HC Deb 27 April 1877 vol 234 cc30-1

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If he can inform the House whether it be true that the Russian authorities have ordered neutral ships arriving off and bound to Odessa not to enter that port; if he has, or is, negotiating with the Russian and Turkish Governments to allow neutral vessels a specified period in which to enter and leave harbours protected by torpedoes or blockaded by ships of war; and, if he has ascertained whether the belligerents intend observing the Maritime Rules of the Declaration of Paris during the continuance of hostilities; and if the Turkish Government intends treating the Dardanelles and Bosphorus as inland waters for ships of all nations, or only as against those belligerent Powers?


Sir, in reply to the first part of the Question of the hon. Member for Sunderland, I have to say that in answer to a message that was sent from the Foreign Office two days ago, Consul General Stanley at Odessa reports to us that no English vessel has been prevented from entering in or going out of that port; and that yesterday in fact an English vessel was unloading there and would proceed, when her cargo was unloaded, to go out of the port. He adds that all vessels are obliged upon entering the port to enter with Russian crews, and that while they are going through the channel, termed the "Mined" Channel, which I suppose is a channel where torpedoes are laid down, their own crews are obliged to go below, and that these regulations apply to Russian as well as to foreign vessels. With regard to the second part of the Question of the hon. Member, we have no notice with regard to any harbours that are protected by torpedoes, except Odessa, the one just mentioned, nor have we received any information of a blockade being established, either by Russia, or by Turkey. Then with regard to the third part of the Question, we have received telegrams from Mr. Layard, who says that it is the intention of the Turkish Government to issue a proclamation declaring that it does mean to be bound by the maritime rules laid down in the Declaration of Paris. Mr. Layard adds, in the telegram to which I have just alluded, that regulations are about to be issued by the Porte stating what their intention is with regard to the right of search for contraband of war. I do not think it would be desirable that I should say anything about those regulations until I receive them, and therefore I can only say that whenever we hear of those regulations being published—and we understand they are to be published immediately—by the Porte, we shall make them publicly known in this country without the slightest delay.