thinking and Greek-feeling.
I am sure that our position in Cyprus today would have been quite different if from the start we had accepted this, and had encouraged the pride of the people in their share of Hellenic culture. We, in this country, have a distinguished Greek tradition ourselves, in Greek scholarship and phil-Hellenism. We could have staffed the administration of Cyprus with
phil-Hellenes, endowed the archaeological expeditions with generosity and acknowledged our common debt to the civilisation of Greece.
I am saying that too much time has been spent arguing whether or not the Cypriot people are, apart from the Turkish minority, really Greeks. I say that we must alter our approach.
There is no reason why the whole of this argument about Hellenism should ever have been a matter of contention between us. Why bother to argue about it? We all know by now that nationalism is a force which, in this age of the world, must be accepted and not fought against. As long as we dismiss the Greek aspect of the Cyprus question as propaganda, from either Left or Right, we shall never be able to talk sense with these people. It is like broadcasting on the wrong wavelength and then complaining because nobody hears us. Let us start by accepting, so that we do not close the door.
If this claim to Greekness puzzles anybody, let them try to understand it and its deep roots, and not dismiss it as unrealistic and absurd. Certainly, this does not help people at all. Gladstone knew about this and so did the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Prime Minister, when he was at the Colonial Office. I have quoted his words in this House before. So did Lloyd George, when he offered Cyprus to Greece in 1915 on condition that Greece joined the war on the side of the Allies. Greece was exhausted by the Balkan wars and was not able to join the Allies until 1917. That lapse of two years was used as an excuse at the Peace Conference for not fulfilling the Lloyd George offer.
The fact that that offer was made by a Prime Minister of this country seems to the people of Cyprus to give substance to their claim and to the fact that their cause could not have been such a wildly impossible idea, when a responsible Prime Minister of this country made that offer to the Greek Government. That has never been denied.
All this has been going on far too long to be just a Moscow anti-N.A.T.O. plot. Any argument on those lines is unworthy of us. Let us approach the situation differently. I do not see how we can cure the situation otherwise or do anything helpful about it.
I want to save the time of the House by taking history as read. I will only mention that the Greek orientation of many influential people in the island has been strengthened by their having to turn so often to Athens for education in many walks of life, and particularly for their professional education. There are now a few more students, especially law students, in this country from Cyprus because it is now compulsory for them to study English law, but for generations there was no encouragement for Cypriot students to come here, to Oxford and Cambridge or to our other universities. For generations they have all been going to Athens. In Cyprus, in almost every town and village, the doctor, teacher, nurse, architect, administrator and archaeologist, have been trained in Athens. I do not think that it is right for us to complain about that Greek orientation which they feel so strongly.
There is only one other aspect of this Greek orientation which I want to mention. It is one which too often is overlooked. During the last war 15,000 volunteers from Cyprus joined the Cyprus Regiment for service overseas. Many of these men went to fight in Greece, and 3,000 of them were taken prisoner in Greece and Crete. Of nine companies of volunteers who, in March, 1941, went to fight against our common enemy in Greece there were only enough survivors to re-form two companies. In those days the official recruiting posters in Cyprus said, "Fight for Greece and Liberty." That was the mood in which so many of these young men volunteered to fight in those bitter campaigns in Greece and Crete.
I often asked a taxi driver or a lorry driver who had pulled up to eat his lunch under a tree what he knew about Greece and whether he had been there. One would answer, "I fought in Greece for three years." Another one would answer, "No, I have never been there. I only know that my father was killed in Greece." Out of a comparatively small population, a total of 15,000 volunteers is quite a considerable number to have had these experiences.
I would ask hon. Members who dismiss Enosis as pure sentiment to respect it at least and to remember that sentiment is strong enough to lead men to that kind of mortal danger. If one is prepared to accept that, perhaps the words of Henry V before Agincourt would best enable one to understand what the Cypriots feel:
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; …
That is a very real feeling in Cyprus today.
If we can start afresh and break through the failure to understand national feeling in Cyprus we can get off our backs this witch who seems to have been bedevilling all our talks.
Where can we go from here? The main argument that I have heard in Cyprus and in this House has been the argument of the material benefits which Cypriots have obtained from British rule. It is, "Look what we have done for you." That is the argument which parents often use with children when they want to leave home, but I do not believe that one wayward child has been kept at home by that argument. It is an argument which is certainly ill received in Cyprus.
I am reminded of the earlier Enosis movement when the Ionian Islands wanted to go to Greece. Many of the arguments were similar to those which are used today about Cyprus. One hon. Member, a Colonel Dunne, spoke very seriously in this House of the strategic considerations, saying that Sir Charles Napier had pointed out that Corfu, distant by 80 hours' steaming from any strong position in the Mediterranean, was one of the most valuable possessions we could hold in that quarter. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer said, according to HANSARD of 18th March, 1864:
It is perfectly true that the English Government has conferred great benefits on the Ionian Islanders, and yet they may cherish a sincere desire for union with Greece. For after all, it is not material advantages that form the entire life of the people … all men professed the desire of union with Greece … the good men felt it, and the bad men traded on it.
I am sure that that is true of Cyprus.
Mr. Chichester Fortescue said on the same day:
No doubt the Ionian people would have to make some sacrifice of ease, comfort and security for the sake of obtaining the object of their patriotic wishes—wishes, which, though stimulated by political agitators for their own purposes, were … sincerely felt both by many enlightened Ionians, and by the simple and well-disposed peasantry of the Islands in general. … It was their hope also that the irritation attending the change, and caused by the conditions which the British Government had been compelled to impose would pass away, and that the Ionians would look back with good and kindly feelings to the Power which had so long ruled them, and at last had granted them that which they so warmly desired.
I do not think that any harm has come to our good name and to our cause in the Middle East by this policy towards the Ionian Islands. On the contrary, I wish that we could hear from the Government the same sentiments as were expressed by Earl Russell in another place in 1863, when he said:
It would not be becoming the British Government, provided the Ionian people wish to be united to Greece, to thwart that wish.
But, of course, we must be sure what the people of Cyprus want.
Yes, of course.
It had been the wish of this side of the House that through constitutional machinery the elected, authoritative voice of the people could have been heard in Cyprus. This failed, and is still failing, because every constitutional offer has been conditional on our not hearing anything about a change of sovereignty. In negotiations, each side often has to give way over something if one wants to break a deadlock, and we on this side of the House honestly want to see this deadlock broken. If this is what we have to give to get constructive talks started—an undertaking that would allow the question of the future association of Cyprus with Greece to be at least discussed, to put it no higher than that—surely it is not too heavy a price to pay for the breaking of a profitless and degrading deadlock which helps nobody but the agitators who exploit it. The granted prayer is the most dreaded curse of every political agitator.
The Colonial Secretary is in his place today, but this question also touches closely on foreign affairs. The interests of the Greek and Turkish Governments lift this question out of the realm of a domestic colonial issue into the realm of an international problem in which our position in N.A.T.O. and in the world is involved. The problem also concerns the Turkish Government and 18 per cent. of the population of Cyprus who are Turks, and whose views on this subject must be heard; but while I emphasise the rights of the minority we must be honest and agree that it is not only minorities who have rights.
Greece, our traditional ally, has been gradually gathering the islands into her kingdom since the foundation of Greece. The Ionian Islands, the Dodecanese and Rhodes and so on have come in. One appreciates the interest of Turkey as well, but surely the position is different today when Greece and Turkey are both members of N.A.T.O. Surely it should be possible for free Powers with common membership of N.A.T.O. to meet and discuss the situation, if necessary in diplomatic private talks. I realise that this is not a question for the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but it is so relevant that reference must be made to it.
I cannot understand why it is that only the views of Turkey are so often referred to and quoted sympathetically and rather more strongly than the views of Greece, which, after all, has perhaps a better record of alliance with this country. I would not want to refer to old wars and disputes but only to ask that equal weight might at least be given to the representations which we receive from Greece as to the views of Turkey.
It is a matter of great regret to me, and I am sure to hon. Members on both sides of the House, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) is away ill, because he probably knows some of these problems better than anyone else. I remember that at the last annual conference of the Labour Party, at Scarborough, when we were discussing this question, my right hon. Friend told us about being at Istanbul with Nansen, in 1922, when 1½ million Greeks came out of Turkey as refugees. Nansen proposed an exchange of population—that the Turkish population of 400,000 should be moved from Greece to Asia Minor which the Greeks had left. Within a week there was a deputation from the Turks to see Nansen, begging not to be moved. I do not know why, but that is an historical fact.
In the short time I was able to spend in Greece I did not see any evidence which would support the point of view that the Turkish minority is bound to be persecuted. I would be the first to claim that in any settlement that was made the rights of all minorities in Cyprus, not only the Turks, must be protected and upheld.
What is the next step? Very much, of course, depends on what the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs tells us today. On our side, we feel that if this deadlock is continued, and there is no honest and realistic discussion which makes it seem possible to accept this constitution, then we would support a proposal for discussions possibly on a new constitution or, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said,
not a Constitution but discussions on a Constitution…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 556.]
I am sure that with the British genius for compromise we must be able to find a formula for getting round a conference table the Governor and the Archbishop, who have never once met, the six mayors of Cyprus, who are the only elected representatives of the people apart from their municipal councils, the trade union leaders, and perhaps the leaders of the political parties. A formula could be arranged by which we can talk about the future of the island instead of continuing in this harsh silent way, for which there is a responsibility on us all.
Meanwhile, I should like to see more Cypriots in positions of responsibility in Cyprus and a greater development of local government if that is possible. I think there is a great scope to improve the administration. There are some very good men working for us in Cyprus, but not all of them are as good as they should be and some do not appreciate that they are in Europe and in a highly civilised country which was Christian long before Britain heard the Word. Sometimes one cannot be completely happy about the attitude of some of our officers to the people among whom they work.
I should like to refer to one detail which I consider important, namely, the radio service. I was appalled, when I was in Cyprus, to find that the debate that had taken place in this House last July about the island was not summarised or broadcast in any form to the people of the island by the official Cyprus radio. When I asked about this I was told, "We are not allowed to broadcast anything about the island." I was so disbelieving about this that I asked to see the scripts. Everyone was very co-operative and on that day all that the radio officer had been allowed to put over the radio was the formal statement made in the House by the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs on the offer of the Constitution. Not a word about the expressions of opinion from this side of the House, not a word about the views expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, who was speaking for the Labour Party; not even an objective B.B.C. "Today in Parliament" summary of our debate.
I very much hope that a new directive has gone out over this matter, because the officers were not happy working according to this rule. It did less than no good, because the English newspapers can be bought very easily in Cyprus and, in any case, all the Cypriots have to do is what hon. Members opposite complain so much about, tune in to Athens Radio that is making propaganda on the subject, and not only that, but they could pick up from Athens the B.B.C.'s own news bulletin in Greek giving the summary of the debate in this House to which they were not allowed to listen on the Cyprus radio.
A ridiculous incident occurred which illustrates the attitude of some of the people in authority. A few days after my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) went to Cyprus, an hon. Member opposite arrived. Cyprus Radio, in its news bulletin, told the people that the hon. Member opposite had arrived in the island, but no mention was made of the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon had already landed.
I am sure that modesty forbids my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon thinking that this was important or that it mattered. The importance is not about him, I agree, but the importance is that everybody in Cyprus knew that my hon. Friend was there. It was on the front page of every local paper of every language.
That sort of thing builds up a lack of confidence. How can there be any sensible listener reaction in Cyprus when the people are given such obvious examples of propaganda? In all honesty, I must say there was a belated attempt to put that right in that my own inconspicuous visit a week or so later qualified for mention on the official radio.
To come seriously again to some of the points we have been trying to consider, I want to end by reminding the House of some words of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly on 28th July, last when we were discussing this matter. He said that we must give
an undertaking that the Constitution will be a beginning towards democratic independence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 556.]
The colonial era, whether we like it or not is over. In Cyprus, as in many other places, we have to come to terms with the twentieth century. No solution either here or anywhere else that is based on a denial of human rights will help. It will not help Greece, Turkey, Cyprus or the free world anywhere and least of all will it help this country to maintain the moral leadership of the free world which is our right and, I believe, our responsibility.
This is the first time that we have debated Cyprus since it was raised by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on the Consolidated Fund Bill on 28th July last. We had a rather interesting debate on that occasion. I entirely agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) that our debates here should be fully reported on the Cyprus radio. I know the new director of the radio broadcasting service in Cyprus, and I feel sure that he can be relied upon to see that that is done in the future.
I welcome this opportunity of giving the House some account of the events in Cyprus itself or affecting Cyprus in the past nine months. I am very well aware of the anxiety which political developments in Cyprus have aroused in this country and, indeed, of the very considerable controversy to which they have given rise.
I hope that hon. Members in all parts of this House will agree that it is neither in the interests of the people of Cyprus themselves nor of Anglo-Greek or Anglo-Turkish relations that any statements made this afternoon should tend to exacerbate the situation out there which is tense or, indeed, to hamper the efforts of this Government, or any Government that may succeed us, to achieve a solution. Here, I would like to say that I welcomed the moderate speech of the hon. Lady which, although I did not agree with it all, seemed to me to put her views of the case very fairly indeed.
Inevitably, public opinion in this country has tended to concentrate on political events in Cyprus to the exclusion of some of those economic and social matters in which great progress has been made and is being made, and which are of the greatest importance to the future of the people of Cyprus. It is one of the misfortunes of this situation that Cypriot thought has tended to become almost entirely concentrated on the political theme. Having regard to the strong feelings which are held both among the Turkish and the Greek communities in Cyprus this is perhaps inevitable, but it is none the less regrettable. I hope that the House will bear with me if, later, I touch on some of these important economic and social matters which have not been discussed in this House before.
I also welcome this debate on personal grounds. The dispute with the Greek Government over the Cyprus issue has inevitably caused distress to all of us in this country. The friendship between Britain and Greece is traditional and indeed, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence said at the United Nations last autumn, it has been almost a model friendship in the past. To me these differences have been particularly painful, owing to the fact that before and during the war my associations with the Greeks were very close indeed. I have lived with them and worked with them, in good times and in bad, and, I believe, with mutual confidence and friendship. So it has been for me a matter of great personal regret that these differences with our old friends over this issue should have arisen and should have involved me as well.
Of course, any personal feelings of this kind have to be subordinated to what is first and foremost our responsibility in this House. That is, the interests of the people of Cyprus themselves and the wider interests and matters to which I shall refer. I think all hon. Members who have studied this question realise how complex is the problem. These complexities are partly the legacy of history. They are also, in a large measure, due to the multi-racial character of the population of Cyprus. Although, as the hon. Lady has said, the two main communities are British subjects, they have close racial, cultural and religious ties with two neighbouring sovereign States. These feelings are strongly held.
No one would deny the Hellenism of the Greek population of Cyprus. Nor would anyone contest the deep attachment of the 100,000 Turkish-speaking Moslems to Turkey. On more than one occasion—the hon. Lady referred to it again this afternoon—quotations have been made from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir Winston Churchill) in 1907 when, as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, he paid a visit to Cyprus. He said it was only natural that the Cyprus people, who are of Greek descent. should regard their incorporation with what may be called their Mother Country as an ideal to be earnestly and devotedly cherished. However, what people forget to quote is what my right hon. Friend said after that. I have never heard it in this House. They forget that my right hon. Friend went on to say that he trusted that those who felt so earnestly themselves would not forget that they must show respect for the similar feelings of others. He went on to point out that the opinion held by the Moslem people of the island was one which the Government were equally bound to regard with respect.
Finally, there are the strategic implications of this situation. When he speaks later in the debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be dealing with that point. What is clear is that British strategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and our obligations to the neighbouring Arab States—and, indeed, the interests of the whole Western world, bound up, as they are, with N.A.T.O. and a strong Balkan Alliance—are involved in the question of Cyprus.
I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if I give some account of the events which followed the announcement of the intention of Her Majesty's Government last July to introduce a new Constitution in Cyprus. On 22nd August, the Greek Government lodged an application with the Secretariat of the United Nations for the inscription of Cyprus on the provisional agenda of the General Assembly. This action certainly raised the hopes and fanned the enthusiasm of those people in Cyprus who are seeking union with Greece.
As hon. Members will know, the inscription of the item on the final agenda was opposed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence on behalf of Her Majesty's Government on the ground that if a precedent was set for the consideration by the United Nations of attempts by one member to obtain the cession of territory which is recognised as being under the sovereignty of another, scarcely any territorial settlement would be inviolate, and a premium would be set upon agitation in support of claims for the revision of territorial treaties.
My right hon. and learned Friend also pointed out that any United Nations discussion of the affairs of Cyprus was inadmissible since, in the view of the United Kingdom Government, it was definitely excluded under Article 2 (7) of the Charter. In the event, the item was accepted by the General Assembly for inscription. However, so many doubts were aroused in the minds of those who saw the dangers of this precedent, and who saw how damaging the effect on the relations of all the countries concerned could be—that is to say, on Great Britain, on Greece and on Turkey, and, indeed, on the security of the whole free world—that the General Assembly, in its resolution of 17th December, decided not to consider further the item in question.
However it must be apparent that the hopes and uncertainties to which these discussions in New York gave rise, inevitably greatly complicated the task of the Governor in going forward with his plans for a new Constitution. As long as many people in Cyprus believed, and believed sincerely, that a decision by the United Nations in New York would automatically, in the course of a few months, lead to a transfer of power in Cyprus from Britain to Greece, it could hardly be expected that they would be ready to come forward to discuss details of a new Constitution.
In my statement to the House on 28th July, I outlined the sort of Constitution which Her Majesty's Government had in mind as being the most appropriate under existing circumstances. I made it clear that the Constitution itself had not been worked out in any detail, and though certainly the intention was that there should be a majority of nominated and official members, I gave an undertaking to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) that it would be submitted to this House before any irrevocable step was taken.
At the end of the year after the decision by the General Assembly of the United Nations was announced, the Governor once more took up the task of consultation locally with a view to ascertaining the views of those most closely concerned as to the lines on which a Constitution might be drawn up and what prospects there were of persuading the population to co-operate. I must confess right away to the hon. Lady that she is quite right in saying that although he had support from the Turkish community and from a number of individual and independent Greek Cypriots, he was not able to obtain the co-operation of either of the two main political parties, that is to say, the Nationalists or the Communist Cypriot leaders.
The Governor, has, however, persisted in his efforts. He has been over here on two occasions to consult my right hon. Friend on matters of detail and substance in connection with the proposed Constitution. Some progress has been made, but I would say to the hon. Lady that even if we had been able to reach a point at which we could lay definite proposals before the House I feel sure that it would be improper to do so in these very last days of the present Parliament.
It would be foolish to deny that other events, notably the successful attempt to land arms and ammunition in Cyprus—which is now before the courts—and, more recently, terrorist activities, have been a further disturbing effect on the climate which has handicapped the Governor still further in his task. The broadcasts of Athens Radio have certainly acted as a further disturbing element in the situation. As regards acts of terrorism—
Are we not getting the old, old story? First, we do nothing because there is not a sufficient level of demand in the community with democratic means to express it, and then, of course, we cannot do anything because they have reverted to violence. Surely we are not going back to that? We had it over Ireland and over Egypt.
I can assure the hon. and learned Member that that is a situation which we have tried to avoid. I was referring to acts of terrorism in the island. I feel sure that the whole House will wish to deplore those acts, all of us. Indeed, they have been condemned by all responsible opinion in the island itself. But I do regret that the leaders of the Church have not so far seen fit to express abhorrence at those acts, which cannot contribute to any successful conclusion of the many difficult problems involved.
I have given some reasons why the efforts of the Governor to complete his plans have been delayed. If hon. Members opposite are inclined to criticise the progress in getting on with this task of drawing up a Constitution, I would remind them of the fact that the abortive Constitution of 1948 under the Labour Government, details of which will be found in Colonial Office Paper No. 227 of that year, took over seven months to prepare and even then it was only in a skeleton form. I would also observe that in that proposed Constitution, although it was the intention of the Government of the time that the field of debate and legislation should be as wide as possible, it was specifically laid down in that document that the Constitution must provide that the legislature should not discuss the status of Cyprus within the British Commonwealth.
I do not believe that that was a sound idea. This was fully in line, nevertheless, with the statement made by the Labour Government at the time in reply to Questions on a number of occasions. On 12th March, 1947, the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), who, I understand, is to speak in the debate today, said that he reminded a delegation from Cyprus of a recent statement made by the Government that no change in the status of the island was contemplated by the Government.
Again, in reply to the hon. Member for Maldon on 21st June, 1950, the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), on the subject of a plebiscite organised by the Church, said:
It has repeatedly been made clear that no change in the sovereignty of the island is contemplated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 1279.]
That was the view of the Opposition at that time. We should like to know here this afternoon where they stand today.
This really is a little out-of-date. Since the view of the Labour Party has been modified officially, the right hon. Gentleman should be aware that it is now the official policy of the Labour Party that the Cypriot people should have self-determination.
As the right hon. Gentleman is criticising—I think quite rightly criticising—the actions of the Labour Government, are we to imply that he is against the idea that there should be any limitation of the Constitution? Can he give an assurance that he is not making that limitation in the present negotiations with the Cypriots?
What I said was that, in my opinion, the fact that it was done in the last Constitution was the main reason why it was never taken up at that time. Certainly, I have it very much in mind.
I am sorry to interrupt once more, but the right hon. Gentleman is evading the point a little. We are not asking him to give details of the Constitution, but to tell us just this much about the decision taken last year by the Government, that the discussion of the new Constitution should not be associated in any way with a discussion of future sovereignty.
I have not evaded it; I made my position perfectly clear on that point—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I felt that it was quite understood—[An HON. MEMBER: "Repeat it."] I cannot go over it again. I made it perfectly clear and, if hon. Members will read HANSARD tomorrow, they will realise that. As for the position of sovereignty—the position of no intention to transfer sovereignty—that was what I reaffirmed in the statement of 28th July. I was not contradicted by the right hon. Member for Llanelly. He only questioned me about the details of the Constitution.
It was repeated by my right hon. Friend on 28th October last. He made it clear that in asking the people of Cyprus to co-operate in this new constitution as a first step towards managing their affairs our aim and intention was to lead them on to self-government. What he did say was that he was not prepared to look into the distant future when we could not clearly see the outcome of these fresh steps to constitutional advance. That is the position today.
As I have said, over this matter of the Constitution we have met with difficulties and with delays, but we do not despair. I can assure the House that Her Majesty's Government and the Governor will continue their efforts to reach an arrangement out there which will be acceptable and, because it is acceptable, will be workable.
I should like to turn to some of the important economic and social developments which have been taking place in Cyprus in the past year. In spite of the strains on the resources of Cypriots imposed by the disaster of the earthquake of 1953, the general picture of Cyprus is that of a buoyant and expanding economy. There have been developments both of the public services and of private industry. A very large proportion of the increased volume of imports consists of capital equipment and goods are being produced which are being used in the economic development of the country in many ways.
Everybody knows that the main features of the Cyprus economy are agriculture and mining and, of course, external trade. All those show an improvement over the past year. Cyprus has been helped by good prices and there has been a firm demand for its minerals. The decline in the world price for sulphur has stopped and copper prices are still good.
In fact, the Cyprus economy is developing rapidly and this increased activity, coupled with the flow of money which is coming as a result of the projects of the Service Departments, to which the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancas, South has referred, is likely to result in boom conditions in the island during the next few years.
I am coming to that. The Cypriots are enjoying these conditions of full employment and prosperity without, at present, any high degree of inflation, but the Cyprus Government are very well aware of the danger and they are wisely seeking to finance all the necessary developments of their public services from internal rather than external sources. All our reports from the Government of Cyprus show that they are very acutely alive to this particular risk.
The House is already aware of the very important proposals for port development to which reference was made at Question Time this afternoon and with which I will not deal again. This, too, will be expensive. The estimated cost is about £5 million. Although the Government of Cyprus are not committed to adopting all or any of the recommendations of the Report, the author, Sir Eric Millbourn, has made it clear that the plans he has put forward are such as the probable economic position of the island in the future can afford and justify.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear whether this port development is primarily for commercial purposes, for trade in Cyprus, or in connection with the base?
It is primarily for commercial purposes. It has been under discussion for a long time. I have been pressed by my hon. Friends on many occasions to do something about port developments in Cyprus. It is one of the outstanding needs of the island.
Apart from the proposed port development, about £7½ million have already been spent in the current development plan on a number of projects including hospitals, medical services, rural water supplies, civil aviation, agriculture, education, and forestry development and a smaller sum, £675,000, on port development up to now. There is no doubt that, given a period of tranquillity, the people of Cyprus can look forward confidently to a time of unequalled prosperity.
In the same way, action is being taken over the whole field of social services. There is legislation for a social insurance scheme, for factories and women's employment, a children's Bill, improvement in the health service, to which I have already referred. All these things are going ahead, except for the social insurance scheme which, as the House has already been told, has been held up, because it was thought that it would be better for it to be discussed and settled by an assembly containing elected representatives of the people. Of course, as I made clear in reply to a Question on 15th December, if the Constitution is unduly held up we shall have to consider going ahead with that scheme on its own.
The prospects for Cyprus are good and now everything depends on our success in convincing the people of Cyprus of all races and parties that it is really not in their interest to allow themselves to be mesmerised by political aims which are unrealistic and in persuading them to concentrate on the immediate, practical, political and economic possibilities. While Her Majesty's Government fully understand and recognise the emotional attraction of many Greek Cypriots towards Greece, they adhere to their view that British control in Cyprus must be maintained unimpaired during this period of world tension.
They do not intend to be deflected by a campaign of violence from their object of bringing the island peacefully to a state of full internal self-government with provision for continuing defence needs and for the rights, security and welfare of all law-abiding inhabitants of the island, without distinction of race or creed.
I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured truthfully to give the House the position as he sees it. But does he not realise that if this country, in certain circumstances, underestimates emotional motives, we may lose material? Are we not in danger of making exactly the same mistake in Cyprus—perhaps a worse one—as we made in Malaya, over Singapore? The place will be useless. When he denigrates emotional motive, will he remember that at one time Napoleon's armies swept across Europe on emotion only?
I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) on the very admirable way in which she initiated this debate, on the first occasion that she has addressed the House officially for the Opposition. The way she put forward her most moving plea on behalf of the people of Cyprus could hardly have been bettered. Those of us who follow on this side can complain only that she deployed her arguments so comprehensively that there is little left for us to do but to repeat them.
On this side of the House, we have been all bitterly disappointed, although perhaps not altogether surprised, by the reply of the right hon. Gentleman. In the course of his speech, having evaded two interruptions from my hon. Friends, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs said that his position in this matter had been made perfectly clear. I agree. It has. It would be well to remember what he said and what was the last definite utterance on this matter by the Government. He said, "I have said that the question of the abrogation of British sovereignty cannot arise; that British sovereignty will remain." Unless his right hon. Friend has something different to say in winding up the debate, we must take it that that remains the official policy of the Conservative Party towards Cyprus.
I had a certain hesitation in entering the debate, because, unlike almost every other hon. Member who is seeking to catch your eye, Sir, I have never had the pleasure and privilege of visiting this beautiful, if somewhat unhappy island. However, I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South the representation in this House of the overwhelming majority of Cypriots in this country. I believe that we have about half each. I learn from them and from their friends and relatives who come here to visit them that the demand of the Greek Cypriots for Enosis is real, is sincere, is pressing and that it represents the earnest desire of the great majority of the Greek Cypriots.
If I may venture a personal view, I very much doubt whether the Cypriots will derive any great social, or economic benefits from such a union with Greece, either under its present Government, or under any future Greek Government that we can foresee. The Cypriots would, I think, stand to gain more in that respect from complete self-government and independence within the British Commonwealth, if that could be attained.
However, we are not dealing with social and economic factors in this problem; we are dealing with deeply-felt issues of freedom and self-determination. Those are two principles to which I subscribe even when it is perhaps inconvenient to do so. There is no doubt that the Cypriots feel that they are Greek. They feel that as part of Greece they would at least divest themselves of the colonial status which as a proud people with ancient traditions and cultures they naturally resent.
We might remember that the circumstances in which this island acquired British colonial status more than 75 years ago were somewhat odd. A few days ago we heard in the House the Chancellor of the Exchequer telling us how profoundly he was influenced in framing his Budget this year by the baleful eyes of Mr. Gladstone's portrait staring down at him from the walls of No. 11, Downing Street. It is a great pity that the Colonial Secretary and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs are not subject to the same, on the whole, beneficent influence.
I should like to quote what Mr. Gladstone said about the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1878, by which Cyprus was ceded to Britain as part of Disraeli's so-called "Peace with Honour." He described the Convention as "insane—an act of duplicity not surpassed and rarely equalled in the history of nations." A few months later, in a great speech in Glasgow, he described it as "a gross and manifest breach of the public law of Europe." Three years after that, when he was himself Prime Minister, Gladstone was most anxious to cede Cyprus to Greece and was reluctantly dissuaded from doing so, I understand, by the strength of jingoist public opinion.
No doubt Tory back benchers played their part.
In the 75 years that followed it cannot be said that our record in Cyprus as the colonial Power has been an especially happy one. I do not think that Cyprus forms the most successful chapter in the history of our Colonial Empire. Of course, as the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs said, we have sponsored certain schemes of economic development which have brought incidental economic benefits to some sections of the population of Cyprus; but, at the same time, there has been a good deal of curtailment of civil liberty throughout the period. This demand for Enosis has been there all the time, sometimes fairly quiescent. at other times flaring up, and in recent years the demand has become constant and clamant.
What is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government? It is the attitude of the ostrich. They pretend that it is not a popular demand, that it is merely a noisy agitation on the part of a small minority led by Communists, now described in terms of the favourite Foreign Office cliché as "Communist terrorists," and by a few leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church.
The fact is that every political figure in Cyprus of any standing or status is in favour of Enosis. Could this really be the case if it were merely the wish of a small minority? Of course, Her Majesty's Government could find out what the facts are if they really wanted to know, by a referendum, but they have constantly refused to have anything to do with the suggestions for plebiscites which have been put forward from time to time. If they believe that this is a minority view, this is their opportunity to prove their contention; but they will refuse to take it. The result inevitably is deadlock.
The Government want to introduce a new Constitution. At the same time, they frustrate every chance of discussion about it with responsible leaders of Cypriot opinion by refusing even to consider as a future possibility, or even to discuss, the one thing that the people of Cyprus have set their hearts on. The result is that they have recklessly inflamed Nationalist and Conservative opinion as well as Communist opinion in Cyprus by the use of such words as "never," "in no circumstances," and "not to be contemplated," when referring to any possible change of sovereignty. As I said in a supplementary question a day or two ago, in my view this does far more to create unrest in Cyprus than any of the rather foolish and ineffective broadcasts on Athens Radio.
I believe that, ultimately, we shall have to concede to the people of Cyprus not only self-Government but also the right of self-determination. Cannot we do this by negotiation? Are we to wait until there are signs that the patience of the people of Cyprus is beginning to get strained? There are already signs that these people, who are normally friendly, easy-going and kindly disposed towards the British, are getting a little tired of the shilly-shallying of Her Majesty's Government. They are obviously desperately anxious not to be forced to resort to violence. What folly it would be if the intransigence and the short-sightedness of Her Majesty's Government should force a situation which all parties concerned will genuinely regret.
I was reading recently the memoirs of a man who used to be an hon. Member of this House, and I came across these wise words:
It would be interesting to collect historical instances of harm that has been done by the reluctance of men to accept readily what they know they will have to accept in the end.
Those are the words of a Tory of Tories, the late Viscount Norwich. They seem to me extremely apposite to the current situation in Cyprus. Let us hope that the next British Government will take a less stiff-necked and obstinate attitude towards this problem and that they will consent to discuss it in a spirit of good will in order to discover a course of action which will commend itself to both sides.
I feel a little diffident about entering the debate, because I have spent only 90 minutes longer in the Island of Cyprus than the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). Further, I feel diffident as a result of having read my horoscope in Monday's "Daily Mirror," which told me that progress would be good when I stick to the familiar, but said:
Do not venture out of your depth.
I feel further deterred by the desire not to say anything which might make more difficult an already delicate situation. I have been much impressed already by the moderate tone not only of the speech by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs but of the speeches by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North.
I have thought a great deal about this problem since I was last in Greece, when I remember being very much depressed by the apparent seeping away of the immense fund of good will, friendship, and I think I can also say affection, which used to bind together the peoples of Greece and Britain. The decision of Greece to appeal to the United Nations last year; the intemperate language which has been used about this question, and, above all, the abominable broadcasts from Athens—I do not think one can use any other word to describe them—of the last two months must have brought infinite sadness to everyone who values the friendship between Greece and ourselves.
I cannot believe that the question of Enosis can appear as one easy of solution to any moderate opinion in Greece. After all, the Greeks know rather more than we do about the difficult Turkish problem. They are conscious of the strategic difficulties about which hon. Members have already spoken, and they are conscious also of a very large Communist minority in the island.
In the past months and years too many doors seem to have been slammed in our handling of this problem. Above all—and I say this having thought about it a great deal—many of us seem to have pretended, or acted as though we felt that no question of Enosis even existed, I do not believe it possible for Greece or Cyprus to expect that threats and violence and bloodshed will deflect us from doing what we honestly believe to be right.
I beg my right hon. Friend, who in a few weeks' time will, I hope, again be responsible for our colonial affairs, to consider taking the initiative in breaking down the deadlock and stalemate regarding this question. I ask my right hon. Friend seriously to reconsider in detail the steps by which the people of Cyprus might advance to full responsibility for their domestic affairs; to fix a date—and this I believe to be profoundly important—on which we and representatives of the Cypriot legislature may meet seriously to discuss the ways in which their then Constitution fails to meet their national hopes and desires for national stability.
I have presumed to make these suggestions because I feel most deeply distressed by the present position. I am convinced that it is only by such an act of faith on behalf of the Government of this country that we can possibly transform the present situation of hopelessness, bitterness and frustration into one which would be not only of benefit to ourselves, but also to the people of Cyprus, for whom we are responsible.
I wish to discuss mainly the strategic question, but before doing so may I say that it seems to me there are some propositions here which are not open to argument? One of them is that it has been, it is, and it will be, to the economic advantage of the people of Cyprus to stay within the British Empire. It is equally clear that it may well be to the social advantage of minorities to remain within the British Empire. I think it equally clear and past demonstration that one reaches a point at which it is not wise, expedient or possible to do people good against their clearly expressed will, and that is the situation which we are up against in Cyprus.
It has been made abundantly clear that the overwhelming will of the Greek majority in Cyprus is that they should return to the Greek nation to which they claim to belong. That is not because they think that they would be better off, or because they think that they would enjoy more freedom. It is demanded by Communists who, in a good many instances, know perfectly well that they would be in gaol under a Greek Government, or even executed.
Yet, irrational as it may be, this emotion exists within Cyprus. It is not for prosperity, but because they want to feel they are the sons of Achilles, the pupils and heirs of Aristotle and Plato, and fellow citizens of Pericles. It is an idea of emotion. One might call it a religion. It has nothing to do with material things, and it cannot be answered by a material solution. What, then, is the point of proposing a Constitution which would meet any reasonable demand or aspiration, when the whole basis of this aspiration is irrational and emotional? It is, from the beginning, an utterly futile exercise.
The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs ended his speech by saying that so long as the tension in the world remains, we shall insist upon maintaining our position in Cyprus, and that we shall not be deterred by acts of violence. Let us reflect how often and to how many people that has been said. And has it ever been taken other than as a challenge to violence? Here is the whole problem.
We are at the beginning of what may again be a tragic chapter in our history. It is no use saying we do not submit to violence, because at a point, we do; and that point is steadily built up in greater bitterness. The time comes when we do submit to the will of a population prepared to be violent and then we do it on the worst terms for them and for ourselves. Do not let us do that again here. And in any case, do not let us do it for an imaginary strategic advantage which, if not antediluvian, is certainly ante-atomic.
In this atomic age, I cannot conceive of what military advantage Cyprus can be to us. Let us try to understand what is a base. I remember, when we were discussing the matter in another context, the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Water-house) told us, "You want a base where you are going to use your troops." Of course, that is precisely opposite to the truth.
The whole point of a base is that it is somewhere where it is not proposed to use troops. If it is necessary to use troops at a base, then the base becomes a commitment and not a point of manoeuvre giving additional mobility. Any base which holds down troops needed to defend it has lost its function as a base, because it ceases to be a point from which can be obtained added mobility in the sphere of manoeuvre. Therefore, to try to make a base where it is necessary to hold a position against a hostile population is, in my submission, an act of strategic insanity.
Further, in what sort of a war do we contemplate using this depository of troops? In point of fact, it will not be a base; it will be a garrison and a commitment. But in what sort of a war do we pretend that we shall draw troops from this garrison to use in what sort of an area? I should have thought that it was plainly obvious that it could not be in an atomic war, because anywhere more atomically vulnerable than the Cyprus base would be hard to imagine.
As I understand it, a command post occupying about 4,000 men, not one of whom will fight, is being built there. What is the point of such a command post, which in any case will be across the sea, in Cyprus? Such a command post ought to be a long way below the earth in any case. But if it is to be across the sea at all, might it not just as well be in London or in Paris as in Cyprus? When controlling by wireless it makes little difference if one's distance is rather longer or shorter.
But perhaps it is not to be used in an atomic war. Have hon. Members opposite in mind the sort of intervention in which the Tory Government were tempted to indulge in Persia—incidentally blaming us for not doing so? If they think they will go into Iran or make small interventions and little Tory wars in the Middle East, it would, in the first place, be better if Cyprus were not there—to keep them out of temptation, if for nothing else. But in point of fact even then it would be useless.
If we were to deal with that sort of situation we should deal with it today by means of an airlift—and we could work our airlift from here. It may be that there would be a certain number of ferrying operations, in which case there is perhaps some advantage in shorter distances, but with our limited aerodrome and airfield accommodation in Cyprus, compared with our unlimited airfield accommodation here, the greater facilities here would make the sheer operation of movement from here to the Middle East as fast as, and probably faster than, the same operation—to the Middle East—with the limited facilities in Cyprus.
Let us imagine that the hon. and learned Gentleman has to intervene in Israel under the Tripartite Declaration in order to protect Israel against an attack from the neighbouring Arab countries. By the terms of our Treaties with the Arab countries, we should not have the use of airfields in Jordan, Iraq and elsewhere in the area. Cyprus is perfectly positioned to enable us to bring quick and effective support to the Israelis with whom, under those circumstances, we should be allied.
Equally, the ports of Israel are available to us. I have sufficient confidence in the Israeli Army to know that it can hold the perimeter in the meantime. I believe that with an airlift and a naval lift we can fulfil our obligations to Israel.
If the hon. Member will consult the Israelis he will find that they would be only too happy to give us a base there if we wanted it for the purpose of meeting our obligations. We can have that tomorrow if we want it. It would give them a great sense of security. We should be going where we were invited, not where we should have to fight for our lives against a hostile population, and there would be no sea communications between us. If we want a base, there is one offered to us, and in the place where we want it.
I am only pointing out that we have the choice if we want a base, but from a strategic point of view this whole idea of bases, even in friendly countries, let alone where they have to be defended by garrisons, is in my view quite obsolete in an atomic age.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I think the idea of wanting a base here at all is quite obsolete, but if we do want a base we have a whole series of choices open and available to us without choosing a base which would have to be defended against a hostile population, gradually absorbing not only the base troops but also the Reserves into a sniping war against a hostile population who, through their friends in the other islands, gained a great deal of experience and knowledge during the war—largely taught by ourselves—of how to conduct a guerilla war.
I therefore urge the Government to recede from this folly. They should call the Turks and the Greeks, now our Allies, into conference and say, "We want to provide something here which will satisfy you, the Greeks, and you, the Turks, first, from the security point of view and from the point of view of the protection which you require from us and of our cooperation with N.A.T.O. as Allies; and, secondly, from the point of view of satisfying the people of Cyprus in their national aspirations." Let this be worked out by the Greek and Turkish Governments in conjunction with ourselves. There is a Turkish minority. in Cyprus and the Turks, therefore, have an interest in the problem. They are a highly practical people, and they, too, want a defence organisation, within which Greece is highly important.
With such a policy we should be doing something constructive. We should not then be the people who were standing in the way of Enosis but should be moving towards practical and reasonable negotiations. We should not just be stubbornly putting our heads down and making every patriot say, "This is a position from which they can be moved only by violence." That is what I am so frightened of, because that is what every patriot in Cyprus is saying today.
For goodness sake, bring the Turks in, if hon. Members like, and, if they wish, let the negotiations drag on for a bit. Work it out together, negotiating here with two good Allies—the Greeks and the Turks. Do not put up the sort of challenge which we have had today, which will act as a direct incitement to violence.
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the views which he is now propounding were put to his right hon. Friends when they formed the Government of this country? If so, what was the answer?
I will give the answer to that question very simply, as will, I think, my earlier remarks. Atom warfare had not then reached the stage which it has reached today. The security of this area was then best served by our being in Cyprus. I think the economy of Cyprus was best served by our being there. I think the social peace of Cyprus was best served by our being there. I think there were all these reasons for being there.
The only reason which emerges against our being there is this steadily developing feeling—the complete will of the people that we should go. That has emerged only by degrees. We have sought to work with it but we have failed to do so; we have sought to establish a constitution and we have failed to do so. We have reached the point where we can stay there only at the risk of a civil war—that is what it amounts to—and at that point we should go.
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the strategic part of his speech, because I was a little confused by his argument. I have a feeling that he is convinced that with the advent of the atomic or hydrogen age no base is of any value, whether it be in the Middle East or in any other part of the globe.
I think that the House is very grateful to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger), who instigated this debate, for the very moderate tone which she set. It is easy enough to excite emotions when one is not responsible for the result of doing so. That may account for a certain change, on the part of some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, from the view which they took when they occupied the Government benches.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) will explain to the House why the reasons for the exclusion from the 1948 constitutional offer of any question of sovereignty—which seemed very good to his colleagues when they were in power—should have so little validity now that they are advocating another form of constitution which would not exclude the question of sovereignty. I want to deal with the question of discussing with the Greeks the subject of a change of sovereignty. I do not see how any Government—whether it be Conservative or Labour—can admit the right of a third Power, however friendly it may be—and I emphasise the word "right"—to enter into discussions with Her Majesty's Government about the future of a Crown Colony.
Once we admit that right as a principle we cannot tell where it will end. If we admitted the right of the Greeks to enter into discussions with Her Majesty's Government about the future of Cyprus we should have to discuss the future of Hong Kong with China; the future of Gibraltar with Spain, and the future of British Honduras with Guatemala. Ever since the institution of the United Nations, British Governments representing both parties have persistently—and in my opinion quite rightly—taken the view that it was not within the competence of the United Nations to discuss questions of colonial policy which come purely within the field of domestic politics of the colonial Power concerned.
The question of Cyprus is complicated by the fact that there is not only a third friendly Power but a fourth, namely, Turkey. The Greeks say that Enosis means that Cyprus shall return to Greece, and that they will accept nothing less; but the Turks are taking a very uncompromising line in that connection. They say that if there is any question of a change of sovereignty, Turkey must have Cyprus back. If any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite thinks that it will be easy to reconcile those two views he had better try to enter into discussions with the Greeks and the Turks upon the subject.
Perhaps the right hon. Member for Wakefield will tell us what sort of negotiations his Government entered into upon this subject, either with the Greeks or the Turks, and what sort of answers they got in 1948—and also what he proposes to do in the unlikely event of his finding himself upon the Treasury Bench after the next Election.
There is a rather curious historical parallel, because when the then Sultan of Turkey assigned to Britain the occupation and administration of Cyprus in 1878, it was for the purpose of enabling Britain to assist in what was, broadly speaking, collective defence against Russia. Today, in spite of what the hon. and learned Member for Northampton says, Cyprus occupies an extremely important strategic position for N.A.T.O. in the Eastern Mediterranean. Although the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South and various other hon. and right hon. Members opposite have consistently talked about Cyprus as a base, it is not so much a base as a headquarters. But it is in an extremely important strategic position, and, other considerations apart, I cannot imagine a worse moment than the present, when N.A.T.O. is being built up, for us to become involved in a discussion about the sovereignty in Cyprus. If we did so become involved we should have violent trouble between the Greeks and the Turks; we should throw a wrench into the whole machinery of N.A.T.O., and almost certainly cause great damage to the Balkan Pact.
I am sure that the hon. Member does not think that the bases in Cyprus today are N.A.T.O. bases. They are not; they are British bases. It is our view that it might well be better if they were N.A.T.O. bases, but the hon. Gentleman is arguing as if they were already N.A.T.O. bases.
I shall come to that argument presently. It is true that they are British bases, but Cyprus is an essential strategic part of the general rô le which Britain plays, within N.A.T.O., in the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean. I do not believe that the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) would dissociate himself from that view, or from the view that the Americans attach great importance to the strategic position of Cyprus.
I now turn to the other suggestion that bases in Cyprus could be leased to N.A.T.O. by treaty. I do not see how N.A.T.O. could undertake any treaty obligations, but I should have thought that, in this very quickly changing world, unquestioned sovereignty—which we have in Cyprus—is worth a great deal more than any treaty. Hon. Members know that, most unfortunately, treaties are not always regarded as being sacrosanct, however friendly may be the Governments with whom they are concluded. Governments come and Governments go. The surrendering of sovereignty in exchange for a treaty does not provide greater security. Moreover, in surrendering sovereignty for a treaty in this case, although we should get the good will of the Greeks, we should incur the unquestioned animosity of the Turks.
Another suggestion is that there should be an immediate plebiscite. That is one of the most frequently and popularly canvassed solutions. I am not awfully keen upon plebiscites of the sort which are likely to occur in Cyprus at the moment. Plebiscites are funny things.
They are sometimes conducted by very curious methods.
I do not believe that it would be possible to conduct a plebiscite in Cyprus at the moment upon the assumption that the votes cast were completely free from undesirable influence. The Church held a plebiscite in Cyprus in 1951 or 1952, and the result was a vote of 98 per cent. in favour of Enosis. It is fairly easy to get that kind of result if the priest says to his flock, "Unless you vote for union with Greece, when you die you will not be buried, and when your children are born they will not be baptised." That is one way of arriving at a vote of 98 per cent. in a plebiscite, but I do not think that is the way in which we would wish to see any plebiscite conducted in any of our Crown Colonies.
I would remind the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that when the question of a plebiscite was suggested, I think to the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies, he, no doubt for exactly the same reasons as I am giving, turned it down as being impracticable and probably, in effect, unfair.
I think that it is a little ironic and rather sad that a great Church like the Orthodox Church in Cyprus should descend to those sorts of methods in conducting a plebiscite when many of then-follow priests in the Russian Orthodox Church are being subjected to another kind of violent persecution behind the Iron Curtain.
What is even more distressing is the general tone of the broadcasts from Radio Athens. I do not want to detain the
House for more than a few minutes, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, but when one reads one or two of the broadcasts one might well wonder where they come from. There was a broadcast on 24th April in the Cypriot students' programme. I will read only a few sentences from it.
The English accuse the Germans because during the Second World War they had maltreated prisoners, yet they themselves are not at all better than the Germans in this respect, as it can be proved by the methods they use in Cyprus in order to obtain confessions from those submitted to torture.… According to information received from Cyprus the colonial jailers of the Island used tortures of every kind against the Cypriot fighters whom they arrest and imprison.
Supposing one had been marooned on a desert island for 10 years and had been completely out of touch with all news, or supposing that there had been a 10-year newspaper or radio strike and no one knew what was going on, and one suddenly came back from the desert island and turned on Radio Athens and heard that sort of broadcast, I think one would say to oneself, "Good heavens, what has happened; Athens must be behind the Iron Curtain." That is the only comment I can make on this disgraceful propaganda which is being put across by Radio Athens.
I think it is time that we started to ask what is being done to counteract these broadcasts from Radio Athens. We should be unwise to assume that it has a great deal of effect, but it has some effect.
No doubt it would, but I think that so far as Radio Cyprus is concerned it would come in the Colonial Office Vote. That was one question which I was going to ask. I do not know whether the Secretary of State, when he replies, can tell us what steps are being taken to counteract this flood of propaganda and to tell the Cypriots what Enosis really means.
I wonder whether all Cypriots who wave flags and shout "Enosis" and all the rest of it really know that if Enosis were to come about it would mean the loss of British passports, their transfer from the sterling area, and a liability to call up in the Greek armed forces.
The hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South quite rightly paid tribute to the valour of the Cypriot volunteers who fought for the Allies in the last war. I join with her in paying tribute to them; but did their passionate patriotism and longing for union with Greece go so far that many of them volunteered to fight for the Greek Government against the Communists in the guerrilla war from 1946 to 1948? May be it did, but I have never heard so. If they did, that, of course, would be genuine proof of a blood relationship with Greece which all of them wish to share.
Like the Minister of State I find this quarrel with Greece most distressing. I know the great worth and valour of the Greeks, and I love them. I love their country, I love the people, and I love the scenery. I have the greatest admiration for all their traditions and all their culture. I remember very well indeed how, during the retreat from Greece in the spring of 1941, all the Greek peasants came and threw flowers at us and gave us what little they had to eat and drink. They crowded down to the beaches when they might well have accused us of abandoning them. The local inhabitants of certain other countries would have given us neither flowers, food nor drink, but rude epithets and jeers instead.
We all know the old friendship between Britain and Greece which up to now has lasted through all sorts of different circumstances in days good and bad. What I find so distressing and difficult to understand is how the Greek Government can so misjudge the British people in thinking that Her Majesty's Government or any subsequent Government could be deflected or stampeded away from a course of action which they thought to be right in the interests of Britain, in the interests of Cyprus, in the interests of Turkey, in the interests of Greece, and in the interests of the whole of the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean, merely by the threat of a certain amount of sabotage and some rather abusive propaganda on Athens Radio.
I feel that when the speech of the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) is read in Cyprus even the British officials will feel deeply depressed at its complete remoteness from reality. The Minister referred to the debate of last August. I would say that in the months that have intervened the situation in Cyprus has got steadily worse, and a great deal worse in the last four months.
We are faced now with the beginning of violence, and the first thing which I should like to do is to join with the Minister in deprecating violence in Cyprus. However, I must add that the chief incitement to violence in Athens is not Athens Radio. The chief incitements to violence in Cyprus are the speeches of Her Majesty's Ministers.
I went to Cyprus last January, after passing through Palestine and Egypt. In Palestine I saw the remains of Army camps on which we had spent £5 million before we were thrown out, and in Egypt I saw the remains of a £500 million base from which we had been thrown out. On arriving in Cyprus I was told by a British General, "We are on British soil and we can stay there for ever." Is it not ironical that we should have been twice thrown out of countries that did not belong to us and should have finally decided to take refuge on a small island, believing that we could hold a position which we have no right whatever morally to hold?
The Minister of State clearly indicated that so far as meeting the demands of the Cypriot Greeks is concerned—good tempered and likeable people as they are—nothing could be done for them whatsoever. British officials there said to me, "They do not really mean what they say. If they did, they would do the same as the Jews and the Egyptians." That is a direct incitement to violence, and I repeat that that is what the Minister of State did in his speech today.
I want to make some observations on it. It seemed a bit better than his last speech on the subject, but there was incitement to violence in the sense that he was saying that we cannot give way, that in the last 12 months since we had been a little more awkward they had given way a little, and that if we were to hot it up a little more there would be a few more pieces of appeasement on their side.
I discussed with generals in Cyprus the strategic problems which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has raised. They told me that Cyprus was a British base. They did not even know anything about N.A.T.O. in Cyprus. They carefully did not know anything about N.A.T.O., because Cyprus was to be exclusively British. When I suggested to them that it was part of the Mediterranean strategy, that it might help to have the Greeks and Turks joining with us and joining our staff in Cyprus, I was told, "That is not the idea at all. This is to be a really British base."
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that there is no exclusively British strategy in the Middle East today. There can be only the N.A.T.O. strategy. It would seem to be the first step in statesmanship to go to the Greeks and the Turks and say, "If there are to be any military dispositions in this part of the world, we want to make them jointly with you."
What do we actually do? We build a £3 million hospital in Cyprus and expressly deny that any Cypriot may go into it at all. It will be reserved for the use of British troops in the next war, after Cyprus has been blown to pieces by atom bombs. That is not very attractive to the Cypriots. They see the biggest hospital ever built in Cyprus built exclusively for British troops.
We are spending £10 million on an aerodrome which is well advertised as one from which H-bombers will go to Russia. That is not a great attraction towards the British connection, since the presence of an H-bomber aerodrome means an H-bomb retaliation. One extra reason why in the last year the opposition to the British possession of Cyprus has increased has been our disposition to use the island for our strategic purposes without any consultation with the population whatsoever.
I suggest to the Colonial Secretary that he should realise that the situation has been transformed. For seventy years the Cypriots got no real answer from the Greek Government at all to their request for Enosis, and it could have been considered a private affair at one time. No one took it very seriously, but now the situation has been completely transformed by the Greek Government, because from whatever motives—and I am not going to say that they were pure, because Greek Governments consider elections sometimes as well as the Tory Government—the Greek Government have now espoused the cause of Enosis and have got the radio station at Athens at work, which, I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Windsor, puts out the most outrageous nonsense.
However, when the hon. Gentleman talks about it seeming as though Athens were behind the Iron Curtain, he raises delicate considerations, because Cyprus is a police State today. The population of Cyprus is denied any form of representation, and is ruled by foreigners and taxed by foreigners and exploited by foreigners, and the last thing to refer to in connection with Cyprus is the Iron Curtain, because there is a piece of Iron Curtain within the British Empire, and that is not very creditable to us.
I do not defend Athens Radio, but I do say that the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, now that the Greek Government have formally espoused the cause of Enosis, which is a subject which also attracts the attention of the Turkish Government, must cease to talk of the problem as though it were a colonial problem, and cease to treat it as though it were a colonial problem, because it has become an international problem of the greatest importance for our military dispositions in the Mediterranean and for our good relations with our Allies. I hope that the next time we debate this subject we shall have the Foreign Secretary here, for he is the Secretary of State responsible for international matters, and the Colonial Secretary is no longer able, in his position, to deal with the major problems of Cyprus.
The problem of Trieste was solved in London by private conversations between the Yugoslav and Italian Ambassadors here and our Government. The conversations went on for months. Great patience was shown by the Government. Many of us thought that the problem of Trieste was insoluble, but it was solved by really pertinacious negotiations. I believe that the Cyprus problem would at this stage be easier to solve even than the Trieste problem because nobody has taken up yet an absolutely firm position from which he cannot withdraw. Everybody is still open to discussing it, and everybody concerned has good will.
The real obstacle to a solution is the British Government, who say that if we discuss the problem at all we thereby give away what we do not want to give away to the Greeks and the Turks. I beg the Colonial Secretary at least to admit the desirability of discussions between the British Foreign Secretary and the Greek and Turkish Ambassadors here. To that extent the matter should be taken out of the hands of the Colonial Secretary.
It is, of course, precisely the colonial status of this European people which is most infuriating to them. It is the fact that they are being dealt with as though their land were a Crown Colony. They feel themselves to be Greek and that they belong to Greece just as much as any other Greek island. It is the fact that we do not recognise that claim as being worthy of negotiation that is in itself an incitement to violence.
When I was in Cyprus I certainly went there with the idea that we must try to get a Constitution. Owing to the fact that we have had in Cyprus no free democratic Constitution, there is only one political organisation today, and that is the Communist Party, and there is a danger that if we summon a Constitution it will be dominated by the Communist Party of Cyprus, because the rest of the Cypriots are not organised in any political parties at all but organised only by the Ethnarchy, a survival of the Middle Ages, an interesting museum piece, but one which I cannot regard as a formidable opponent to the extremely well led and ably organised Communist Party of Cyprus. We are in this very embarrassing position as the result of the policies of successive Governments of having denied Cyprus any form of democratic education. Thereby, we have enabled the Communists to get a virtual monopoly of political organisation.
Whether or not the Constitution would be dominated by the Communists depends on what sort of Constitution it is. Were it entirely an elective Constitution that might be so, but if there were a diarchy the Constitution would not be adversely affected by the Communists.
I do not think that the suggestion of the noble Lord would go through. I do not see how we could expect the Cypriots not to have a democracy with normal general elections.
However, there is something really much more important than that. There is an illusion amongst the best civil servants in Cyprus that if we gave the people of Cyprus a chance, if we gave them a Constitution under which they could see the advantages of British rule, at the end they would opt for Britain and the Commonwealth. That seems to me to be a profound illusion. It is the illusion of people who are liberal-minded, but simply do not understand the intensive compulsion of nationalism in the modern world.
It does not matter how much we do for them, it does not matter what economic advantage we give them. Like the Irish, like the Jews, like the Egyptians, like the Indians, they say that they want to manage for themselves. It does not matter whether they have as many drains or as good lavatories as we could provide for them. They want to manage their own affairs, and they Want their island for themselves. So I warn the Government not to have any illusion about that.
There is the problem of the Turkish minority. I am the last person to underestimate the importance of that minority. The Turkish Government have had a Press campaign for months in Turkey, which has made this issue in Turkey as important as it is in Greece. It is becoming of the gravest international importance. The rights of that minority have to be looked after. Therefore, the Government ought not to listen to their back benchers and say that there is no urgency, that the matter can be held over and that we can wait for two or three years. Every year we wait may mean missing the chance of a friendly negotiated agreement. There is a chance today. Let us hope that the Government's last act before we return a Labour Government which will do something will be to show the Tory Colonial Secretary willing at last to go as far as that and to say, "Yes, we agree; we will negotiate with our friends in Greece and Turkey."
I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) on two things. First, I agree that this is a matter of urgency. Secondly, I agree that it is something which concerns the Foreign Office as much as the Colonial Office. I am sure that it will not have escaped him that it was the Foreign Office, in the person of the present Minister of Defence, who made our case at the United Nations.
I had one regret at that time, and I expressed it publicly. It seemed to me that the submission of the Enosis case to the United Nations provided an opportunity which we ought not to have missed to make our case before the world. I thought it was a pity that we should have answered solely with the argument that it would create a precedent for the submission of all sorts of colonial and irredentist claims. I thought we should have put it to world opinion that we had a historical, legal and moral right to be in Cyprus and to stay there.
However, the debate showed me that perhaps I was wrong. The opinions of the deputies gathered together in New York veered very markedly indeed towards our side during the debate, and, in the end, we were supported by the votes of 50 nations compared with eight abstentions and no votes against us at all. It was at that stage that my own feelings began to come round very much more to the official Government view. Previously, I had been one of the few in my party who thought that we were making a slight mistake by being a little too unsympathetic. I take this opportunity now to say that I think I was wrong, and that I believe that the attitude taken by Her Majesty's Government has been perfectly correct.
I want to say one or two words about the strategic aspects, and, in particular, to answer the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who put forward the case that Cyprus was a ridiculous place in which to establish a base, first, because it was subject to atomic bombardment, and, secondly, because any British liabilities in that corner of the world could equally well be carried out from bases in England. That is a strange argument. I do not understand how he can claim that a base in Cyprus is unusable because it is subject to hydrogen bomb attack, but that a base at Aldershot is quite suitable, presumably because it is not so subject. Both are, of course, equally vulnerable. The hon. and learned Member may take the view that no bases anywhere are of any use, in which case I do not see how one can have an Army, a Navy or an Air Force. However, if the hon. and learned Member takes a logical line, he surely must admit that a base in that corner of the world is valuable because it is close to areas which we may have to defend in a hurry.
I put to the hon. and learned Gentleman the example of Israel. He offered me Haifa. I wish he had been sitting with me a fortnight ago on the Jordanian slopes, overlooking Haifa. I was counting the ships in the harbour, so close was I to the harbour. At that point the Israeli strip between Jordan and the sea is 12 miles wide, and it could be cut in half an hour. What use would Haifa be? How could we help our friends if we did not have a base near enough to give them immediate support and yet far enough away to be safe from a similar overrunning? In that one instance, Cyprus is the perfect base. If we had to invent a base and redraw the map of the world, we should draw in Cyprus and establish our air bases there to meet this commitment.
I am just coming to that. The hon. Member for Coventry, East remarked that it is not very attractive to the Cypriots to be told that we are going to establish airfields in their country from which H-bombers can take off. Would it be any more attractive if the airfields were under Greek supervision?
The answer that the hon. Gentleman wants is "Yes." If one is a member of a free nation and has the right to invite somebody to one's country, that is one thing. If one is treated as a Crown Colony and has something imposed on one and one has no liberties, one feels slightly differently about it.
Whether it is a Crown Colony or a province of Greece, an H-bomb falling upon an airfield in the middle of a small country has precisely the same effect, that of obliteration.
It will not have escaped the attention of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I am sure, that both Great Britain and Greece are members of the some alliance, which is guarding against the same enemy. We are both members of N.A.T.O., and Russia is our common enemy. The airfields, whosever they are, will have precisely the same purpose. The airfields in Cyprus are totally irrelevant to the question of Enosis. The airfields are there because the Cypriots, in common with other Western Europeans, think it right and proper that they should make their contribution towards our common defence.
I appreciate the hon. Member's point. I deliberately referred to the Cypriots as Europeans. This brings me to my next point. The Cypriots are hurt because they feel that they are subject to precisely the same form of colonial rule as East or West Africans.
I do not want to be too long. It is because the Cypriots are subject to the Colonial Office in London and have as their administrators reasonable and efficient British officials who may have come straight from Africa, Singapore or some other remote Colony, that they feel it to be an indignity to a people who are of European race, are educated, are Greeks if one likes, and have proved that they can hold their own in business, administration, education and any other field of life with Western Europeans. They consider it an indignity that they should be put under the same form of rule as those whom we are accustomed to call the backward nations of the world.
What we should try to do is to create within our British Commonwealth some form of status intermediate between that of a Dominion and that of a Colony. We have no word for such a status. Yet we have Colonies in many parts of the globe which are on the verge of becoming half-Dominions. Nigeria is one, the Gold Coast is another, and Cyprus could be a third. The Mediterranean is littered with islands not one of which is an independent country.
Malta would be another example of the type of Colony I have in mind, and that is why I want to put this proposition to my right hon. Friend. Could we not in some way devise this intermediate stage, which would not be a humiliating status, but would not confer that full self-government in the sense in which Australia or New Zealand possess it, which carries with it the right to secede from the Commonwealth?
I quite agree with my right hon. Friend that, in the present state of unease in the world, we cannot allow the loss of this vital base, surrounded by people not necessarily hostile, but to whom we must continue to make every possible new form of approach in the hope of finding a solution, and to whom we can offer a status in the Commonwealth which, in the course of the years, if not at once, they will find a practical and acceptable alternative to the Enosis which they now demand.
I, too, would like to approach this matter from the defence side in general, but, first, I should like to say a few words on the Commonwealth issue following the hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson).
It seems to me that the only simple thing to say about this matter is this. Are we trying to run a world-wide Commonwealth on a voluntary principle or on a compulsory principle? That is surely the issue of principle, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to do him justice, has been applying the voluntary principle—the principle that membership of the British Commonwealth is a voluntary act—all over the world.
The right hon. Gentleman has been doing just what the hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch asked for—finding intermediate stages of development for different parts of the British Commonwealth all over the world. He has done it in the Sudan and he has done it in West Africa, following the ground work laid by the previous Administration, and—again to do him justice, he has continued very well indeed—it has just been done in Singapore. I think we were all moved—certainly, I was—to see a new Parliament in yet one more area of the British Commonwealth.
The question we are asking quite simply in this debate is this: what possible reason can the right hon. Gentleman give before the world for refusing to do that in the case of Cyprus? The hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch enormously underestimated the complaint of the Cypriots when he said that they felt that they were highly developed and civilised Greeks, but that they are not given a higher status than the less developed West Africans. The trouble is that, at present, they are not given nearly so high a status.
No; I will come to that in a minute.
Why is it that we do not do what we have done in West Africa, in Singapore, or what we have done in the Sudan to an even greater extent? Why is it we do not do that? I can think of no reason why we do not allow a democratically elected assembly to meet in Cyprus, except that we know that if we did there would be a majority in favour of Enosis. That is it, and let us face that fact. [Interruption.] Perhaps there would not be; perhaps this is a misjudgment on the part of the Government, but that is the only possible reason why they do not do it. That is the real cause of the deadlock over the Constitution and do not let us pretend that it is not.
We shall really make ourselves ridiculous before the world if, having given independence to India, to the 400 million people in India, Ceylon and Pakistan, having carried out under successive Governments the most liberal policy in the history of any Empire in the world, we refuse to do it in the case of Cyprus today. We are really spoiling what is a magnificent and wonderful record of this country simply because, apparently, we cannot face the fact—if it is a fact—that, rightly or wrongly, the Cypriots want to be united with Greece instead of being united with us.
That is surely the simple issue, and, with great respect, all the rest of the speech of the hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch was pure special pleading, when these are the simple issues that face us. That is why, surely, the Minister's statement was disappointing. I agree, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), that his speech registered some progress. I think that the best thing we can say of it is that it was not quite clear. His earlier statements were perfectly clear. He said that he had never considered the question of a change of sovereignty. This statement was not as clear, and in that respect in was an improvement.
Unfortunately, he went on to make a rather clear statement, in which he said he had not considered and could not consider the issue during this period of world tension. That, I am afraid, may be interpreted—appropriately in a matter of this kind—as putting it off to the Greek Kalends. Nevertheless, it does leave a loophole for the Government to say that world tension is reduced and that they can now be reasonable on this issue. Let us hope that the Colonial Secretary will go a little further in this matter; otherwise, we must face the fact that any normal progress towards self-government and self-determination in Cyprus, such as we are making everywhere else in the whole of the British Commonwealth, is blocked. It is blocked until and unless we admit the right of the Cypriot people to decide whether they want to be Greeks or not, and until we face that, the deadlock cannot but continue.
I wish to say a word or two about the Turkish minority, because that question brings in the important questions of N.A.T.O. and defence. Of course, the Turkish minority is a very important and a very awkward fact: but we cannot allow a minority of 18 per cent. in the island to dictate its will to the rest of the population. What we have got—and, again, let us face it—what is growing up in Cyprus, is precisely an Ulster.
Are we going to use that Ulster as, unfortunately, successive British Governments have used Ulster in Ireland, as an excuse, and a very formidable excuse, for doing nothing, and for perpetuating our own rule?
We could do that, but if we do I think we shall do terrible damage precisely to the N.A.T.O. alliance which hon. Members opposite have very rightly said is so much concerned in this. If we encourage the Turks in the island to be totally intransigent, and if we encourage the Turkish Government to take up an entirely intransigent attitude, then we may get an irreconcilable conflict between two vitally important N.A.T.O. allies—the Greek and Turkish Governments—and do terrible damage to the whole interests of our defensive system in that area.
After all, there is a real safeguard for the Turkish minority even if self-determination in Cyprus did lead to Enosis. Surely, when one is there and looks into the question and talks to Turks, as my hon. Friends and I certainly did when we visited the island, we find one answer to Turkish fears—and they are real fears—of what will happen if they become a minority under Greek sovereignty. If they have this fear, there is one, as I think complete, safeguard, in that there is a very large Greek minority in Turkey. Therefore, no Greek Government, even if it wished, could maltreat the Turks in Cyprus because there are many more hostages to fortune in the shape of Greek minorities in Turkey. For that reason, I really cannot believe that the Turks' fears are well-founded.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has somewhat underestimated the Turkish case. The Turkish case is not so much fear of persecution of minorities. The Turkish case is that if there is to be any question of a change in sovereignty, the Turkish territorial claim is better than the Greek one.
Mr. Srrachey: That is a very interesting view. I must say that I find myself utterly out of sympathy with that Turkish claim, if that is the Turkish claim. That is simply a re-assertion of the old claims of the Ottoman Empire to rule Greece and that part of the Middle East—a claim which this country, from the days of Lord Byron onwards, challenged with the utmost force. I could not sympathise at all with any Turkish claim on those lines, but I could and do sympathise with the fears of those 18 per cent. of Turks who live in Cyprus that Greek rule might be unjust. I think for the practical and, if you will, cynical reason which I have given, that the fact that there is a large Greek minority in Turkey, is a really practical safeguard against that.
There is another point that I should like to take up with the hon. Member for Windsor. He quoted those broadcasts from Athens, and very extravagant and foolish they were. But does he not see that those broadcasts, with their extravagant accusations against Britain, emanating from one of our N.A.T.O. allies show precisely the damage we are doing to N.A.T.O. today by refusing to tackle this question? Wherever hon. Members like to put the blame, by letting this present situation drag on enormous damage is being done to the N.A.T.O. alliance.
The hon. Member for Windsor says that we must do nothing in case we upset N.A.T.O., but it is by doing nothing that N.A.T.O. is being profoundly upset, and a vital link in N.A.T.O.—the Greek Government—alienated. I join with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton and my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East in their pleas to the Colonial Secretary that he will tell us today that he will enter into negotiations with both the Greeks and the Turks on this issue of the future of Cyprus.
The really vital defence interests of this country are bound up with the N.A.T.O. alliance, and the question of the unity of the N.A.T.O. alliance is much more important than the question of bases on Cyprus. That is being endangered by our pig-headed refusal even to consider the discussion of the future sovereignty of Cyprus.
As the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs said, we deplore, as everybody must, the fact that terrorism has begun in Cyprus. But those of us who visited Cyprus last year found everywhere in British circles this argument being used, "This is all a paper agitation. There is no need for us to do anything about it. The Cypriots are terribly over-civilised people. They will never do anything violent or drastic. They do not really mean all this agitation about Enosis. Why, they have not even killed anyone yet. They have not even let off a bomb." I heard that sort of argument everywhere in official circles. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was there at the same time and he heard those arguments.
We discussed them together. I remember very well discussing them with the noble Lord. I heard them in the highest quarters. At the time it seemed to me a very sad argument to use.
Now, within a few months, that argument is no longer valid, and already we have heard the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs turning to the converse argument that because terrorism had begun nothing could be done. Surely neither of those two arguments are valid. We must face the situation that both before terrorism was used and after, the overwhelming evidence is that the vast majority of Cypriots wish to live under Greek sovereignty. If it is suggested that they do not, let us test the matter with a plebiscite or a general election. I do not like plebiscites, but there could be a general election to an assembly which would have the right to determine the future sovereignty of the island.
I wish to say a word on the issue of bases. As we know, we can have bases on Cyprus for the asking, whatever happens to the sovereignty. The question whether they are valuable or not seems to me today to be a very doubtful one. I thought they were valuable when I was at the War Office. I helped to establish one of them, the base at Dekalia. I think it is a good base. I visited it just as it was being completed, and I think it is a good place at which to station a British brigade. There is no reason in the world why we should not continue to station a British brigade there. We have been invited by the Greek Government, by the Cypriot Nationalist Party and, indeed, by the overwhelming majority of the Cypriots to do so. We shall station it in conditions of amity once we have met their demand for self-determination.
I am much more doubtful about the Episkope headquarters. If we are to spend £8 million building that vast headquarters, I think it is a waste of money.
But even if it is decided to do that, there is no reason why we should not have a base there. The one defence reason which is advanced, "Experience shows that we must not have a defence base or a headquarters on foreign territory." There is a short and simple answer to that argument. If we are not to have bases on foreign territory, why are we spending millions of pounds building bases at Antwerp? What are we doing allowing money to be spent on our behalf at München Gladbach, in Germany? Our whole defence policy consists of these bases on foreign territory. It is quite preposterous to say that we cannot do this in the case of Cyprus.
The case for meeting the Cypriots and negotiating on this issue with our good allies, the Greeks and the Turks, is overwhelming. The real reason why the Government will not do it is, I think, a sentimental one. We accuse the Cypriots of being sentimental and of putting their Nationalist sentiments and emotions before their economic interests. Perhaps they do, but we are putting our sentiments and our nationalist emotions before our common sense and our reason in this matter,
Quite frankly, I think it is because the Government cannot face the pang of seeing sovereignty pass—of seeing the Union Jack pulled down in that area. I can sympathise with those feelings, but, surely, we should try to look at the matter rationally and in an adult fashion, and see what is so obviously to the good of the Cypriots, to our own good, and, above all, to the good of the N.A.T.O. alliance.
I am glad to have the opportunity of following the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), for the reasons that he gave. He actually followed me in to Nicosia airport last September. On our arrival there we spent a few days seeing much the same things and hearing much the same opinions. That being so, I am all the more astonished to find the right hon. Gentleman so determined in his view as expressed today.
I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman when he was talking about whether or not the people of Cyprus wanted Enosis, and about the view which he heard in the official world that they did not want it, because, otherwise, they would be more violent about getting it. I certainly heard the view from the official world that they did not want it, and I personally experienced that same feeling in going round the island from north to south and from east to west. But I heard nobody in the official world say that the people of Cyprus did not want it because they were not fighting to get it. That would be an incitement to violence, and no respectable member of the Administration or of the business world of Cyprus would go as far as that.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West, the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) were ail in agreement on the question of bases in Cyprus. For my part, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) that this is not really a question of a base looked at in atomic terms. If we apply the atomic argument, then Aldershot is just as valid as Cyprus, and Malta is just as valid as Suez. For the purpose of this discussion we can eliminate the atomic weapon.
Neither is Cyprus a base in the sense that the Suez Canal was a base, in that it does not have very large stores of vehicles and guns, if, indeed, any at all. It consists of a communications headquarters and a command base—admittedly, very large—on one part of the island, and, in another part, facilities for a brigade group which can travel by air or sea to some corner of the Middle East where there may be trouble. For that purpose, I think that the bases are admirable, and I would not oppose their being there.
Whether bases are established on home soil, colonial soil or foreign soil also seems to me to be quite irrelevant to the argument. I agree with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West that we are, in fact, establishing bases on foreign soil and shall continue to do so. The issue of whether there should be Enosis for Cyprus turns on quite other considerations than bases, atomic or otherwise, and of the alleged desire of the Cypriot people.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton was quite definite about this. He said that the majority of Cypriots wanted it, and he shouted out the words with such complete conviction that I wondered how he had obtained his information. Certainly, if one goes to Cyprus and goes into some village up north, one will find Enosis and various other expressions in Greek chalked upon the walls and roads. If one visits the mayor of Nicosia or the Archbishop, one will hear it in envenomed terms, but if one consults people quietly in the shops and streets, and if one talks, as I had the opportunity of doing, to people in the minor ranks ot the administrative service, one will not hear such a violent desire. Yet they are all Cypriots. Of course, one might argue that a very senior civil servant would immediately adopt the exact view of the Governor, but, in the case of junior civil servants, one could quite well expect them quite frankly to express their frame of mind.
I think it extremely naive of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to expect that the demand for Enosis is overwhelmingly true just because they see it chalked up on the walls and in the streets, and because they get it from the Archbishop.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton were also in agreement about approaching the Greeks and the Turks for a solution of this problem. I cannot see what would arise from that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) said, the Turks are unalterably biassed about any Enosis solution for Cyprus. It does not matter that they are a minority in the island. In this context, the opinion of Turkey is as powerful as that of Greece.
What sort of solution shall we have either in terms of N.A.T.O. or in other terms to this Cyprus problem if it is arrived at as a result of negotiations by the Colonial Office or the Foreign Office with Turkey and Greece? Those countries are already in a minor state of dispute about certain aspects of the Balkan Pact which has only just been concluded, and relations between them are quite sensitive.
Were we to inject into that atmosphere the Cyprus question and demand a solution to it different from that which prevails today, what will be the result as regards the relations between those two countries? If we damaged those relations, it might upset the Balkan Pact even further, and it could not possibly be of any value to the N.A.T.O. situation in the Mediterranean.
I would suggest two things to the noble Lord. What we get out of this, quite apart from anything else, is time. As soon as we start to negotiate, we cease to be the immovable object which can be diverted only by violence. Once we negotiate, we cease, to some extent, to be the object of violence, and, as far as the Greeks and the Turks are concerned, if we are there to try to mediate between them, it is much better for their relations than that they should steadily deteriorate as they have done over this unfortunate Enosis issue.
I am coming to the question of what Her Majesty's Government might do to abate or avoid the threat of violence in Cyprus along constitutional lines and in our own context. But I do not think that it is any solution either to the question of violence or to the long-term future of the island to inject it into the atmosphere of the Balkan Pact and the relations between Greece and Turkey.
There are two other matters I wish to mention. The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that there was no half-way house towards a settlement of the constitutional problem in Cyprus, and that, even if we arrived at one, it would be no good because it would inevitably lead straight to Enosis. I believe that to be an entirely false concept of the possibilities of development in the island. Although I should like the constitutional step taken I do not believe that it will result in an increase in the desire of the people of Cyprus to move towards Enosis. So far as one satisfies the instincts towards self-government of a nation, whether it is a nation under British rule or under other rule, the people will develop and consolidate for themselves their own beliefs and hopes for the future, and will tend to part company with nations which today may lay claim to them but which, in the circumstances at that time, will cease to lay a claim which is so attractive.
I conceive it to be quite possible that although Cyprus may desire Enosis—and here I concede the argument I have just repudiated—it may, with proper constitutional processes applied to it by Her Majesty's Government, reach a situation where it veers from Enosis and desires to develop towards self-Government under our flag and Crown. One of the ways in which I think Enosis can be most easily overcome is for Her Majesty's Government to take a step towards that half-way house in the constitution, to inject a little confidence, hope and determination into the Cypriots in order to get them to veer from Greece towards which country they are now alleged to be moving.
My only other comment concerns a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West. He said that progress was deadlocked until the issue of Enosis is solved; that he would like to have an immediate General Election in the atmosphere of today, thinking—perhaps hoping—that it would result in an overwhelming desire to return to Greece. Then he implied that that would release the deadlock to progress and that Cyprus could be free to take a further advance.
What advance? Having voted for Enosis, an alliance with Greece, that is the end of it—we depart, we get out, we move. That must be the result of what the right hon. Gentleman said. I want very much to know whether that is the final line of the Labour Party. I understood from the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) that at Scarborough the Labour Party took the stance that they wished to see self-determination exercised as soon as possible by the people of Cyprus, but if we have this immediate election for which the right hon. Gentleman is asking, and if that shows a desire for union with Greece, the Cypriots leave the British Empire and become a part, a province, of Greece.
Is that the Labour Party view? If so, can we be told before our own General Election, here and now—this evening—that that party desires to lose a British Colony to Greece forthwith?
The noble Lord has challenged me to make my position clear. It is simply this: that sooner rather than later we must allow the people of Cyprus, at a General Election, to determine their own future. I do not think that I have the slightest right to express hopes or expectations as to whether they will choose to join Greece or to have an independent Cyprus, or what they will choose. It would be nice to think that they would wish to remain within the British Commonwealth. Perhaps they will. The noble Lord thinks that they will. He does not think that they want Enosis. Therefore, why is he baulking at their having the General Election? If he thinks that slogans chalked on houses are the only signs in favour of Enosis, what is his objection to a General Election?
He said that he had come from the island absolutely convinced that the people overwhelmingly wanted union with Greece. Therefore, it follows quite logically that the attitude of the Labour Party, as expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, is that Britain, as soon as possible, should lose the Colony to Greece—a foreign country, albeit a friendly one.
I will give my own opinion, but before doing so I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on his speech today. The fact that the Government have no announcement to make now, prior to our General Election, is the correct attitude, not only from the point of view of not making a fresh demarche on this issue at this moment without our having a debate immediately following, but also from the point of view of Cyprus and the troubles that have recently taken place there.
I should like to congratulate him also on introducing into his speech so much valuable information about what is happening now in Cyprus. One of the troubles—and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West might agree with me—that I found, and perhaps he found also, was the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the people about what is happening in Cyprus. That is due, certainly, to lack of knowledge, to the feebleness of the radio—I grant that to the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger)—and the lack of really representative and able persons in the island who would express, not only to their own people but to the world the economic, social, agricultural and other advances which are taking place in Cyprus.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor what we are doing to counter the adverse propaganda emanating from Athens, though I am glad that, so far as I understand, that flood is receding, due to Foreign Office representations.
I think that when our General Election is over any Government must take a further step in Cyprus. I should like to see elections taking place fairly soon—as soon as the immediate troubles in the island, due to propaganda, gun running, and all that, have been properly dealt with and put away and police court actions, and so on, have been taken. If there is no recrudescence of these violent actions in Cyprus I should like a formal step to be taken within a matter of months; and I think that elections should be held for a minority legislature; that is to say, a legislature on which the official view prevailed.
At this stage it cannot be otherwise because, as the hon. Member for Coventry, East has said, the only effective political party in Cyprus is the Communist Party. They cannot be allowed to flood the Constitution, to dominate it and control it at this stage, otherwise there would be another British Guiana situation. Do we want to use our own troops there, now establishing themselves in friendly relations, to put down such an uprising? Not for a moment.
We cannot have a majority legislature at the present time. Nevertheless, I should like to see elections held, knowing that the Communists are the only efficiently organised party and knowing that they would dominate a minority legislature. I do not mind that, because I think it would lead to a feeling in the island on the part of the Nationalists, the Liberals, the Conservatives, the individualists and the business men, whoever they may be in other walks of life, in the island that it is time that they, too, organised themselves on liberal, democratic lines and began to form parties to represent their people and their state of opinion in the island. Then, when they have got formed, an election could be held in which those new parties themselves would feel that they had a part to play. Then, when they had come into the legislature, and after it had been shown that there was really progressive democratic government in the island, we could make a further constitutional advance which would secure them the majority position and the opportunity to work their will about the state of the island.
At the end of a very long digression the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) got around to answering, more or less, the challenge of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). So far as I could understand the noble Lord, he made it clear that his answer to the challenge was that he is against self-determination for the people of Cyprus—or, at any rate, that he takes the traditional Tory view that people must be allowed to vote freely only so long as we can be sure in advance that they will vote the way we want them to vote.
A number of speakers from the other side of the House have been completely unrealistic in their approach to the constitutional problem of Cyprus. Hon. Members opposite have spoken well-meaningly, as did the hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), of a gradual approach to Dominion status and that kind of thing. The people of Cyprus—or most of them, so far as one can judge—are simply not interested at all in a gradual approach to Dominion status within the Commonwealth, or the framing of a Constitution which would gradually give them a political set-up on the British model. They are simply not interested in that because they are obsessed, rightly or wrongly, by the idea of Enosis, by the idea of immediate—not gradual, but immediate—and complete union with what they regard as their motherland.
Therefore, when the Government offer the people of Cyprus a Constitution, whether it is liberal or illiberal, and tactlessly, to say the least, accompany that offer by a warning that there can be no discussion whatever of a change in sovereignty, the people say, "All right. We are not interested in talking about your Constitution." I would go so far as to say that the only condition on which the Secretary of State will find any responsible or prominent Cypriots willing to talk about the Constitution at all is if he withdraws that unacceptable condition and, instead, makes it quite clear that any Constitution that was brought in would be an interim provisional one and that there would be an agreed time limit, perhaps of three or five years, at the end of which the people of Cyprus would be able to vote freely about their future status. If the Secretary of State could say something like that tonight, the whole atmosphere in Cyprus would be transformed, but I am afraid that it is unlikely that he will be able to do so, for purely party reasons which, of course, we appreciate.
The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs at least did not query the Greek-ness, the Greek sentiment, the essential Hellenism, of the majority of the Cypriots. The noble Lord was one of those who was sceptical about the reality—or, at any rate, the universality—of the feeling for Enosis. It may be difficult to test this absolutely; as things are, we all have to form our own impressions.
One can meet Greek-speaking Cypriots who say that they are not in favour of Enosis, that it is simply a political agitation, and so on. I usually find that those Greek Cypriots who have told me that they were not in favour of Enosis were people who had some personal reason for supporting the British connection—for example, the tourist trade or some other trade in which it was very much to their interest that the British connection should continue. Again, senior British civil servants will say, "My secretary"—or "my chauffeur," who is Greek—"assures me that they really do not want to get rid of us at all." That is no more impartial evidence than the evidence of the Archbishop or a Communist mayor, or somebody else who is known to lean the other way.
A lot is said about political agitators, and a great many attacks are made on the Archbishop and on the A.K.E.L. leaders, but in my view both the Archbishop and the A.K.E.L. leaders are perfectly sincere and even, it may be said, altruistic in their agitation for Enosis. Neither of them has anything particular to gain from it. As one of my hon. Friends pointed out, if Enosis were achieved the Communists would certainly be incommoded very much more under the present Greek Government than they are even under what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) described as the Police State that exists in Cyprus. The Greeks would be very much tougher with them than we are. That, therefore, would seem to be an example of altruism.
Similarly with the Archbishop, against whom so many spiteful things have been said in this country. He is called a political Archbishop—and so he is, of course, for historical reasons, which are not always fully appreciated. Throughout the time of the Ottoman Empire the Church was the spokesman of the Greek people of Cyprus and was officially accepted as such. Therefore, it is a great tradition that the Church in Cyprus should be the spokesman of the people.
But apart from that, why should it be said that the Archbishop is an ambitious, calculating, political prelate? After all, if he succeeds in his propaganda and if there is Enosis, he would no doubt remain Archbishop of the self-governing Church of Cyprus, one of the oldest auto-cephalous churches in the Orthodox world, but he would lose the secular status that he now has as head of the Ethnarchy, because, presumably, Cyprus would be merged administratively with the Greek mainland. So I cannot see that it is at all fair and just to accuse either the A.K.E.L. leaders or the Archbishop of being self-seeking, ambitious political agitators. On the contrary, I think that they are merely expressing a true emotion which is deeply felt by the Greek majority of the Cypriot people.
There has been a good deal of reference to the Turkish minority and I agree with those who say that minority rights must be safeguarded. I am sometimes in a minority myself in various organisations, and I feel very sensitive about the rights of minorities. But I have never dared to suggest that a minority only 18 per cent. strong should determine the policy of the whole organisation, rather than a majority of more than 80 per cent.
I wonder whether the Secretary of State will deal with this argument when he replies to the debate. If he does, perhaps he would say a word about the particular case—with which he is no doubt familiar—of the Sanjak of Alexandretta, which was ceded to Turkey in 1938 simply because the Turkish population formed 60 per cent. of the whole, much less than the 80 per cent. that the Greeks are in Cyprus. The 40 per cent. minority of the population in the Sanjak, consisting of Arabs, Greeks and Armenians, objected unsuccessfully to this transfer.
Is majority rule applicable only in that case and not in the case of Cyprus? I should have thought that, on that precedent alone, the Greeks had a very strong case for saying that while minority rights of language, culture, and religion must be safeguarded, these must not be allowed to block any constitutional change which seemed desirable to the majority—any more than the rights of, say, the Karens were allowed to block the development of the new Union of Burma.
The noble Lord, at any rate in the early part of his speech, was one of those who were sceptical whether Enosis is really desired. Surely the best way of finding out the truth is by testing it—by holding a plebiscite or making it possible for a General Election to be held. The plebiscite could be under United Nations' auspices. There was a reference to the United Nations in the speech of the hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch. He will, of course, realise that this issue was only postponed, and that among the nations which he said were on our side and voted for the resolution was Greece itself, which had raised the matter and had made its position perfectly clear.
The Archbishop of Cyprus may well have been pleased by the result of that debate, because it did at least establish the precedent that Cyprus was not, as the British Government originally argued, a mere matter of domestic concern but a matter of international concern. It is still on the agenda and, as the Greek Prime Minister has indicated, it will be raised again, presumably next autumn.
It becomes urgently necessary, therefore, for Her Majesty's Government to take a more realistic view than has so far been taken. I shall not go into the strategic argument, which, I agree, is to some extent irrelevant, although it is the only argument—whether it is a respectable one or not, I do not know—that the British Government have for insisting on staying. There is no other conceivable argument at all.
After a not altogether unpromising start to his speech, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs deviated into those terrible, smug platitudes about how much we had done for the Cypriot people and how good it was for them that we should stay there, to give them social and economic uplift. There is nothing very much to boast about in the record that the Minister cited. That was normal—perhaps minimal—colonial development. At least the right hon. Gentleman spared us malaria. The one thing that is always said for the British administration in Cyprus is that we have rid the island of malaria, as if that were a tremendous and unique achievement. In the last few years large tracts of the world's surface—in the United States, in the Soviet Union, in many other countries—have been freed from malaria, simply because D.D.T. and other drugs happen to have been invented. That is part of normal progress, and is nothing particularly to boast about.
The Minister did, however, refer in a rather encouraging way to the absurdities of Cyprus Radio. I think he said that he was confident that under the new director a more sensible policy would be followed. I hope that the Secretary of State can go just a little further than that and can tell us that this debate in which we are now taking part will be reported on Cyprus Radio. After all, it is not a self-governing institution; it has committed these absurdities in the past only under official direction, either from the Governor of Cyprus or from the Colonial Office. The Secretary of State is responsible for it. I hope he will say that a signal is being sent that this debate should be fully and fairly reported, because many people in Cyprus would be very interested in what various hon. Members on both sides of this House have been saying. That is, incidentally, the best and most constructive way to offset Athens Radio and to persuade the people to listen to Cyprus Radio.
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) referred with great indignation to Athens Radio and the terrible propaganda which is being put out on it. One would not expect an objective view of life from Athens Radio, Moscow Radio, The Voice of America, or the B.B.C. Foreign Service. What interested me was that, as so often happens—because none of us is very self-critical, I am afraid: certainly I am not—the hon. Gentleman, in another part of his speech, fell into precisely the sort of offence that he was accusing Athens Radio of indulging in, that is, grotesque and impermissible atrocity propaganda. The hon. Gentleman made the wildest charges of the most general nature against the whole Orthodox Church of Cyprus.
There may have been individual instances such as he cited, in which improper pressure was brought to bear by priests who were enthusiasts for Enosis. It may be that they have refused absolution or baptism or whatever it may be. One has heard similar stories about churches in other countries. I know that when the Archbishop has been tackled about these instances he has always asked for evidence and has done his utmost to follow it up. He would certainly take appropriate action against any priest proved to be guilty of these terrible sins, for that is what they are in a priest. When the hon. Gentleman makes sweeping accusations not merely against a few priests here and there but against the whole Orthodox Church of Cyprus he is indulging in the same sort of smearing, atrocity propaganda that he complains about on Athens Radio.
I am sorry to have gone on for so long, and I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me to speak at this late hour. I fervently hope that whatever Government is in power after the Election will take a real step forward in Cyprus. It is quite easy to do: merely remove the implication of that little word "never," which the Minister said he did not use, or did not mean to use, or explained away as soon as he had used it. However, we all know what the implications of it are. We beg the Government to come a little further forward. All that the Labour Party stands for is self-determination. In the present context of the Cyprus problem that probably means Enosis. It is not our business here to argue for or against Enosis, but merely to say that the Cypriot people, like all other peoples in the world, are absolutely entitled, by the Atlantic Charter, the Charter of Human Rights, and everything else in which we profess to believe, to have a say in their own future.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras South (Mrs. L. Jeger) upon opening our debate today in such eloquent terms and putting our discussion on such a high level. The debate has clearly shown the considerable anxiety that exists in the House about the future of Cyprus, and I hope that the Government will study some of the practical suggestions which have been made. I confess that I was profoundly disappointed with the conclusion of the speech by the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs. It seemed to me to be an extremely unhelpful reply in present conditions, which he himself described as tense, and to a problem which has rapidly become a matter of international concern.
I judge that his reply was that there can be no change of policy and that what we must do is to try to persuade the Cypriots to concentrate on their immediate social and economic problems and hope for the best that sooner or later some degree of self-government may be achieved. But it is just that policy that we have tried in the past. It is a policy that has presented us with our problem this afternoon and a policy that has broken down. It has broken down because the problem which is before the Cypriots is largely an emotional one, and no degree of appeal to reason can find a proper answer or settle the difficulties which confront them.
It is bad in principle that we should attempt to govern Cyprus when the population is hostile to us, and I think that it can be accepted that it is hostile. All the evidence points that way, excluding, of course, that from the Turkish minority. The plebiscite of the Church and all the evidence from groups and organisations tend to endorse that view. In any case, it is utterly bad for this situation to be allowed to deteriorate until we are now confronted with outrages and demonstrations which clearly indicate what the population is thinking.
It should be obvious to the Government that a way out of these present difficulties must be found. If they continue, they will suggest to the rest of the world that we are engaged in a game of power politics, and we shall bring a great deal of derision on ourselves. The situation damages our name and our prestige as a colonial Power, and for these reasons the Government should adopt a much more constructive approach to the problem.
No Government in Cyprus or anywhere else are likely to exist for long if they are completely divorced from public opinion and, however irrational and emotional that public opinion may be thought by us to be, nevertheless that emotional content and national resurgence must compel us to take notice sooner or later. Incidentally, our military occupation in Cyprus has been carried out without any consultation with the people, profitable as it may prove to be; to them. They have not been invited to give their consent to it, and they remain hostile to us.
The Government tell us that they have made an offer to the Cypriots, that they have offered discussions of a fairly broad Constitution and that at present then-minds are open about the form which that Constitution might take, provided always that there can be no change in respect of sovereignty. We have made such offers from time to time to the Cypriots, but unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which way one looks at it, the Cypriots have refused so far to enter into discussions with us of a Constitution which implies their retention in the Commonwealth or under British sovereignty. I agree completely, therefore, with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) when he reminds us that such an invitation to a discussion of a Constitution will prove to be an utterly futile exercise.
The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs announced last July that the Government were prepared to introduce a Constitution on lines somewhat different to that which was proposed in 1948. As to the 1948 proposals, I think that the Minister was right when he pointed out in New York that
This liberal constitution was refused because of the extremists with their appeal to emotion and not to reason and they dared not risk normal evolution, normal constitutional development.
I think that that was reasonably true in the circumstances of the time.
I would also add what the "Manchester Guardian" said in a leading article in 1948, with reference to this Constitution:
These proposals … would have given Cypriot leaders invaluable experience in political responsibility, beyond anything known in the island for centuries and a fine platform from which to make the next step upwards towards autonomy …
But that Constitution, liberal as it was, was completely rejected and, although it could have been discussed at any period since 1948, the Cypriots have never asked that discussions on it should take place.
It seems to me a little unfortunate that the Government should make suggestions about a Constitution a little less liberal than the one which was put forward in 1948. I say that it is less liberal because the proposals which are now put forward leave the elected Cypriots in a minority, whereas the 1948 proposals gave a real power to the Legislative Council. Only four official members were recommended and 22 others were to be freely elected from the Cypriots themselves.
However, in 1948 we could obtain no endorsement for the Constitution which was submitted. It is quite true that that Constitution indicated quite clearly that it must be worked out within the framework of the Commonwealth and could not imply any change of sovereignty. I shall explain in a few moments why the Labour movement has modified its approach to this problem by insisting and urging that the principle of self-determination should be applied.
It would be short of realistic that the discussions, if they proceed at all, proceeded on the assumption that union, if desired by the Cypriots, must not be conceded. We have tried the proposals of a new Constitution as suggested by the Secretary of State. He said in December, when the uncertainty in relation to the United Nations had been to some extent removed:
I think the situation is much clearer for the get-together of all men and women of good will in Cyprus in order to try to work out a worthwhile Constitution.
He later stated:
The Governor … has let it be known that he would gladly consult the leading personalities of Cyprus, whether Greek or Turkish, about the working out of a constitutional settlement, …
The Government cannot reopen the question of sovereignty."—[OFFicrAL REPORT, 20th December, 1954; Vol. 535, c. 2438–39.]
Since that time, in spite of the suggestions made in Cyprus that the Government were now prepared to discuss a Constitution, those discussions have not matured. It may be that since 1948, because of our not making any constitutional suggestions at all, not even attempting to improve the Executive Council, not even attempting to impose, as it were, a Constitution, the situated has deteriorated. The Archbishop's plebiscite has also taken place, and it has tended to confirm the opinion held that nothing less than union with Greece was discussible with the Cypriots. The whole situation has now deteriorated.
A discussion on a Constitution cannot be organised or arranged because the people themselves are not prepared to take any part in it, nor are their representatives. The Church is quite determined that any discussions shall not succeed if such are attempted. Likewise the municipalities, the mayors, the trade unionists and the Communists are agreed on the issue, likewise the Governor and local officials have completely failed to rally moderate opinion to their side to arrange that these constitutional discussions should go forward.
Have the Government a policy for getting out of the present deadlock? An emphatic negative on this major issue is not going to get us very far, whether the negative is expressed in this House or at the United Nations. I would only add that there is no half-way house in dealing with this matter. An hon. Member suggested that we might consider better forms of local government, that we might reform the Executive Council, that we might press ahead with development policy, or that we might institute a form of dual citizenship. I submit there is no half-way house. Nothing short of union is likely to be entertained by the Cypriots.
I do not suggest that in exploring this possibility we should yield to violence and clamour, but we may be obliged to in the long run. Unless we are prepared to make vital concessions, we may find ourselves holding down the Cypriots by violence and repression. We must accept the fact that relations between Greece and Cyprus have generally throughout the ages been cordial and friendly. There is a cultural and religious relationship, exaggerated though it may be by emotional propaganda and a longstanding nationalist spirit, which makes the continued imposition of our sovereignty on the Cypriots difficult to justify.
I recall that the previous Secretary of State said that Greece itself was unstable and that it may be rather dangerous to bring the Cypriots into closer relationship with that country. It is certainly true that the Cypriots have nothing to gain economically or in any other way. In fact, they may suffer a great loss if subventions are withdrawn, and it is likely the Cypriots over here will not enjoy altogether the status of foreigners.
They will not like it if they have to have it.
Britain has made a very considerable contribution to Cyprus, but even the last publication of the Secretary of State, when referring to the allocations of the colonial and welfare development funds, indicated afresh our concern about social and economic development in the territory. But I submit that it is no use our complaining about lack of appreciation of the work done by the Administration in Cyprus on roads, forests, cooperative services, health services, social and welfare services, and the prospect of further port development. All these things are important in the life of Cyprus, and administration as a whole has been done very well and has brought great benefit to the Cypriots. I only say that, as in all things political, we cannot expect gratitude for benefits which we have conferred or for money spent.
Therefore, I cannot see that very much progress is likely to come about from these discussions. The real difficulty exists in the mind of our own Government and is about strategic needs. It is the strategic argument, as I see it, which alone prevents justice being done to the Cypriot people in terms of their own political rights. The Foreign Office, the Colonial Office and the Chiefs of Staff apparently regard Cyprus today as indispensable in our defence arrangements.
The withdrawal from Suez, Palestine and North Africa would appear to make Cyprus of some importance in the Eastern Mediterranean. Certainly it is more important than seemed possible only a few years ago, but I want to ask whether political change is to be determined by military strategy alone, and that the strategy of another Power.
I should like to suggest that, in view of the deadlock, if there is no way out of the constitutional problem because the strategic arguments appear strong to our Chiefs of Staff, the Cypriots' political development and rights in terms of sovereignty and their relationship with another Power are of greater importance than the strategic considerations which have been stressed in these discussions.
I say that because I believe there is another way round the strategic argument which has not been faced frankly by the Government. I would suggest, therefore, that there should be soundings for talks with the Greek and Turkish Governments, and that these soundings should be taken without further delay. In this respect I commend the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). I feel that we cannot alter the present situation from the point of view of the Cypriots without bringing both those Governments into consultation, and I would also add that we need to retain the good will of the Moslem population in Turkey and in the Near and Middle East.
The Turkish Government have an interest because of history, and in any case their population must be safeguarded in any change that is brought about. They are our Allies, and they are concerned with Eastern Mediterranean security. I think it would be possible to indicate to the Greek Government that we are prepared to endorse the principle of self-determination by the Cypriot people and that they themselves should determine what their ultimate sovereignty should be.
If that suggestion is made, there are certain conditions which must be attached. The first is that the people should proceed to co-operate in establishing a self-governing Constitution which would not be merely representative but would proceed to full responsibility. The second is that within a limited period a plebiscite should be taken on whether the people wish to remain in the Commonwealth or to change their severeignty. The third is that the people of the island co-operate in establishing the requirements of defence so that the bases are retained and developed by tenancy arrangements by treaty, as happened in the case of Ceylon and also in the case of Transjordan. I submit that some arrangement might be made along those lines.
I agree that we cannot walk out of Cyprus immediately. We cannot throw lightly on one side our responsibility to minorities for defence and external relations, nor can we abruptly withdraw from our social and economic works and cause development to stop, or withdraw financial aid and so throw away what has been done already. I submit also that in any case there is a defence problem which all concerned with freedom and the future of social democracy cannot ignore.
When I say that the Cypriots and the Greek Government should be prepared to discuss with us some arrangement in regard to the retention of bases, I would point out to the House that for many years this has been an active thought, not only in Greece, but in Cyprus itself. We all recollect that the King of Greece, in 1948, was moved to indicate that his Government were prepared to concede military facilities of the kind which he thought we should seek. Those ideas are fairly common among those who have been advocating union with Greece.
We are ourselves, as an Imperial Power, familiar with some such arrangements in strategic areas in various parts of the world. Therefore, provided there are ample safeguards in regard to minorities and in regard to the use of these bases, I cannot see that objections should be lodged against our plea that the people of Cyprus themselves should elect as to the form that their association with an Imperial Power should take.
The situation is easier, largely because Greece and Turkey are now within the N.A.T.O. defence system. I should think that if such discussions were possible with the Turkish and Greek Governments, the Church would remove its hostility and a different spirit could be created among the Cypriots. I am sure that along the lines of mere negation we shall find ourselves in holding down the Cypriots and engaged in resort to violence.
Some of us have spent happy days in this beautiful and historic island and have many charming friends among the Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish. The Cypriots are an ancient, civilised people. They are interested in political discussion if they are not practised in political responsibility. They demand to establish an old association and we cannot eternally block the way without betraying our own political beliefs.
The line which I suggest affords a period in which the Cypriots, with Britain, can fashion a form of government suitable to their needs, their ideas, their temperament, and their economic background—a brief time in which to learn the art of responsible government before determining their ultimate destiny. I believe, too, that we can satisfy our strategic requirements, for these seem the only grounds for keeping this troubled island in Imperial fetters, however light such fetters may be at present, but which the majority of the people are anxious to snap. I ask the Government, therefore, to take the initiative in satisfying Cypriot aspirations.
I would not say that the eve of the rising of Parliament, least of all the eve of the rising of Parliament for a General Election, was the best possible occasion to discuss an issue of this magnitude. In some parts of the House I think it is a little difficult to apply an absolutely disinterested mind to the problem with which we are confronted. However, it provides us with an opportunity, each from our point of view, of stating the case as we see it. It also gives me, as Colonial Secretary, an opportunity of meeting some charges, of removing some misunderstandings, and of answering some misstatements.
May I say at the start that I have nothing very exciting or dramatic to say. It may be better to say that now and not leave the House to realise it when I have finished my speech.
At least I can state the case, as I see it, for the policy that is being patiently pursued by Her Majesty's Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) said that he much wished that when the then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, now my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence, had spoken at the United Nations, he had dealt more with the substance of the issue. I was most interested in the thoughtful speech made by my hon. Friend but, on reflection, he will recollect that at U.N.O. it fell to my right hon. anl learned Friend to conform with the strict rules prevailing at the particular stage of the discussion, and to deal only with procedure and not with the substance of the case. Considering how much of the substance appeared in his speech, my right hon. and learned Friend was singularly successful in getting round some of the difficulties of keeping in order.
This debate was opened by the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) in what was a restrained, well-argued and attractive speech, if I may say so without any appearance of patronage. The hon. Lady will not think me unduly curious, I hope, when I tell her that I turned to my reference books and found that she represents a constituency in which there are 3,500 Cypriots, of whom 2,000 appear to vote at General Elections. The hon. Lady's majority is 1,900, not a very comfortable position. It is actually about a dozen more than my majority in Mid-Bedfordshire.
I have a few, but not very many.
I think the hon. Lady will agree with me, and so will the House, that, however strong her own feelings may be—and I know that she is very interested in Cyprus from every other point of view as well—to meet the emotional desires of a large part of her constituency, I have other considerations that I must also bear in mind when I approach a problem of this magnitude.
I do not join those who believe that material conditions are the only things which make people anxious to be under one sovereignty or another. I would certainly never argue that there is not a great deal of importance to be attached to being associated with a country from which one's culture springs. None the less, the hon. Lady is a fair-minded person, and I hope she will take steps to include in her Election Address in Holborn and St. Pancras in the course of the next few days one or two other facts which might not be altogether so welcome to her Cypriot constituents if, in fact, Enosis were conceded and if, in fact, the Cyprus population in England, instead of being subjects of the United Kingdom and of the Colonies, became foreign subjects.
I will not deal with all the problems about alien regulation, entry permits and limited occupations. I will just limit it to this. They would, of course, lose their British passports—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—if they were not British subjects.
There are certain historical reasons relating to the old United Kingdom which we could not apply all round the world. They would lose the right to vote, but I hope it would not stop the hon. Lady making interesting speeches about Cyprus in future. Also, those between 21 and 50 would become liable for recall to Greece for National Service.
The hon. Lady's speech was a very moderate one, and it was a good start to the debate. I thank her very much for the tone in which she couched it. I cannot say altogether the same about some of the speeches which followed, although on the eve of the rising of Parliament I do not want to be unnecessarily partisan.
I cannot agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that a state of almost civil war exists in Cyprus. Nor could I agree with some of the very wild statements with which the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) started his speech, although undoubtedly he ended it in a much more moderate tone.
I am sorry if I did not properly understand the hon. and learned Member.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East made a number of very dramatic observations. Just to show how dangerous this sort of debate can be at a time when people are collecting short and snappy points to bring out against each other at a Genera] Election, let me take the question of the hospital at Dhekelia, to which he referred. He called it a £3 million hospital. It was begun in the third quarter of 1954, and it is to cost not £3 million but £1· 013 million, and it will provide accommodation for Service personnel and their families. The hon. Gentleman, in making the charge that all that money had gone to this one hospital, contrived to give the impression that really good facilities are not available for the Cypriots living permanently in Cyprus.
I am sorry about the figure; I was incorrectly informed. I said that the hospital would be exclusively for British Service personnel. Is that true or untrue? There was no other implication in what I said. I stated it as a fact.
Hon. Members who were in the House at the time will know that the impression conveyed was that here was an immense sum of money being spent upon one building which was solely for British purposes. It is a military hospital in the usual sense of the term, and there is a host of facilities for the people of Cyprus in hospitals in other parts of the island.
I will not go in detail, as the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) asked me not to, into the question of malaria, but we are entitled to say that the death rate is 7 per 1,000, one of the lowest in the world, the infant mortality rate is very low, and the increase in population is about 10,000 annually. Other excellent proofs of really good social and health progress are to be found in the Annual Report, and I think that these are sufficient answer to those who, just hearing that we are spending £1 million upon a British hospital, might feel that we had neglected these responsibilities.
The hon. Gentleman also said that Cyprus was a police State and ruled by foreigners. The faces of some of his own colleagues took on a slight look of surprise when he made that observation. If there is the beginning of a police State, it is in the difficulty which a large number of people find in expressing views which may not be altogether popular to powerful influences in their own country. The inability of a large part of a population, who are not so vocal, to say what they really feel because of the fear of the consequences is, I agree, one of the symptoms of a police State, but the suggestion that the British authorities have imposed a police State is quite ridiculous. The hon. Gentleman said that they were ruled by foreigners. There are at least 7,000 Cypriots in Government service in Cyprus. The hon. Gentleman said that they had no opportunity to run their own affairs. There are a large number of local organisations in Cyprus, and we are straining every nerve to get the Cypriots to take part in a constitution wherein they will be able to run their own internal affairs.
On the point of the sort of subjects which would be discussed in relation to any new constitution, my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) said he hoped that the Government would do something to break the deadlock and would reconsider the progress and the various steps whereby the Cypriots could be brought by stages to a greater management of their own internal affairs. I am very anxious to break the deadlock. I am not afraid of breaking it in an unusual or unorthodox way; not in the very least. The first step to break any deadlock is to get people to come along who can with complete conviction and truth say that they represent the people who send them to the central assembly. Let us get the elected representatives of the people of Cyprus together, and then we shall have those in Cyprus to whom we can talk about the problems that confront them in the modern world.
The only other speech from the Opposition side of the House to which I should like to refer was that by the hon. Member for Maldon. It was—we are all sorry to hear it—probably his last speech in the House of Commons. The hon. Member, in his concluding observations, showed that he has not lost his sting. There can be no more fitting occasion to make his final speech than in a debate which, I understand, he said in last Sunday's "Reynold's News," was inspired by the Labour Party Conference at Scarborough last year. Now that he will have a great deal more free time we may have to expect "Reynold's News" coming out every day instead of only once a week and other contingencies of that sort. However, we have been hardened to accept all sorts of difficulties, and that one can no doubt be taken in our stride.
Perhaps the most remarkable speech of all was that by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones). He is, of course, in some difficulty. When he was Secretary of State he was asked, on 12th March, 1947, what his views were about an interview with a delegation from Cyprus. He said:
I reminded the delegation of my statement in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) … to the effect that no change in the status of the island is contemplated by His Majesty's Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1947; Vol. 434, c. 1318.]
The right hon. Gentleman has used as an illustration of the justice of his change of mind the fact that the plebiscite had shown how strongly the people felt, but even after the plebiscite his right hon. Friend the then Minister of State for
Colonial Affairs, the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), said:
It has been repeatedly made clear that no change in the sovereignty of the island is contemplated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 1279.]
I cannot believe that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, as Minister of State for Colonial Affairs at that time, would have made that remark without the authority of the then Secretary of State.
I see the difficulties in which the right hon. Member for Wakefield finds himself. He is anxious to unite all sections of the Socialist Party, particularly at this critical moment. I cannot seriously believe that he came to the Chamber with any peace of mind. When he began his speech, as hon. Members on this side of the House noticed, he started by saying that he intended to tell us what had brought the Labour movement to—he was about to say "change," but he changed his mind half way through and said "modify." I was sitting so near him that I could see the word "change" was about to appear. He said "modify."
I cannot imagine a more major modification than this. The Turks are to be ignored, the Turks who are 40 miles away from Cyprus. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that another Moslem country, Syria, is only 60 miles to the east, while Greece is 500 miles to the west? Turkey is to be ignored, or, anyhow, over-ridden and the people in Cyprus are to be given a chance to unite with Greece. That is a very interesting suggestion, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question or two about it in a moment.
I do not know how the Secretary of State has got the idea that in my speech I was inclined to ignore the existence of the Turkish Government. I deliberately said that one of the first things that was necessary was that there should be discussions or soundings for talks with both the Greek Government and the Turkish Government. I also pointed out that the Turks had a very real interest, which they could quite legitimately press, that in any change which was brought about there should be safeguards for the Turkish population. I also indicated that in these changes it was desirable to bring the Moslem population along with us.
All that may well foe so, but the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech clearly was that he had faced up to the fact, whatever the views of the Turks might be, that self-determination for the majority in Cyprus and the majority alone was apparently the policy of the Socialist Party. That was the first time that had appeared in the course of the debate. When my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) challenged the light hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) on the question of sovereignty—I was out of the Chamber—I gather that the right hon. Gentleman hedged a little. But when the right hon. Member for Wakefield was speaking, he rushed right in. When they were colleagues together in the Government it used to be the right hon. Member for Dundee, West who rushed in and the right hon. Member for Wakefield who went rather slowly and who looked before he leapt.
I do not know whether it is hedging or not, but what I replied to the noble Lord was that I thought that there should be a sovereign assembly in Cyprus which would determine future sovereignty of the island. Is that hedging?
I stick to my point and I say to the right hon. Gentleman that that just shows what years in the wilderness can do. I believe that he has a feeling that he is unlikely to assume responsibility when he makes light-hearted speeches such as we have just heard.
Her Majesty's Government have in Cyprus a number of duties which it is our intention to fulfil; to carry out a strategic responsibility on which, in our belief, our survival, Greece's survival, the survival of Turkey and the N.A.T.O. nations and, indeed, the free world depend; to maintain law and order and promote economic advance; we have the will and the means to do all those things, and we also want orderly constitutional development. For that, of course, we need co-operation and if we are given that co-operation we will pursue that end, I assure the House, with precisely the same vigour as our other aims.
I will not deal with any detail with the broadcasts from Athens, save to say that such broadcasts are altogether inconsistent with our ties of friendship and alliance. I had intended to say more, but the debate has already continued longer than was planned. As one who, like many colleagues on both sides of the House, has many ties with and great friendship for Greece, I hope that better counsels will prevail. Through the Cyprus Broadcasting Company we are, of course, answering the various charges that are made and putting forward constructive suggestions from our own point of view. I should like to thank the Marconi Company and the B.B.C. for the prompt and dramatic aid they brought to meet the damage caused by the acts of sabotage, which acts of sabotage must be linked in the minds of reasonable people, in part at any rate, with the broadcasts from Athens.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield said that he was anxious all the time to consider the interests of the Turks and I interjected that Turkey is only 40 miles north of Cyprus. In N.A.T.O., to which Greece and Turkey belong, and in the Balkan Pact, to which Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia belong, we have two organisations for the preservation of peace which ought to enable the Greek Government to see the danger to these unions that reckless broadcasting may cause. The broadcasting is exclusively from Athens.
Certainly not of the kind that could be held to incite anybody to sedition or violence.
I fear that I must detain the House a little longer, because I have one or two definite statements to make which ought to be on the record, dealing in part with the strategic importance of Cyprus as Her Majesty's Government see it. There have been a number of very interesting speeches by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this subject, but the Government have great responsibilities in this matter and the best possible advice and no one would quarrel with the right of a responsible Minister in a debate of this kind—even though the defence aspect is not my Departmental responsibility—to make one or two general observations.
The importance of Cyprus depends on the importance of the Middle East as a whole in our world-wide strategy. I do not think that this can be denied. The Middle East is the land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, the centre of the Moslem world and the keystone of our defence against Communist infiltration into Africa and an essential link in our chain of strategic and military bases. It is essential that a power vacuum should not be allowed to build up on the southern flank of Turkey. The defence of this area in war is vital in order that this flank should not be turned. It is interesting, as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor reminded the House, to note that in 1878 the Sultan of Turkey leased Cyprus to Her Majesty's Government. This was done to assist collective defence against Russia.
The United Kingdom has a particular concern and responsibility in the Middle East for a number of reasons. Historically, we are the one major Power with special responsibility for the stability and general strategic interest of the area. We have undertaken specific treaty obligations to Iraq, Jordan and Libya to go to their aid if attacked. To us, the Middle East is a vital link in our Commonwealth air communications and we have also long-established economic interests in that area.
To discharge our responsibilities, to promote stability and cohesion in the Middle East and to defend it in war, we must be able to station sufficient forces there and we must have secure bases from which they can operate. Cyprus has many advantages from that point of view. It lies athwart the sea routes through the Mediterranean, it is becoming an increasingly important link in our air routes and it is the only remaining British territory in the Middle East.
It is, therefore, the only place where we can provide permanently, with freedom from externally imposed restrictions on our military requirements, a peacetime location for our Middle East land and air headquarters, where we can keep troops permanently to meet sudden emergencies of any kind. Geographically, it is very well placed for this purpose and airfield facilities will be of first importance. These are inescapable facts in the modern world, the world of tension in which we live today. It is no service to the free nations of the world—least of all for reasons that may not be wholly connected with the issue which we are debating today—lightly to suggest that these things should be forgotten, or to argue as though they do not exist.
There has been a good deal of discussion about sovereignty. I reminded the House of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield on the issue of sovereignty, only a few years ago.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of defence, may I ask him a question? He has talked a great deal about British strategy. Did he deliberately omit any reference at all to N.A.T.O. in his description of the strategic significance of Cyprus? He was asked whether our planning would not be assisted if the Greeks and the Turks shared the base with us.
If only the hon. Gentleman can restrain his impatience he will find that I am coming to that, because it arises in connection with sovereignty. The fact that he did not realise that shows that he does not grasp the importance of sovereignty from the defence point of view.
We have certain obligations as a member of N.A.T.O. We are very glad and determined to fulfil them. Other countries have their obligations, too, but Great Britain's responsibilities extend far beyond those which we share in common with Greece or Turkey as members of N.A.T.O. They include a number of other things. They include our treaty obligations with the Middle Eastern States to which I have referred which are our treaty obligations, not N.A.T.O. or Greek obligations but United Kingdom obligations. Also, we have commitments on a world-wide scale which Greece does, not share.
Of course we could discharge our N.A.T.O. commitments in some other way, no doubt, but we cannot discharge these wider commitments unless we are able to station forces in Cyprus and to move them in and out freely at a moment's notice as part of the redeployment of our strategic reserves of land and air forces to meet an emergency. Freedom of action of this kind is consistent only with the maintenance of British sovereignty.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in July, on the very day on which the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs made his announcement, the present Prime Minister said that it was essential, when we have troops overseas, to have the consent and co-operation of the population among whom they are based, and that that was one reason why we were getting out of Suez?
I do not think that anybody would compare Cyprus with the situation in the Canal Zone—I remind the hon. Gentleman of the wealth of friendship in Cyprus—nor could one compare the enormous size of the Suez installations with the far more modest preparations being made in Cyprus, which is one of a number of links in the chain and not the only link as the Suez Canal virtually was before.
Before we leave defence, would the Secretary of State say how long it is since all these enormous strategic advantages in respect of Cyprus were discovered by our chiefs of staff? Further, is not it possible to conceive of an arrangement short of sovereignty whereby, by treaty arrangement, all the facilities we require for military bases and the rest could be supplied? Why is not it possible to conceive of some such arrangement as exists in, say, Ceylon or Jordan, where we have bases although sovereignty is not ours?
The right hon. Gentleman will know what advice was given to the Labour Government. I would not attempt to estimate what form it took, but the advice consistently given to us is that Cyprus is of the first importance.
In regard to the way in which a leased base might provide an adequate substitute, I have dealt with the question of sovereignty, and I only add that leases very often have a habit of being terminated and that Governments change. Far less reliance can be placed on any positioning based on these considerations than on plans made on the maintenance of sovereignty.
It is our view, and I am sure that it is the view of a large number of other nations and communities that have not got so many vocal spokesmen in this House, that the maintenance of our forces in Cyprus and the development of Cyprus as an important base is a stabilising influence in the Middle East and a valuable contribution towards maintaining the security of the free world.
One or two questions were asked about the growth of nuclear weapons and the effect upon Cyprus. I cannot do better than refer hon. Members on both sides of the House to the Statement on Defence, which was published recently, in which it is made perfectly clear that, while we are determined to take every possible step in regard to nuclear war, it is not part of our policy to abandon resistance to Communist imperialism in the cold war, and that we have to take a number of other important steps to secure that aim.
Finally, I have made a further appeal to the people of Cyprus to co-operate in a Constitution which will enable us to find the people with whom we can talk sanely and sensibly about Cypriot problems. It is not, and never has been, the policy of Her Majesty's Government to de-Hellenise Cyprus any more than it is to destroy the pride of the Turks in Turkey. We fully realise the cherished cultural and religious ties of the Greek and Turkish speaking community, but we see no reason at all why this tradition should prevent the people from taking their part, in a spirit of friendly co-operation, in a process of constitutional development which is characteristic of all parts of the Commonwealth.
I hope that hon. Members will read the leading article in "The Times" today which uses these words:
There is no reason why the Greek or Turkish communities in Cyprus should feel that, by making a joint constitutional step forward, they are being asked to surrender any of their racial or religious loyalties. Whatever happens they will have to work out a way of living in peace with each other—and with their neighbours.
I am aware that I have left unanswered a number of points that have been made. I hope that we shall have an early opportunity of returning to a consideration of
this most important problem. I recognise the strong feelings that this issue has aroused, but I ask hon. Members to reflect very carefully on the problem as it will be when the General Election is over and on the long-term issues for which we shall be responsible, whichever party may win the Election—for which Parliament as a whole will be responsible.
In October, I said:
The question has been asked, what is to be the ultimate goal of constitutional progress in Cyprus?
and I answered—and I think I cannot better it if I repeat it now:
Before an answer can be given the Cypriot people must join with us in taking the first steps towards managing their own affairs… In the present troubled state of the world we cannot foresee a time when a relinquishment of our sovereignty over Cyprus would be compatible with our responsibilities in the Middle East.
Then I added that I had no intention of prophesying where they might lead, and said:
I am not prepared to look into the distant future when we still cannot see clearly the outcome of our fresh steps towards constitutional advance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 2146–7.]