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House of Commons

Friday 28 July 2000

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Madam Speaker in the Chair]

Adjournment (Summer)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

9.33 am

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting): Madam Speaker, this is the last day that you will preside over the House. Having just seen the procession and the enormous number of Members who were watching it, I feel that I have the right to say that, in view of the glowing tributes that were paid to you on Wednesday, today is a very sad day for very many of us, who were privileged to be Members of the House during your speakership. For those like me, who have had a long friendship with you, Madam Speaker, you will be sadly missed. However, as colleagues said on Wednesday, we look forward to seeing you in the Palace of Westminster on many occasions in the future. I thank you for all the kindness that you have shown not only to me, but to all Members of the House. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."]

I shall speak on Cyprus, as I have often done. I chair the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Cyprus group, which has members from all the main parties. We have always campaigned for the rights of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots and for their security on the island of Cyprus. Since the Turkish invasion of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, there have been many attempts to find an honourable solution to the continuing division and occupation of about one third of the northern part of the island.

The United Nations has issued many resolutions; I and many Members have always found those resolutions to be fair and honourable. We believe that they should be the basis of the talks between President Clerides and Mr. Denktash. To the credit of President Clerides and leaders of political parties in Cyprus, that is also their view.

Regrettably, the problem has always come from the Turkish Cypriot side, led by Mr. Denktash. After about 26 years of occupation, there has been no real progress. Another round of talks has begun. I and all Members of the House who want a settlement hope that those talks will succeed, but that rests with the attitude taken by Mr. Denktash. I hope that the British Government, as one of the guarantor powers for Cyprus and because Cyprus is a Commonwealth country, will be in the forefront of those discussions. We must make it clearly known that we want a settlement and that one is possible.

The text of the UN resolutions is the basis for the talks. I have great respect for and trust in the role and views of the UN. Over the years, as the talks have continued, there

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have been many hopes. For example, the return of Famagusta to the Republic of Cyprus was promised. Twenty-six years after the invasion and the departure of its people, because of the presence of the Turkish military, Famagusta--formerly one of the most beautiful towns in Cyprus--is a ghost town. Its return was promised by Mr. Denktash. He reneged on his promise, so great opportunities for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to live and work together were, sadly, lost. The UK must be foremost in seeking the return of Famagusta to the Republic of Cyprus so that those opportunities can be restored.

Cyprus is seeking membership of the European Union. I am delighted that its application is going well. President Clerides has repeatedly asked Mr. Denktash to join him in those talks for the benefit of Cyprus and its people--Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Sadly, Mr. Denktash refuses to join in those talks, in which the future of Cyprus would undoubtedly be developed.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office is aware that, since the invasion of Cyprus, we have heard much about the independent state that Mr. Denktash has created in the occupied area. However, that independent state is recognised only by Turkey. I am one of the UK representatives on the Council of Europe--a parliamentary organisation with 41 member states. With the exception of Turkey, the Council of Europe refuses to recognise the so-called state.

It is also wise to point out that the United Nations refuses to recognise the state. However, we have heard repeatedly from Mr. Denktash that until his state--which he created with the support of the Turkish army--is recognised, he will not enter any discussions on the future of Cyprus. He has not shown any willingness to work for a settlement until this supposed state is recognised. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will clearly say that this country and this Government will not recognise this supposed state.

Early-day motion 952 is headed "Cyprus Talks". Among other things, it clearly states what could be the basis of a settlement of the Cyprus issue. It refers to


Can anyone who cares about his community, as I am certain that Mr. Denktash cares about his, object to supporting and working for the objective that the early- day motion clearly suggests could be achieved?

Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth, for which many Members have a great respect. In September, the 46th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference will take place in London and Edinburgh. It will be opened in Westminster Hall by Madam Speaker and it will be attended by Her Majesty the Queen, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by senior representatives of Commonwealth countries from throughout the world. In attendance will be the delegation from the Republic of Cyprus--the only country in the Commonwealth that is divided and occupied by foreign troops. I will attend as an officer of the CPA, and the occupation of Cyprus and the division that has sadly existed for 26 years will be a black cloud hanging over that important conference.

There are people in Cyprus--Greek and Turkish--who want to live, work and meet together. However, many of us in the House, irrespective of our political party,

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know how difficult it is to achieve those objectives because of the restrictions that are put on meetings by Mr. Denktash. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister whether he will make inquiries via the British special negotiator for Cyprus, Sir David Hannay, on the political pressures that are now being put on opposition politicians and parties in northern Cyprus.

Early-day motion 1008 is headed "Cyprus" and it clearly gives details of the abuses that have taken place. It refers to a rally of 10,000 Turkish Cypriots that took place in northern Cyprus in recent days to demand the return of their country from the influence of Turkey. I hope that my hon. Friend will make inquiries not only about the rally, but about the arrest of trade unionists in northern Cyprus who are now clearly showing their opposition to Mr. Denktash and his lack of willingness to enter into the negotiations that President Clerides and, I have no doubt, the British Government want to take place in the current round of talks.

Many of us in the House have known for years of the opposition in northern Cyprus to the policies that are followed by Mr. Denktash. However, whenever we refer to that matter, we are always told that it is lying propaganda which seeks to diminish the status of Mr. Denktash. However, because of the recent events in northern Cyprus, we know that that opposition has now surfaced. Turkish Cypriots clearly want Cyprus to develop a meaningful, prosperous future from which they will benefit. They want the UN-sponsored talks to succeed. For years, their voice has been controlled and threatened. However, as in country after country throughout the world, there comes a time when people say, "We've had enough." That is what Turkish Cypriots are clearly now saying of Mr. Denktash. Will my hon. Friend ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to inquire further into the recent events that have taken place in Cyprus?

We all know that Turkey wishes to become a major player in Europe and wishes, in due course, to become a member of the European Union. I have been told that clearly by Turkish politicians. We also know of the influence that Turkey has over Mr. Denktash and the affairs of northern Cyprus. I therefore hope that the British Government and other members of the European Union will make it very clear to Turkey that, if it wants progress to be made in its desire to become a member of European Union, it will have to play a much more constructive and involved role in the affairs of Cyprus than it has done in the past. I very much hope that the British Government will say that.

Like many other colleagues in the House, irrespective of our party, I wish the present round of talks to succeed. I want a Cyprus in which Cypriots--be they Greek or Turkish--are proud of their country and see their future together, with all the rights and security in place to ensure that future. I hope that the present round of talks will start to develop that aim. I cannot believe that the House, the Government and this country can continue to see a Commonwealth country divided by a foreign power, as it has been, sadly, for the past 26 years.

9.48 am

Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole): May I apologise for the fact that, because of a meeting with charities, I shall not be present for the winding-up speeches?

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My remarks will be brief, but they are relevant because the House is about to enter its annual long recess. They relate to the communications system in the Palace of Westminster. We live in a technological age, and this place is not exempt from progress. For example, we need only consider all the technological advantages that Portcullis House will offer hon. Members as we carry out our work.

Hon. Members have an excellent e-mail service and our fax machines, which are sometimes tied to our computers, all work efficiently and effectively. We have internet access across the Palace of Westminster and much of the information that we glean from the internet is invaluable. We are able to telephone mobiles when we need to get hold of people at short notice or when our secretaries or offices need to get hold of us. More importantly, we have an 0800 number for direct access to the PDVN, which is invaluable to the work that we do.

However, there is one aspect of communications in the Palace that needs to be addressed. We are all about to go to our constituencies, and this place will close partially for a period of time. Secretaries and other people will work here on our behalf. I hope that we will all be working tirelessly in our constituencies--as we should and always have done--in the best interests of the people whom we represent. However, an aspect of the way in which a constituent may contact us during the recess gives me great concern.

Currently, we have a voicemail system, and constituents telephoning our offices throughout the Palace of Westminster are given a message. If they do not telephone us directly, they may call a central number and receive a message from us saying, "Please contact me on another number." That has two detrimental effects on our constituents. First, they must telephone a London number, although our constituencies are across the country, and secondly, they are so often asked to telephone a second number. Constituents who get in touch regularly are not always those who can afford to do so, yet the issues that affect them must be dealt with straight away.

My request before we rise for the summer recess is that the House considers what I put to the Information Committee on 2 February: that we should have a proper, serviceable call-diverting system on our telephones in the Palace. I have spoken to people at BT, and that is possible.

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