HC Deb 18 February 1886 vol 302 cc585-7

I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he is in a position to inform the House as to the condition of the affairs of Greece; what action Her Majesty's Government will take in the event of the Greek Fleet attempting to attack the Turkish ports; and, whether the Government is acting in concert with all the Powers of Europe; and, if not, what Powers have dissented?


I should like to answer the Question with the greatest caution. I should have answered with greater advantage if I had had a little Notice of the Question; but I have before me the substance of a statement which will be made by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords. My noble Friend and his Colleagues with him are of opinion that it would be most injurious that there should at this moment be any ambiguity as to the views and intentions of Her Majesty's Government. It might be most injurious to leave in doubt what those views and intentions are. We recognize the critical state of affairs in Eastern Europe, and we are aware how much depends upon the action which may be taken in respect of Greece. The affairs in the Balkans are by no means settled; but, of course, those affairs may be very materially affected by what happens in regard to Greece. Reference has been made in the Question to the Concert of Europe, and it is a matter of full satisfaction that the Great Powers of Europe have been acting together upon this occasion; and in the spirit of that Concert we shall, undoubtedly, continue to act. It is a great satisfaction to us to be able to follow without any deviation, so far as I am aware, in the course which appears to us, according to our best knowledge, to have been marked out by our Predecessors in Office with respect to this very important question of peace in Eastern Europe. On entering Office I may say that the very first step taken by us was to ascertain precisely—in fact, it was taken by myself individually at the moment when I had accepted Office at the hands of Her Majesty—to ascertain exactly the state of the engagements of the late Government—that being the point which it was our first duty to consider—and to let it be known beyond all possibility of doubt that these engagements would be strictly adhered to. Of course, it is possible to draw a distinction between engagements and the policy which led to those engagements; but I am bound to say that, while adopting the engagements as a matter of good faith, we see no reason to separate ourselves from a policy which we believe to be directed to the peace of Europe and to the maintenance of public right, and I must also say, in our judgment, to the true interests of Greece herself. I think that is the substance of what will be said by my noble Friend in the other House.


I only further wish to ask whether all the Powers are in concert on this question, or whether there is anyone dissenting?


The Note which formed the basis of our proceedings is a Collective Note to which all the six Great Powers are parties; and all the six Powers have, I believe, in the strongest manner, as far as I am acquainted with their proceedings, urged upon Greece the wisdom and expediency of adopting the course recommended in the Note.