HC Deb 29 May 1854 vol 133 cc1062-4

I rise to put a question to the noble Lord respecting the alleged occupation of the territory of the King of Greece by the allied forces of France and England. I am desirous to know whether that allegation is correct; and, if true, to ask whether the noble Lord has any objection to state the objects and conditions of the occupation of the territory of an independent Power with whom England and France are not at war?


We have not received any account of the occupation of any part of the Greek territory by the forces of the Allied Powers. But it is perfectly true that a force, consisting, I think, of about 6,000 men, has been sent from France with instructions to occupy the Piræus; and Her Majesty's Government, in entire conjunction with that of France, has desired that a regiment of infantry which left this country about a week ago should likewise be employed in the occupation of the Piræus. The cause of this measure on the part of the Allied Powers is the intelligence which they have repeatedly received, that, by the connivance of the Greek Government, Greek officers have been attempting to raise insurrections in the Turkish provinces adjoining Greece, and that in some instances they have succeeded in their attempts. There is besides a correspondence which was found on a late occasion in the possession of a secretary of General Tsavallas, which shows that persons in the Greek Government were cognisant of all the attempts which have been made to create an insurrection; and especially of a suggestion which was made, that Greek regiments should be sent from Athens to the frontier, with a view to their being there allowed to desert, and meeting again in a body in order to form the nucleus of a force of Greek insurgents acting in the Turkish provinces. That is one only of the very many instances which show that the members of the Greek Government, instead of acting with that good faith which the Government of Turkey has ever shown since the recognition of Greece as an independent State, have been endeavouring, contrary to the faith of treaties, and contrary to the obligations of good neighbourhood, to raise insurrections against the Sultan, and to carry fire and sword into his territories. Such being the case, the Governments of France and England have thought it necessary to send a force to occupy the Piræus. If the King of Greece disapproves—as we have been repeatedly told— of those attempts to violate the duties of a neutral Power, the King of Greece will find protection in the forces which have been sent to him, and the means of compelling his people to observe those duties. If, on the other hand, the protestations which we have received from the Greek Government should turn out not to be sincere, those forces may prove useful in another way. As has been stated in the French Moniteur, there is no intention of declaring war against Greece, but we mean to take care that the Government of Greece shall not be secretly or avowedly an ally of Russia in the present war; and we have taken means, which I trust will be sufficient, to prevent a covert or avowed war against Turkey from that quarter.


The noble Lord, before Easter, made a statement with regard to the Greek Government, very much in the tone and temper of that which he has now made; and, in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Pontefract, he promised to lay before the House certain papers to prove the statement which he then made. Since the Easter recess I, upon several occasions, have asked for those papers, but they have not yet been produced, and the noble Lord has failed to give any assurance when they will be placed upon the table. The noble Lord has now made certain other statements with regard to the Government of Greece, and, as the noble Lord's words go all over the world, I ask him that he should give us those papers, together with additional ones, if there are any, bringing down the course of events to the present time, with as little delay as possible.


Those papers are now, I believe, in a printed form, and I hope to be able to lay them on the table of the House—perhaps to-morrow—or, at all events, not later than Thursday.


Is the House to understand that the allied forces are to occupy Athens as well as the Piræus, or that they are to remain at the Piræus?


I will not enter into particulars, but may state that the instructions are generally to occupy the Piræus, and not Athens. They are to occupy Athens only in the event of certain contingencies.