HC Deb 22 February 1897 vol 46 cc887-90

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government will propose a Commission to inquire into the massacres recently perpetrated in Crete, and especially as to the fate of the Mussulman inhabitants of the interior of the island?


Her Majesty's Government do not think that there would be any advantage in making such a proposal.

MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Colonel Vassos, who is in command of the Greek troops in Crete, states among other things, in the course of his proclamation, that he has orders to keep the peace between Christian and Moslem inhabitants; and, whether, in view of the fact that the Powers are unable to keep up communication with or to keep order in the interior of the island, and that the Greek forces are in a position to do so, the Powers will consider the desirability of delegating to them that duty?


The proclamation issued by Colonel Vassos promised among other things, peace to the inhabitants of Crete. So far, however, the presence of the Greek troops would seem to have had an opposite effect. Under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government consider it unlikely that the Powers would consider the desirability of delegating to the Greek forces any such duty as is spoken of in the Question.


Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the statement in the second part of the Question that the Powers are unable to keep up communication with or keep order in the interior of the island?


I think I have answered that Question every day during the last week. ["Hear, hear!"]


I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what branch of the British Service does Major Bor belong; by whom was he appointed to organise the gendarmerie at Canea; and under whoso directions does he act?


Major Bor belongs to the Royal Marine Artillery. His appointment as Commander of the Cretan Gendarmerie was proposed with the approval of all parties in the Island, by the International Commissioners, but did not meet with the unanimous assent of the Powers. Pending the appointment of another officer, who should not be chosen from the subjects of any of the Great Powers, Major Bor was asked to undertake the duties of the post provisionally. He accepted and arrived on the 6th instant at Canea, where he acts under the direction of the Turkish authorities.


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what Power opposed Major Bor's appointment.


I do not think there is any secret about it: in fact, I have stated it to the House. Major Bor's appointment was opposed by Russia.


I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is in a position to confirm or deny the statement that several Christians were roasted alive in a baker's oven during the recent disturbances in Canea?


Her Majesty's Consul reports, by telegraph, that on first hearing of the story that Christians had been roasted alive at Canea, he went with Mr. Alvarez, the British Delegate on the Judicial Commission, to the bakery where this outrage was alleged to have taken place. They carefully examined the ruins, but could find no trace of dead bodies inside or outside the oven. Four bakers' apprentices, who were said to have perished in another bakery, were subsequently found alive.

MR. JAMES BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I desire to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs a question of which I have given him private notice. It is whether there is any truth in the statements in to-day's papers that the Cretan forces have been fired upon by the united fleets of the Powers, and whether a Turkish transport carrying troops has been escorted by a British torpedo boat from one part of the island to another?


Since I came into the House I have received private notice of quite a number of questions from hon. Members, nearly all of which relate to the same topic. Perhaps other hon. Members will allow me to reply to them at the same time. Our information is not to the effect that there has been any attack upon, or bombardment of, the Greek forces in Crete. The insurgents outside Canea, in spite of the injunctions of the Admirals who, under orders from their Governments, had made themselves responsible for the protection of Canea, renewed their attack upon the town from the south-east yesterday. Under these circumstances the international squadron had no choice but to prevent by force the advance from being continued—[Opposition cries of "Oh!" and Ministerial cheers]—which they accordingly did. [Opposition groans, several cries of " Shame," and renewed Ministerial cheers.] The firing lasted but a few minutes. As regards the Turkish transport, about which the right hon. Gentleman asked me, we have no information.


I beg to ask leave to move the adjournment of the House.


There is an hon. Member waiting to take his seat.