Cyprus: British Sovereign Bases

– in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 5th March 2003.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 2:59 pm, 5th March 2003

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether it is still their belief, as stated in the Official Report of 14th January (HL Deb, col. 124), that the accession of Cyprus to the European Union will not affect the arrangements that have been worked out for the British sovereign bases.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, on 26th February, the United Nations Secretary-General formally tabled the third and final version of his proposals, which included the United Kingdom's offer to the United Nations to cede just under half the SBA territory if there is agreement on the UN proposals within the UN timetable. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced that in a written statement on 25th February. If agreed, the proposals would make no difference to the arrangements in the protocol in Cyprus's accession treaty, which will be signed on 16th April, or to the operational capability of the SBA.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that reassurance. Will she accept that we on this side strongly support any moves that may lead to the unity, at last, of the divided island of Cyprus? However, will she confirm that if this area of land which is now on offer was operational beforehand, the operational requirements—particularly in relation to water supplies and acting as a buffer zone—are no longer relevant, and that we can therefore safely go ahead with this offer should it be needed?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support—indeed, I think that in discussing this matter last March he said that anything that managed to achieve agreement would be something of a miracle. We very much hope that the proposals will receive support. I hope that he will be reassured to know that the MoD was, of course, fully consulted about the offer. It has said that the proposals do not make any difference to its operational capability or, I understand, to the availability of water supplies.

Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour

My Lords, perhaps I may congratulate Her Majesty's Government on making this offer as a contribution to trying to achieve a settlement between both Cypriot communities. Can my noble friend say what the latest prospects are for a settlement within the timetable laid down by the United Nations? Does she agree that unless both Cypriot communities and those representing them seize this opportunity now, it may well be a decade or more before they get another chance?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his congratulations. I believe that this is good news. It has been a creative and carefully timed initiative on the part of the British Government. It is, of course, made in strong support of the efforts made under the auspices of the Secretary-General. It is therefore part and parcel of trying to give support to the United Nations.

I should say something about the timetable. I understand that Mr Denktash is in Ankara discussing the proposals this afternoon. Both sides have been asked to give an indication to the Secretary-General about whether they will hold referendums by 10th March. We very much hope that both sides will feel that there is sufficient to go on to hold those referendums on 30th March. I agree with my noble friend. We very much hope that this matter can at last be settled.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister accept that some of the sovereign base areas have been surplus to requirements for some time, so that returning some of the land to Cyprus would not be a tremendous loss to the British Crown? Can she also tell us a little about how it will be done? Does it have to be ratified by Parliament, or does it, like other matters, come under the Royal prerogative?

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Trade), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Trade and Investment and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Trade and Investment) Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (also FCO), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, as I indicated in answering the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I am assured that the military capability will not be diminished. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, therefore deduces that they have not been vital to that capability. I think that common sense shows that that is almost certainly the case. He went on to ask how this will be dealt with in Parliament. As I understand it, this—not the issue of giving away the sovereign base land, but eventually the issues about accession and all the issues we have discussed before—will be a matter for Parliament to consider. If I am wrong about that, I will write to the noble Lord.