Cyprus

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th March 1959.

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Photo of Hon. Patrick Maitland Hon. Patrick Maitland , Lanark 12:00 am, 19th March 1959

I am obliged to you, Sir, for your protection. I am afraid that if the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) had listened to the other speeches, he would have been on his feet with such points of order at intervals of five minutes throughout.

The relationship such as I have suggested could be handled at this end by the Commonwealth Relations Office as in the case of the Republic of Ireland. There might well be regional consultations between the Republic of Cyprus and the United Kingdom Government as a matter of normal right. There might well be some arrangements whereby citizens of the Republic of Cyprus were guaranteed easier access to naturalisation as Commonwealth citizens, easier, that is to say, than for foreigners. There might well be Cypriot participation in many specialised activities of the Commonwealth such as in the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau, which could be of great use, the Shipping Committee, in telecommunications, in the Commonwealth Press Union, and the like.

There are many respects in which Cyprus might join in some kind of external association with the Commonwealth which would not debar the new State from later on attaining a kind of membership distinct from the status of a Dominion, but suited to her special position.

It is for the Commonwealth to decide what is to be done. I will not say that something will "never" be conferred. We know that today's debate has largely been about the word "never". "Never" is a dangerous word. I sometimes think that the Spanish mañana is better. It serves the same purpose without being so final. What is clear is that on past Commonwealth convention the standing of Dominion status is not one that will be appropriate to the Republic of Cyprus.

On the other hand, this may well mean that we are at the beginning of a two-tier Commonwealth. Some people think that we already have that, because of the Republics and the Malayan monarchy, but that is not so much of a two-tier system as is commonly thought. When we are considering these matters, as we are bound to do in working the Agreement and watching the work of the Commissions bringing it into effect, and studying particularly the legal aspects, we should have regard to the consequences elsewhere of the precedents that we set.

Without wishing to call the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne to his feet again with more points of order—and I know that he is only waiting for his chance—I cannot help remarking that the Motion before the House does not allude to the consequences that would follow our decisions in this field. But there is the possibility of a Greater Somaliland in East Africa and there are developments in West Africa with the Guinea-Ghana union that could be accommodated by a form of external association.

My hope has always been, and it has run through number of speeches tonight, that the Cyprus crisis in the end would lead to reconciliation between ourselves and the people of Cyprus and, indeed, not only between ourselves and the Kingdom of Greece and the Republic of Turkey but between those two foreign countries and the Commonwealth of nations. One thing made plain in every speech tonight has been that this is a changing Commonwealth. My hope had been that we might by sharing sovereignty in Cyprus try to draw those two countries closer to us. That hope has receded. But Greece and Turkey are to be built into the structure of the new Republic which it would be difficult irrevocably and finally to remove from some kind of association with the Commonwealth and this leads me to hope for a wider and grander association in the years to come between the present but expanding Commonwealth and foreign nations.

To conclude: this is a transfer, and not a merging, of sovereignties, which I regret. It cost me some difficulty to stomach the Agreement but, having swallowed my doubts as best I can, I look to new political forms arising out of this experiment to create a new form of association between foreign countries and our own system. I believe that if such comes to pass the crisis, the struggle, and the tears in the end may well have been worth while.