HC Deb 01 March 1897 vol 46 cc1338-40

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Turkish transports, carrying Turkish troops from one part of the coast of Crete to another, have been escorted by British ships of war?


Inquiry has been made of the British Admiral in Crete, and he has replied that no such incident has occurred.

MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether Her Majesty's Government will instruct by telegraph the Admiral commanding the British Fleet in Cretan waters to send by telegraph a full account of the international bombardment that took place on 22nd February, and a reply to the questions: Whether any Turkish vessel took part in that bombardment; whether the Turkish land forces were firing upon the Cretan position when that bombardment commenced; and how often Turkish troops have issued from Canea since the occupation of that town by the Great Powers, and have, after attacking Cretan forces, returned there; with a view to place this House in full possession of the above facts; and (2) whether the notification that has been issued by the Admirals of the Fleets of the Great Powers in Cretan waters in regard to acts of hostility taking place in sight of the foreign war vessels applies alike to Turkish and Cretan forces. The hon. Member added: Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say whether the Government have received the Dispatch from the Great Powers, dated February 24, the text of which appears in The Dally Chronicle to-day, and contains full details of the Note.


With regard to the last question, I feel bound to say that it is not supplementary to that on the Paper. I believe the Dispatch contained in The Daily Chronicle has not been received by the Government. In reply to the question on the Paper, the Admiral has been instructed to send a full report of the incidents of February 21st, but from the telegrams hitherto received, the substance of which I have communicated to the House, a sufficiently clear account of the proceedings and an answer to the main points raised in the question appear already to be in our possession. It does not appear from them that any Turkish vessel took part in the bombardment. The second question I cannot answer, because I do not understand to what Turkish land forces, or to what Cretan position, the hon. Member refers. Both parties occupy several positions and have been firing intermittently at each other for a fortnight. No Turkish troops have sallied from Canea since the occupation of that town by the Great Powers, and consequently none have returned there. The instructions to the British Admiral lay stress upon the desirability that each combatant in the island should as far as possible be prevented from aggressive action against the other, and the Admirals of the Allied Squadrons have issued a proclamation to the inhabitants announcing their intention to oppose any hostile act in presence of their ships in any part of the island.

SIR E. ASHMEAD - BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a question of winch I have given him private notice—namely, whether his attention has been called to a Dispatch in The Daily News this morning, in which the critical condition of the 3,000 Mussulmans at Candano and Selino is pointed out, and whether the Great Powers have been able to take any effective steps for their relief?


I have not seen the Dispatch to which my hon. Friend refers, but I believe it is quite right in describing the situation of those beleaguered garrisons as most critical. The information I have to give in answer to the question is this—that a squadron of four ships of the allied fleet has been sent to the towns on the coast where there are beleaguered garrisons or populations. I gather from our telegrams that an international escort is being sent to facilitate the process of relief, that two ships of the squadron have gone to Selino, and that Her Majesty's ship Scout has also proceeded to the same destination. At the same time Colonel Vassos has promised the Admirals to send a Greek officer to induce the insurgents to allow the free departure of the garrisons. ["Hear, hear!"]


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman if Her Majesty's Government has authorised the British Admiral to carry out the advice of the throe Consuls that the fleet should land a force of 300 men to protect these beleaguered Mussulmans?


The Admiral, in concert with his colleagues, has full authority to take such steps as he thinks necessary but of course he must be a better judge of the circumstances than we are.


Then he has got authority to land a force?