HC Deb 22 March 1897 vol 47 cc1118-21
MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the proposed autonomy of Crete is to be effective in the sense that it will enable the Cretans to choose their own ruler and their own form of rule; and whether the proclamation stated to have been issued by the Admirals to the Cretans contains, or is accompanied by, a definition or explanation of the suggested autonomy?


The choice of a ruler and the precise form of constitution are matters for which the Great Powers have assumed the responsibility. The proclamation issued by the Admirals on the 19th inst. defines the proffered autonomy as complete autonomy subject to the suzerainty of the Sultan, and explains that Cretans will be free from all control of the Porte as regards their internal affairs. The Proclamation further states that the Powers in concert are framing regulations for the functions of the autonomous regime which will restore order, and will guarantee, without distinction of race or religion, liberty and security of property, and the development of the resources of the island.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I gather from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman that the clause, which I understand was suggested by our Consul, Sir A. Biliotti, excluding the power of the Sultan, has appeared in the Proclamation. The statement has been made that the Admirals insisted upon the excision of that clause.


I do not think that there can be any truth in the latter report. Whether the clause was suggested by Sir A. Biliotti or not we have no official information, but inasmuch as it appears in the Proclamation in the form in which it was issued, I think we may assume that the reply must be in the affirmative.

MR. T. C. H. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether the Government have applied for and obtained the permission of the Sovereign of Crete to land armed forces on that island?


On February 15th, the date on which the Naval detachments were landed in Crete, the Turkish Foreign Minister informed Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople that the Sultan agreed to the temporary occupation by the Powers of such places in the island as the Admirals thought desirable.


I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a Question of which I have given him private, but at the same time adequate, notice—[laughter]—namely, whether it is the fact that the insurgents chiefs at Akrotiri assert that the passage in the Report of their interview with the Admirals in which it is stated that they declared themselves satisfied with autonomy is an erroneous interpretation of their words; and that in the journal in which the details of the interview are recorded it is stated that they declared unanimously in favour of union with Greece; whether the chiefs have formally notified to the Admirals that any further communication to them must be in writing ; and whether Lord Salisbury will be prepared to take any, and, if so, what, measures to guard in the future against similar misconstructions and misunderstandings?


I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy, which he has explained to the House. [Laughter.] In reply to the Question, I have to say that we have never heard that the insurgent chiefs at Akrotiri in their interview with the Admirals declared themselves satisfied with autonomy. In the Admirals' Report of the interview on March 10, the substance of which I have previously communicated to the House, there was no mention of any expression of opinion from the insurgents on this point. In reporting a later interview on March 19, Her Majesty's Consul mentions that the insurgents declared that nothing but annexation to Greece would satisfy them. No information has reached us as to communications by writing, nor does it appear that importance is attached thereto by the insurgents, seeing that their last interview with the Admirals on March 19 was on board one of the ships of war.


wished to ask whether a Greek vessel had been sunk by an Austrian cruiser off the coast of Crete; and, if so, why it was sunk, in view of the fact that the blockade did not begin, until yesterday?


It appears that on March 17 the Austrian vessel Sebenico, in pursuance of the notifications of the Admirals of February 15 and 27 that the landing of munitions of war would not be permitted in Crete, went to examine a schooner flying the Greek flag, which was engaged in landing supplies of ammunition on the coast near Cape Dhia. The insurgents opened heavy fire upon the Sebenieo with rifles and cannon. The captain returned the fire, sinking the schooner and dislodging the insurgents. The crew swam ashore.

MR. J. MCLEOD (Sutherland)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether the 600 Seaforth Highlanders who have been ordered to Crete are provided with a Presbyterian chaplain; and, if not, whether he will see that such provision is made?


Arrangements have been made for a Presbyterian chaplain to accompany the Seaforth Highlanders, if the officer commanding should think it desirable.


Do I understand that it is to be left to the officer in command to decide?


Yes; the officer in command has been instructed to take a Presbyterian chaplain if he thinks it desirable.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the Highlanders are practically all Presbyterians. [Laughter]


Order, order! The hon. Member is replying to an answer to a Question.