MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have given attention to the statement by Consul Biliotti, in his dispatch of 22nd August, 1896, to the effect that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the inland stations in Crete, on which the Vali had not been consulted, and which was said to have been ordered from Constantinople, would have the most disastrous consequences for the Mussulmans, from which the Christians would have to suffer in their turn later on, and that it may bring on the utter ruin of the island; whether this withdrawal was ordered from Constantinople on the advice of the European Powers: and whether any reply was made to, or any action taken by, Her Majesty's Government in consequence of Consul Biliotti's dispatch?
The withdrawal of the Turkish troops from the inland stations was not taken on the advice of the European Powers. It does not appear certain that it was taken by orders from Constantinople. Rut it was obviously a matter in which the Turkish Authorities were the best judges as to the most expedient course to pursue, and Her Majesty's Government took no measures to interfere with their discretion on the subject. Her Majesty's Government had already, in July, made representations as to the necessity of the Vali being consulted in regard to the arrangements made by the Military Commander. The Consul's dispatch was one imparting information, and did not call for a reply.
§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to a telegraphic statement, dated Thursday last, from Canea, that H.M.S. Barfleur had only 150 tons of coal in her bunkers, whilst she burns with banked fires 15 tons a day, thus rendering her until re-coaled practically useless, and in the event of bad weather unable to steam to a place of safety; and will he state what arrangements have been made for 1447 the proper coaling of the squadrons compelled to remain in the neighbourhood of Crete and the Archipelago?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I have received no such information. The provision of coal is in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief of the station, and the Admiralty have no reason to suppose that he does not make all proper arrangements for the supply of the squadron in Cretan waters.
§ MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire,) Eifion
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in or about November 1895, or at any other time, one of the Great Powers of Europe proposed to the others that the Dardanelles should be entered by or with the sanction of the Powers, with a view of coercing Turkey or with any other view; and whether Her Majesty's Government considered any such proposal, and whether they supported or opposed it?
I regret that I can give the hon. Member no information on the first part of the Question. No such proposal has been submitted to Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. C. J. DARLING (Deptford)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether his attention has been called to a statement in The Daily Chronicle of this morning to the effect that the document, printed in that paper on March 1, purporting to be a protest by the Greek Government against the bombardment, and addressed to the Six Powers, had been communicated to Her Majesty's Government; and (2) whether he is correctly reported as having said in this House, in reply to a Question, that he believed that this communication had not been received by Her Majesty's Government?
Yes, Sir; my answer to both Questions is in the affirmative. What happened was as follows:—On Thursday evening the Greek Chargé d'Affaires called at the Foreign Office and read to the permanent Under Secretary of State a telegram from his Government, of which, however, he declined to leave a copy or a written précis, as he said he was not authorised to do so. At the same time he promised to send a précis of the Greek Commodore's report from Canea 1448 which formed an annex to the telegram. The précis duly arrived the next day. On Saturday the Charge d'Affaires again called, and left a précis of another telegram from his Government. Put the latter communication was not identical with the Dispatch published in The Daily Chronicle, which we have never received, and upon the identity of which with the telegram read out to the Under Secretary we are not in a position to pronounce.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Would the right hon. Gentleman state whether the Foreign Office did obtain a copy, or took a copy, of what was stated by the Greek Charge d'Affaires?
I have already said that the Greek Chargé d'Affaires declined to leave a copy, and of course the Permanent Under Secretary did not copy it, while it was being read. [Laughter.]
§ *SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
Can the Under Secretary state whether the report is true that Candamos is captured, and, if so, what is the fate of the Mussulman inhabitants?
The following telegram was received this morning from Her Majesty's Consul at Canea:—Governor of Candano reported that on February 26 insurgents and Greek troops with two cannons destroyed Candano blockhouse, and day following occupied commanding position; blockaded Mussulmans, having no ammunition or victuals, beg that pity should be taken on women and children. Having told them that admirals had done all they could do on their behalf, they pointed out that captain of French ship Suchet had rescued hundreds of Turks from far inland villages with small relief parties. I offered my services to Admiral Harris in case a last attempt should be made to save lives of Mussulmans at Candano, and consequently of such Christians as may fall victims to retaliation. Deputations of Mussulmans implored assistance of Great Powers. Greek Vice Consul having come to my office and stated that Mussulmans had applied to him to obtain liberation of besieged at Candano, two leading chiefs who were present declared that they spoke in the name of all the Mussulmans in Crete, that they had placed all their hopes in the Great Powers, and would never consent to union with Greece. Admiral informed me that Spinalonga had been revictualled, and that an Italian ship of war being at Hierapetra, that town could not be bombarded; also that four ships of war had been sent—two westward and two eastward—to visit all the creeks of the island to distribute the proclamation and to exhort the population to keep quiet.1449 We have also received the following telegram from the British Admiral:—Mahomedans at Selino, Candano, Hierapetra are reported by Consul to be in great danger of massacre by Cretans and Greeks. Admirals are concerting to hoist flags at the places, and to inform Colonel Vassos that they are under the protection of Great Powers. From information received of Greeks reducing these Turkish blockhouses in the south by gun-fire, my opinion is that Greeks have taken their field guns away from Canea and are using them elsewhere. Information as to what has happened inland very difficult to get, but many reports say that Greeks and Cretans are exterminating Mahomedans wherever they can.
§ *SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
Can the right hon. Gentleman state why the force of 300 men which the three Consuls informed the Great Powers eight days ago were sufficient to save the lives of these besieged Mussulmans has not been sent and landed, and, if not, whether Her Majesty's Government will direct that a sufficient landing force shall be sent immediately?
We have no information that the force has not been sent; on the contrary, I have more than once stated to the House that ships have been sent, and presumably those ships have men upon them. When my hon. Friend talks about saving the lives of these unhappy beleaguered garrisons, as the telegrams I have read show, it does not appear that those lives have been sacrificed.