HC Deb 29 March 1878 vol 239 cc217-20

, in rising to call attention to the delay in producing the Correspondence relating to Crete, said, the House would recollect that when some days ago Questions had been put on this subject, the Government said the production of Papers might add to the existing excitement. Since then, Papers with reference to Greece had been laid upon the Table, and the House was surprised to find that, although they contained full reports with reference to the condition of Thessaly and Epirus, no information was given with regard to Crete. The whole Island, except three or four towns, was now in the hands of the insurgents, so that it was impossible to see how the excitement could be increased. He, therefore, wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he will now lay upon the Table of the House any Reports respecting the disturbances in Crete?


said, he was at a loss to understand why the Foreign Office showed so much reluctance in producing the Consular Reports with respect to Crete. He could only suggest one reason—namely, that the Government were not aware of the serious state of the insurrection which had broken out through the length of the Island. When, on the 4th of February, the Under Secretary was asked by him if he had received information of a serious insurrection in Crete, he replied that since he had answered a similar Question put to him by the hon. Member for Reading on the 29th of January no despatch had been received. It now appeared that a telegraphic despatch from M. Delyanni, the Foreign Minister at Athens, had been communicated to Lord Derby by M. Gennadius, the Greek Chargé d' Affaires on the 3rd of February stating—"That the Cretans were in revolt, and the Christians of the other Provinces were following their example." He could not, therefore, account for the answer of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bourke) to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), that the Island was not in a state of insurrection, except on the ground that the hon. Member himself was ignorant of the fact. There could be no doubt that the Cretans would strive to the last extremity to throw off the Turkish yoke, and it was time that any Reports on the subject should be communicated to the House. It might be that the Government were unwilling to produce the Ambassadorial Reports about Crete. In 1868, when he brought forward a Motion on behalf of the Christian population of Crete, Mr. Layard was the only man who rose in that House and expressed no sympathy with the Christians of that Island, while he contended that Turkey had conceded all necessary reforms to the Christian population of Candia. He (Mr. Layard) said— The Constitution, which. Turkey was prepared to grant to Crete appeared to be almost everything that the Christian part of the Cretan population could desire. It might have been so on paper, but the experience of the last 10 years had shown that it had not been so in practice. He should be glad to know what Mr. Layard said now. Perhaps Mr. Layard still believed it was possible for Turkey to retain its dominion over Candia; but if he did, he differed from Lord Palmerston, who said he was satisfied that the Cretans would not remain patient under a yoke which their brethren had shaken off.


said, the House would not be surprised at the anxiety shown by the hon. Members for Reading and Gloucester (Mr. Shaw Lefevre and Mr. Monk) from time to time to obtain information with respect to the affairs of Crete, because it was not only well known that they took much interest in the question; but because, for many years, the country had taken a very deep interest in the people of that Island. As to the suggestion about imperfect information, if his answers were referred to, it would be found, taking into consideration the order of their dates, that they were correct upon those dates, giving, as they did, the exact state of our information at the time. They all knew that the condition of affairs in the Island of Crete had altered very much within the last few months. He stated on the first occasion, when the hon. Member for Reading used the word "rebellion," that the Government had received no information that would justify them in saying there was a general insurrection in Crete. That was strictly true at the time. At a later period they learned that the entire of the Island, with the exception of some towns on the sea coast, was in the hands of the insurgents. On the subject of producing the Papers, he had taken the opinion of Lord Derby, who gave the subject full consideration, but thought that in the interest of the population, both Christian and Mussulman, it would be undesirable to produce them, because they might add to the excitement in the Island. One reason which had not been mentioned was that, owing to the exertions of the British Consuls, an armistice had been brought about between the insurgents and the Turkish officials, and Lord Derby did not wish to do anything to jeopardize the result he was anticipating—than which nothing could be more in accordance with the wishes of the Government, It was quite a delusion to suppose that any objection to the production of the Correspondence had been offered by our Ambassador, Mr. Layard, whose opinions on the subject it would be found were in accordance with the feelings of the Government, and, he believed, of the House. That had nothing whatever to do with the non-production of the Papers; the only reason was consideration for the interests of the population of the Island. With respect to the introduction of these Papers, he had said that their position was altered; and he thought it would be undesirable, standing there as the Representative of the Foreign Office pending the appointment of Lord Derby's Successor, for him to give a promise on the subject. Therefore, he hoped the House would be satisfied with what he had said now, and if the hon. Member would repeat his Question after he had had the advantage of consulting the new Foreign Secretary, he would be happy to answer it.