THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I wish, Sir, to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will allow me, Whether it is in his power to give the House any 1326 information which, as I understand, Her Majesty's Government have received as to the conditions of the Armistice, and as to the reported advance of the Russian troops to Constantinople?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Speaker, the Government have received a telegram to-day from Mr. Layard, containing a summary of the Articles of the Armistice. The Articles are not given at full length, and of course, there must be some important points involved in the details; but the heads of the Articles given are such as I will now read, with the permission of the House. The Papers containing them will be laid on the Table this evening. The Armistice contains 10 Articles, and is between Russia, Roumania, Servia, and Turkey—The 1st Article provides that three days' notice shall be given before resuming hostilities. It also provides that Russia should communicate the Armistice to Montenegro. The 2nd Article provides for the restoration of any guns or territory which may be taken after the signature of the Armistice. The 3rd, which is an important Article, contains the details of demarcation of a neutral zone for Russia, Turkey, and Servia. The details are not given to us, but the House will see as I proceed that the Article is important, and also that some portions of the neutral zone may be gathered from subsequent information. The Article runs thu's—"Details of the demarcation, &c, of a neutral zone for Russia, Turkey, and Servia. Most of Bulgaria, Roumelia, and Thrace, as far as the lines of Constantinople, and" (I think) "Gallipoli, to be in Russian hands. No fortifications are to be kept in the neutral territory, or new ones constructed." That seems to mean that any fortifications on neutral territory are to be dismantled and disarmed. "A joint commission is to determine the line of demarcation for Montenegro and Servia, and the Russians are to occupy Bourgas and Midia on the Black Sea for the purpose of obtaining supplies, but not war material. 4. Beyond the lines of demarcation the armies are to withdraw within three days of the signature of the Armistice. 5. The arms, &c, of the Turks evacuating the fortifications are to be sent by routes and to places specified. "That is to say, the Turks on evacuating the fortifications mentioned in the 3rd Article are to remove their 1327 arms, &c. to particular spots; if that cannot be done, an inventory is to be taken of those which are not removed in the interval, and the evacuation must be completed within seven days after receipt of orders for the purpose. "6. The Sulina mouth of the Danube is to be evacuated within three days by the Turkish troops and ships of war, unless prevented by ice, and Russia is to undertake the superintendence of the navigation, and to remove obstacles in the Danube. 7. The Turkish authorities are to remain in certain places." Those places, however, are not named. The 8th Article relates to the conditions under which railways are to continue to work; the 9th provides for raising the blockade of the Black Sea; and the 10th has reference to charge being taken by Russia of the Turkish wounded. It is further provided, with respect to the Armistice in Armenia, that it should be settled by the Russian and Turkish commanders there. The Armistice commenced at 7 P.M. on the 31st ultimo. The telegram ends by saying that the Turks have begun to remove their guns from the Constantinople lines. Now it is quite evident from that statement that, whatever may have been the arrangements with regard to the neighbourhood of Constantinople, a neutral zone has been declared which includes the lines of Tchekmedje, which protect Constantinople; and, according to the terms of the Armistice, the Turks are bound not to retain those fortresses, and accordingly are bound to remove—and are quietly beginning to remove—their guns and armaments from the fortifications by lines and to specified places. That is an important advance, and it is clear that the Russians, although they do not actually occupy any portion strictly speaking, of the Turkish lines, have brought the territories they have occupied close up to them. That, I may add, is entirely consistent with the statement which was made yesterday by Mr. Layard, which was that the Russians had occupied Tchataldja, because that is just outside what are properly called the Turkish lines. The consequence is that, although the Russians do not occupy those lines themselves, they occupy an outpost close to them, while the lines themselves are being thoroughly disarmed. They have the power, therefore, at any moment, subject to the 1328 necessity of giving three days' notice of the termination of the Armistice, of advancing on Constantinople without hindrance. These, then, are important terms, and it appears to me, from a careful comparison of them, that they justify in every particular the statement of Mr. Layard. Of course, when Mr. Layard made that statement he was not aware of the terms of the Armistice, and was in consequence writing in some ignorance; but, according to the statement he then made, the facts are just as he described them—that is to say, that in spite of the protest of the Turkish commander, the Turkish troops were compelled by the Russian General Strog off to evacuate Silivria, and they accordingly did so last night. That is probable, as Silivria is on the Sea of Marmora, and would be within the portion of territory which the Russians are to occupy. The second telegram which I read to the House yesterday stated that the Russian Government had insisted that they should occupy Tchataldja, and they also insisted on the abandonment by the Turks of the Tchekmedje lines as one of the conditions of the Armistice, which we now see it is—"The Turks have been compelled to retire altogether from them, and leave Constantinople undefended." That is the position; and while, on the one hand, it completely justifies the statement of Mr. Layard, it discloses a state of affairs which must necessarily engage our serious attention. I may, perhaps, venture to call the attention of the House to one of the Papers which were laid upon the Table yesterday. I mean No. 9 of the Papers on the Affairs of Turkey. That contains a Copy of a Memorandum which was communicated to the Russian Ambassador by Her Majesty's Government on the 28th of July last, in which they say theylook with much anxiety at the state of things in Constantinople, and the prospect of the disorder and bloodshed, and even anarchy, which may occur there as the Russian forces draw near to the capital. The crisis which may at any time arrive in Constantinople may he such as Her Majesty's Government could not overlook while they had the means of mitigating its horrors. Her Majesty's Government are fully determined (unless it should be necessary for the preservation of interests which they have already stated they are bound to maintain) not to depart from the line of neutrality which they have declared their intention to observe; but they do not consider that they would be depart- 1329 ing from this neutrality, and they think that Russia will not consider that they are doing so, if they should find themselves compelled to direct their Fleet to proceed to Constantinople, and thus afford protection to the European population against internal disturbance.The Government, I may add, feel that the state of affairs disclosed by the terms of the Armistice which I have just read has given rise to the danger which they then apprehended, and they have, in the circumstances, thought it right to order a portion of the Fleet to proceed at once to Constantinople for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of British subjects. They have, at the same time, given notice of this order to the other Governments of Europe, and have invited such Governments as may be disposed to do so to join with them in that action. A communication has, of course, been made to the Russian Government also. That is the position of affairs, and, without any menace of any kind, that is a step which we have taken, and which we think we were bound to take. That is the whole of the Answer, Sir, I have to make to the Question of the noble Lord, but I trust the indulgence of the House will allow me to say a word on another matter which arose yesterday. The hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) put a Question to me last evening which I was at the time unable to answer. Subsequently there was a discussion in the House with regard to a statement which was made in The Daily News as to private and unofficial communications supposed to have been made by the Prime Minister, and which were at variance with the public declarations of the Government. I have been requested by Lord Derby to say that the Turkish Ambassador, having seen the statement referred to yesterday, came to him and has authorized him to give the most direct contradiction that any private or non-official encouragement had been given to the Turkish Government by any Member of Her Majesty's Government, or that any language had been used to him privately which differed from that which had been used publicly and officially.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer will, perhaps, be kind enough to say whether he is able to give the House any information upon a matter to which he referred yesterday. He stated, I think, that a communication 1330 had been made to the English Ambassador at St. Petersburg, directing him to call the attention of the Russian Government to a portion of the Memorandum of July last, in which, I think, it was stated by the Emperor of Russia that the Russian Army would not occupy Constantinople for the sake of military honour, but only under necessity, if such necessity should arise, for the purposes of war. I should be glad to know if there is any answer to that communication?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE-QUER
No, Sir; no answer had been received when I came down to the House, and, I believe, none as yet has been received to the communication to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
May I also ask the right hon. Gentleman a Question. I understand from some words which he used, that the sending the Fleet to Constantinople now is something a little different from sending it there a fortnight ago, and that it now goes to Constantinople, in concurrence with, at all events, an invitation to, the other Powers of Europe, for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of British subjects, and, of course, of anybody else who may be in danger. But there is, I believe, nothing in the Order about keeping open the waterway, or that if there is any obstruction they should resist it—I mean nothing that might be fairly called in any way an act of war. In putting a Question on the subject, I presume I am asking what the Chancellor of the Exchequer will confirm; because I think it very desirable that nothing should be said or done that could possibly be understood to be an act leading immediately and certainly to conflict, on account of the vast interests of this country, which are being played with every day by the rumours of war that are in circulation. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, Whether he will give the House to understand that the act of sending the Fleet is a different act, and is meant to be a different act, to that of a fortnight ago; and I think his answer may greatly relieve the minds of many thousands of persons who are interested in a peaceful solution of this matter?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, before the Chancellor of the Exchequer answers that Question, perhaps 1331 he will be able to state whether any communication has been made by Her Majesty's Government to the Porte of a different character from that which has been made to the other Powers, and whether the consent of the Porte has been obtained to the despatch of the Meet?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, with reference to the Question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), I must, in the first place, enter my protest against what is implied in that Question—namely, that the sending of the Fleet a fortnight ago to the Dardanelles was an act of war. I entirely dissent from that implication, but it is not necessary here to enter into any controversy on the point. There is no doubt the present movement of the Fleet is of a different character from that which was then contemplated, because the circumstances are different. The telegram we have sent to Admiral Hornby, is as follows:—Proceed, if possible, to-morrow afternoon with the Alexandra, Téméraire, Swiftsure, Achilles, Ruby, and Salamis to Constantinople, to protect life and property of British subjects. Mr. Layard is requested to ask the Porte to give necessary orders without delay to the forts, and to procure further firman if he considers it necessary. There is already a firman that gives us the right to proceed thither, and our Ambassador has been told you are ordered to proceed to-morrow afternoon, and desired to communicate with you.This, I think, also answers the Question put to me by the noble Lord opposite.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
May I ask if direct telegraphic communication between this country and Constantinople has been established?
SIR CHARLES W.DILKE
I wish, Sir, to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether from what is said about Gallipoli, he understands that the lines of Gallipoli are also supposed to have been abandoned by the Turkish forces, and whether they are included in the neutral zone? I should also like to ask 1332 whether the remainder of the Fleet remains at Besika Bay?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE-QUER
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the information he asks with respect to Gallipoli. All we are told is this—that the 3rd Article of the Armistice defines in detail a neutral zone, and that it places almost the whole of Bulgaria, Roumelia, and Thrace, up to the lines of Constantinople and Gallipoli, in Russian hands. We also know by another part of the communication that the Turks are removing their guns from the lines of Constantinople, as being within the neutral zone, and that, therefore, these lines are within the neutral zone. We have no information as to whether there is anything of that kind at Boulair. With regard to the destination of the rest of the Fleet, it remains outside, in Besika Bay.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he can give us any information as to the breadth of the neutral zone? Is it, for instance, 30 miles?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE-QUER
I am unable to answer the Question of the noble Lord. We have no details, and therefore it is merely a matter of surmise.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
Sir, in answer to the Question put a few moments ago by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway), I may state that the latest intelligence I have from the Post Office with regard to Constantinople is that, direct communication being interrupted, the only available route between London and Constantinople is by Alexandria, Bombay, and Fac. The message sent to-day by Mr. Layard reached us by this route in 14 hours.