HC Deb 24 April 1885 vol 297 cc657-60

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, "Whether, in case ordinary diplomatic negotiations have not or may not prove successful in settling the points in dispute between this Country and Russia, the Government will act on the declaration of the Treaty of Paris of 1856, which expresses the unanimous wish of the Powers who were parties to the Treaty, that States between which any serious misunderstanding may arise should, before appealing to arms, have recourse to the good offices of a friendly Power, as set forth in the Protocol of April 14th 1856?


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, in voting the exceptional amount to be asked for armaments on Monday next, this House may assume that Her Majesty's Government adheres to the following declaration of the 23rd Protocol of the Treaty of Paris:— The Plenipotentiaries do not hesitate to express, in the name of their Governments, the wish that States between which any serious misunderstanding may arise should, before appealing to arms, have recourse, as far as circumstances might allow, to the good offices of a friendly Power; and, that this House and the Country may rest assured that a proposal will be made to refer any matters in dispute between this Country and Russia to such arbitration, should it so unfortunately happen that an amicable solution of them fails to be arrived at by direct negotiation?


What I have to say in answer this Question is that Her Majesty's Government have never, during the course of the recent or present Correspondence, or in answer to Questions in this House, said anything to the prejudice of the idea which is put forward in these two Questions. But it must be borne in mind that every declaration made in this House in reply to a Question is virtually an announcement or a declaration to the Government of Russia. It does not appear to us convenient or desirable in the public interest that declarations to the Russian Government should be made through the channel of Answers to Questions.


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether information has been received from Sir Peter Lumsden, explaining if the advance of an Afghan reconnaissance on 27th March was previous to. or subsequent to, the reconnaissance of the Russians on the same day, and to what point the Afghan reconnaissance was pushed; whether any Report from Captain Yate, with regard to the advice tendered by him to the Afghan Commander on the 29th of March, and referred to in the extract from the Letter of the Afghan Commander to General Komaroff, has been received; whether Copies of the Letter of General Komaroff, which called forth the above Letter, and of the private Letter of General Komaroff to the Afghan Commander, received a few hours before the Russian attack, have been received; whether it is known if any reply was sent by the Afghan Commander to General KomaroS's second letter; and, whether, with reference to Sir Peter Lumsden's statement that the Afghans were induced to extend their defensive position, any subsequent information has been received explaining more clearly the nature of this extension, and if a withdrawal on their part to the positions occupied on the 17th of March constituted the Russian ultimatum alluded to in Sir Peter Lumsden's telegraphic Despatch of 17th April?


also asked whether Her Majesty's Government had received from Sir Peter Lumsden, or from any other source, information of the "incessant irritation" which Sir Peter Lumsden described the Russians as having kept up against the Afghans; and, if so, what action the Government had taken on receipt of that information?


I was about to answer my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) to the effect that, owing to Lord Granville's heavy engagements, I have not been able to hold any communication with him on all the points of this Question; and I would therefore ask my hon. Friend to be kind enough to postpone it until we should have an opportunity to consider it. It is rather a nice matter whether in the end it would be desirable to carry on a detailed discussion of points of this kind with the Russian Government. I quite admit that it is our duty to take care, if, in questions of this kind, as is perfectly possible, any new light is thrown upon any point of the case, or any suggestion made which ought to lead to some extension of any explanation made by us, it would be our duty to advert to it. For the present I should be glad if the hon. Member would postpone his Question; and I must ask for Notice of the Question which has just been put by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow).


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the Government are in possession of telegraphic information from Sir Peter Lumsden on the subject of his removal from Gulran to Tirpul, and the circumstances preceding and attending it; if so, whether he will communicate that information to the House?


In general my answer would be that we are not in possession of any full statement at all of the reasons which determined him to remove his camp from Gulran to Tirpul. That was my impression when I heard the Question of the noble Lord yesterday; but I was desirous of refreshing my memory. What we have heard from him is as follows:—On the 6th instant he telegraphed that he had arrived at Tirpul on the previous day, with the loss of some followers in crossing the pass in a hurricane of wind and snow and rain; and subsequently, on the 10th, he reported more fully to the effect that 24 followers, including three Afghan sowars, and eight Persian muleteers, together with many mules and baggage, had perished from the inclemency of the weather. That is all the information we have had, and we can only form our own judgment as to why he look the stop.


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether it is a fact that the Russian Forces are now marching on Herat; and, whether Her Majesty's Ministers are taking any steps for the defence of that important position?


With regard to the first Question there is no information, and we have no reason to believe that the Russians are marching on Herat. In regard to the second branch of the Question, I do not suppose the hon. Member desires me to say more than that the subject is receiving the attention of the Government.