§ Read a first time.
§ On Order for Second Reading.
§ *SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
This Bill was the occasion for a statement by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the other night, of which I think we ought to have an explanation, and I am sorry not to see him in his place, but perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will answer for him. [Mr. CURZON here entered the House.] I shall have much pleasure in informing my right hon. Friend of the point on which I wish to have an explanation from him. The statement the other night that he made was, I venture to describe, one of the most remarkable statements that have ever been made in this House, even by himself. It was a statement which was of infinitely greater importance than the words of the statement would necessarily seem to imply, because it shows, Sir, such an astounding want of sense of proportion in our foreign relations that the House cannot but expect the most deplorable consequences to result if these are indeed the views of Her Majesty's Government. I am going now to inform my right hon. Friend, as he is so eager for information, as to what his statement was. The statement that he made was that the evacuation of Thessaly was the paramount European question at the present moment.
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. G. N. CURZON,) Lancashire, S.W., Southport
I will anticipate what the hon. Member is going to say by reminding him of the terms I actually did use. I have referred to the papers of next day in order to be quite certain, and I find that what I did say was that the evacuation of Thessaly was for the moment a paramount question of European importance.
§ *SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
It does not make the least difference. We have the definition now. The right hon. Gentleman who represents Her Majesty's Government in this House, and who is the organ of the Foreign Office, has told the House that, in his opinion, at the present moment, the question of the evacuation of Thessaly is of paramount European importance. That is a statement which I venture to describe as one which is absolutely unparalleled in this House. At a moment when the greatest British interests are at stake in the Far East—[Mr. CURZON: Europe!] I think the right hon. Gentleman used a very inaccurate phrase if he meant to say that the question related only to matters within Europe itself. The words of the right hon. Gentleman were, "a question of paramount European importance." He has just given us the words. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to say what he did say, why the question falls. Did he mean by a question of paramount European importance a question of importance in Europe alone? If he meant that, of course he did not express himself with his usual clearness and accuracy, because no one can deny that the state of affairs in the Far East and in West Africa is of the very gravest European importance—of the very greatest possible importance to the Powers of Europe. If he meant to limit it in the way he now limits it, I shall not pursue my remarks upon that point, and I am very glad indeed to find that he did not intend to make a statement which would have convicted himself and the Government of an absolute want of sense of proportion in regard to foreign affairs. As a matter of fact the question of the evacuation of Thessaly is of the most infinitesimal importance. We shall be glad to see Thessaly evacuated by the Turkish Army, who have behaved themselves remarkably well. The Turkish Army will be glad to get out of Thessaly; but to describe this question as a question of paramount European importance is, in my opinion, a total misuse of the English language. It matters little to any country in Europe whether Thessaly is, or is not, occupied by the Turkish troops. It is not even a humanitarian question of the 1109 very smallest extent, because the Turks have behaved so well in Thessaly that the evacuation will matter very little to that country. But what is of importance to this country is the question whether Her Majesty's Government really appreciate the importance of the issues that are involved in their present policy? That is of importance. Sir, at the present moment force rules the world. At the present moment this country is greatly deficient in military power. What we should like to know is this: whether Her Majesty's Government realises the importance to this country of the support of the Ottoman Army? That is a question of the most vital importance compared to which the evacuation or non-evacuation of Thessaly sinks into absolute and utter insignificance. This policy which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government with regard to Greece and Thessaly, this co-operation with France and Russia, of which the Under Secretary of State is so proud, and of which the Leader of the Opposition is so proud, may ultimately prove to be the cause why we are so helpless in the Far East, and why we appear to be helpless in Africa. It is no fantastical deduction to draw from their past policy to ask the Government whether they have given up that policy of false sentiment with regard to Turkey, which has been the curse of this country for the last five years, and which is mainly responsible for our helplessness in foreign affairs. By that policy of sham sentiment, which was begun in 1893 by the late Government, with regard to Turkey and with regard to all the Near Eastern questions; by that policy of sham sentiment and pseudo-humanitarianism begun in 1893, and carried on more or less ever since, not only have we lost the support of Turkey in European questions, but we have also alienated the German monarchies. We find ourselves in this utterly false position, that we have alienated all our natural allies, that there is no Power in Europe upon whom we can depend, and that we have been trying to make impossible and impracticable alliances with our natural rivals—Russia and France. Why, there never was so preposterous a scheme as the scheme applied to Turkey, originated in 1893 by 1110 hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the other side of the House, and carried on on this side of the House in 1895, having for its intention the endeavour to secure the co-operation of Russia and France. I have said this before in this House, and I daresay it is not altogether pleasant to some right hon. Gentlemen to hear it. The reason, I repeat it, is this: that until the Government realises that to this policy of sham sentiment and false humanitarianism is due all their feebleness abroad there is very little hope of improvement in their strength in their conduct of the foreign affairs of this country. Let me bring this home to hon. Members by a reference to this loan. Why, the very necessity for this loan is due to that policy of sham sentiment. Will right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of this House, who began this policy of a Franco-Russian alliance against Turkey, reflect upon its results? This loan is one of its results, which is, perhaps, the least objectionable. Another of its results is the pandemonium which has existed, and which now exists, in Crete, and the horrible suffering that has been inflicted upon the Mussulman population of Crete and to a less degree upon the Christian population of Crete. Another result was the war between Greece and Turkey, for which this loan is designed to pay. But for this miserable policy of sham sentiment, which was initiated in 1893 and continued in 1895, none of these things would have happened. There is not a statesman in Europe that does not attribute the responsibility for the state of Crete, for the Greco-Turkish war, to the policy of weakness and false sentiment pursued by Her Majesty's Government. It has been said in public by at least two of the leading statesmen in Europe—publicly said in the Austrian and German Parliaments—that the weakness of Her Majesty's Government, in consequence of the influence of the atrocity-mongers, has led to the miserable state of Crete, and practically also to the Greco-Turkish war. This loan is the result of that policy. No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they adopted that policy of coercion of Turkey in 1893, which was pursued right down to 1896, thought they were acting for 1111 the benefit of their Christian protégés. They did not enter upon these campaigns of atrocity-mongering from sheer malignancy—it was the result of ignorance and not malignancy. One or two hon. Gentleman opposite seem rather amused, but do they seriously think that any one of their protégés—Armenians, Greeks, or Cretans—have benefited by that policy of sham sentiment. Will one of them get up and tell this House that there has been a shadow of benefit to any one of his protégés, for whom hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to do so much? What is the state of Crete? Crete might have been saved from all this miserable bloodshed and starvation and ruin from which she has suffered, and still is suffering, if only the proposal of the Austrian Government in August, 1896, for a cordon round Crete had been adopted. That was the critical moment, and that proposal was refused by Her Majesty's Government, notwithstanding all the other Great Powers had cordially accepted it. There was another proposal made with regard to the Greco-Turkish war, agreed to by the whole of Europe, to blockade Vola and the Piræus. It was stated the other day by some Members of this House that no one desired that blockade more than the unfortunate King and Government of Greece. No one desired more to be saved from the consequences of the follies of their Ministers, and of the rash excitement of the Grecian population, than the King of Greece himself and his then Government. Her Majesty's Government had the whole thing in the hollow of their hands. It simply required the assent of what has been called the "Areopagus" of Europe. The "Areopagus" of Europe outside of the British Government did agree to that blockade, but we refused. But for that most unfortunate refusal there would have been no Greco-Turkish war, and no necessity, consequently, for this loan. This loan is the direct outcome of the atrocity-mongering and the weakness of Her Majesty's Government. I do not repeat this because I wish in any way to arouse any feeling against Her Majesty's Government—very far from it. This is a question infinitely beyond and above the effect or, the non-effect that it may have upon the Government. We have had during 1112 the past 22 years two examples of the policy of atrocity-mongering and sham sentiment. This is the second one. The first was the terrible Russian crusade against Turkey in 1877, which led to most horrible suffering and brutality, and resulted in the loss of over a million human lives, the lives of innocent non-combatants. These are the fruits of the policy adopted by the hon. Gentlemen opposite—a policy which benefits no one, and even injures their protégés, which runs the risk of European war, leads to weakness in our foreign policy, and ends in massacres, ruin, and Greek loans. No more need be said upon this subject, on which I have made bold to point the moral. I sincerely hope that when we learn the full details of the deplorable position of affairs into which our material interests are allowed to drift in the Far East and the Northern Pacific, we shall have no reason to believe that great and material British interest there have been sacrificed in order to secure a fantastical and worthless combination with France and Russia in the Near East.
§ *SIR S. MONTAGU (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
I should like to know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to make this loan a trust loan, and whether it will be available for the purposes of investment by trustees by permitting it to be inscribed at the Bank of England. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot give an answer to that question now perhaps he will give one at an early date.
§ MR. C. J. MONK (Gloucester)
I should have thought the Bill before the House was sufficient evidence that it is absolutely necessary that Thessaly should be evacuated, and, if necessary, the Sultan should be coerced into evacuating it. That, at all events, is my opinion. It is not a question of false humanitarianism, and I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should make use of such an expression with regard to a large number of the hon. Members of this House. Now, I rise to ask two questions of my right hon. Friend. I notice the schedule of the Bill contains "the articles of the Convention." I suppose those articles of convention have not been entered into; at any rate, there is a blank 1113 in the schedule of the Bill itself. The other question is that in line 15 of the articles relating to the loan it is stated that the money shall be applied as set forth in Articles 7 and 10 in the law with regard to control. Is that a law of the Greek Parliament? I suppose it is. I hope this Bill will be passed by the unanimous vote of this House, and I hope that, within the next few weeks, we shall find, not only that the Sultan is withdrawing his troops in Thessaly, but that Her Majesty's Government will take into consideration whether the Sultan shall not withdraw his troops from Crete, and that the Government will nominate Prince George, or some other person, as a Christian Governor to that island.
§ *MR. FRANCIS STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
I really do not think that it is necessary for me to follow the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield in his review of the general policy of the Government, because, in the first place, most of the questions reviewed do not touch upon the subject matter of the present Measure. With regard to what he said as to sham sentiment, that has been answered by the hon. Gentleman behind him, and, with regard to his charge against the present Government—he blames the present Government that though they acceded to the suggestion of a blockade in Crete in 1897, they had refused to accede to the proposals to blockade Crete in 1896, and Greece in 1897—that can be left to the Government to deal with. I beg to say that I entirely concur with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucester, and share his hope that this Measure will be passed unanimously by this House. I do not in the least agree with the line which has been laid down by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Ecclesall Division), that it is a very objectionable thing that the three Powers which should guarantee the loan should be England, France, and Russia. When he said that this combination was commenced in 1893: if his memory does not take him further back than that period, surely his historical reading should take him back to a much earlier period, when a somewhat similar combination was formed in the days of Mr. George Canning, which 1114 resulted in the emancipation of Greece. It is not only on grounds of historical sentiment, but, on the grounds of expediency, a combination of this kind should be approved of, because those three Powers have the greatest interests in the settlement of the Eastern Question. No one, of course, supposes that their interests in all particulars are identical, but there are certain well-defined joint interests, on which it is expedient to bring about a combination of this character, which is a very proper thing to do. Because by so doing you can pave the way to an accord with regard to other matters upon which you may not be agreed. With regard to the provisions of this Measure I much regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not able to make a more definite statement as to the date by which the evacuation of Thessaly is to be effected. As I understood the reply which he gave, it did not go any further than that given a few days ago by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in this House, or that which was given by Lord Salisbury in another place, when he said that the three Powers which were guaranteeing the loan would not be able to guarantee the evacuation of Thessaly by any particular date, but that they hoped the evacuation would take place within four weeks of the date of the publication of the loan. What we do not quite gather is what is termed the sanction of the matter. We understand that the period of four weeks arises under the Greco-Turkish Treaty, but what we want to know is, whether, in the event of any untoward occurrence in Crete, or any other part of the Turkish Empire, some pretext could be formed for the Turkish troops remaining in Thessaly after those four weeks. We do not quite understand by what power or by what protests it would be possible to compel the Turkish troops to leave Thessaly under those circumstances. I think there can be no doubt whatever, from what we have heard not only from English witnesses but from other sources, that the desire to evacuate Thessaly is shared by the Turkish officers and troops. The decision, of course, does not rest with them, but with the Sultan and his Government, and I think the desire of the Turkish troops and officers is in itself an aid to the guarantee, and if certain 1115 pecuniary inducements are given to the Sultan, no doubt they will evacuate Thessaly within those four weeks, or within a very short time not actually specified in the Convention. It is quite possible, however, that something might occur which might prevent the evacuation being carried into effect. An hon. Member sitting opposite has written to the Times recently upon the subject of the occupation of Thessaly by Turkey, and calls attention to the action of the Turkish troops in Thessaly and the efforts of the Turkish officers to preserve discipline, and he gives great credit to the men for their good behaviour; but then he points out that in the meanwhile, so long as 80,000 Turkish troops remain in Thessaly no permanent amelioration of the condition of the population could be expected. It is, after all, not only the Turkish troops and officers which have to be taken into account, but also the Turkish tax-gatherer. Then as to the method of evacuation which is to be adopted. There are many different methods of evacuating a country. There is what I may term the piecemeal method of evacuation, which was adopted by the German troops when they left France. They passed from one district to another, as portions of the war indemnity were paid, and there are other precedents for that method, but in the case of Thessaly we are dealing not with a great country but with one somewhat smaller than the county of Yorkshire, and I venture to hope that the evacuation of Thessaly will not be a piecemeal, or zone, evacuation, but a wholesale evacuation by the whole of the Turkish troops at the same time. I hope the expectation entertained by the Government as to the time when this evacuation shall be effected will be fulfilled, and I earnestly trust that nothing may take place in Crete or elsewhere which may in any way prevent or postpone it, and I also hope that nothing which takes place in Thessaly will be allowed to interfere with the Cretan Question in any way. These Questions are quite distinct and must be kept quite separate, and whatever takes place in regard to one should not be allowed to affect the other. I heartily congratulate the Government on the Bill they have brought in.
§ *MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
It would be painful for me to have to associate myself with the views expressed this afternoon by the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, who has expressed the opinion that the evacuation of Thessaly was not a matter of very great importance, but though I support the view that it is a matter of importance, it is only fair to say that the behaviour of the Turkish Army is perfectly well-known, and I do not think any army of the civilised Powers would have shown that same moderation, or same behaviour. But, admitting all those facts, the condition of affairs necessitated by the occupation of a country by a foreign force is one that cannot be observed by us with equanimity. As everybody knows, the Turkish forces are as anxious to evacuate Thessaly as the Greeks are to see them go, and everybody is agreed that the sooner they go the better it will be for everybody concerned. But, with regard to this loan, my hon. Friend was silent. He had scarcely anything to say with regard to the subject under discussion—the loan itself. The loan is approved by the country and those who are helping to lend a considerable sum to Greece for the purpose of effecting the evacuation of Thessaly. Only a small portion of this is going towards the war indemnity—£3,800,000, and the way the money is to be applied has already been explained to the House. The people who benefit by this loan are not only the Greeks themselves, there are others. There are the Russians, who take £1,000,000 out of the money we are finding, and there are the Germans, who are looking after the interests of their bond holders, and who are under no guarantee whatever. Those countries both benefit nearly as much as Greece. The, Turks, in my opinion, have, on the whole, been very scurvily treated. But what seems to me to be only a matter of justice is that, in providing this large sum, there should be some provision made to enable the Greeks to pay the obligations laid upon them under the Treaty of Berlin. They have not, so far as I know, contributed a farthing towards their obligations. It seems to me that steps should be taken to effect this act of justice.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
I do not enter into the general question, but I wish to call attention to the very generous terms on which the Treasury proposes to lend the money.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir M. HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
We do not agree to lend money at all.
§ MR. KNOX
You have agreed to guarantee the Loan, and you expect that the Loan will be issued at par. It is expected that the Loan will be issued at par, and I have no doubt it will be. It is clear that if a 2½ per cent. loan can be issued at par, redeemable by amortisation in 55 years by annual drawings, not like our loans where a sinking fund has to be provided for, but redeemable by annual drawings—if such a loan can be issued at par, it is quite clear that the Treasury can themselves raise money on those terms, because the guarantee of the French Government and of the Russian Government is of no financial value in this case, and, practically, the guarantee is a guarantee of the British Government. The French Government could not raise money at 2½ per cent., and the Russian Government could not. Therefore, in effect and in substance, this is a British loan; it is difficult to describe it in any other way, as the money is being raised upon British credit. Of course, it could be raised on British credit just as well for British purposes as for Greek purposes. It is believed that if Greece is able to pay the instalments which are provided for under this scheduled arrangement the Treasury will be free from loss. That being so, it appears to me that money can be raised on terms which allow interest at 2½ per cent., and not with a sinking fund, but on amortisation. The Treasury has repeatedly refused money to the taxpayers of the British Empire on these terms, although they have very much better security to offer than Greece can possibly give. Having given such terms to Greece, I can only hope that they will consider whether they cannot give equally favourable terms to borrowers within the British Empire.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
The hon. Gentleman who has sat down has stated that the guarantee of the Loan is really given by the British Government. That is the price we had to pay for the telegram of the 100 Members—the telegram of encouragement which induced Greece to go to war. It is also the price we had to pay for the refusal of the British Government to join the whole of Europe in preventing a war by blockading the Greek ports. That refusal was persisted in, and it led to the war. The result is the necessity for this Loan of £6,800,000. Now I wish to point out that of this Loan of £6,800,000, only about one-half of it is due as the result of the war with Turkey. The rest of it is due to the desire to wipe out the old debts and deficits of a bankrupt Power; so that, having failed to prevent the war, we not only guarantee the indemnity due to Turkey, but positively the wreckage of Greek finance itself. That is rather a serious position to take up. I think it is a very unfortunate piece of finance. Then there is the extraordinary ambiguity of the Bill. In the first place, this Bill refers to the Convention—in fact, the Convention is part of the Bill—because the Loan is to be carried out on the terms set forth in the Convention. The Convention itself has not yet been ratified or even signed. The date of ratification is blank, and the date of signature is blank, and for all we can tell it may be the subject of serious modification before it is signed or ratified.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to say that the Convention has been agreed to, and will be signed to-morrow.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
That being the case, my criticism entirely falls to the ground. I have another remark to make, and it is this: this Bill proposes to guarantee the payment of an annuity under the articles of the Convention. Now, Sir, this Convention sets forth that the conditions of the Loan are to be settled by mutual agreement between the three guaranteeing Powers. Therefore 1119 I assume that, the Convention having not been signed, the conditions of the Loan have not yet been settled. It seems somewhat strange to me that the House should be asked to authorise Her Majesty's Government to guarantee so large a loan when the conditions are left to subsequent mutual agreement, and with the provision that the money raised is to be employed by a law which we have never seen and do not know. I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will offer some explanation. The hon. Gentleman behind me has referred to the obligation already existing on the part of Greece towards Turkey. That obligation arose from the Convention of 1881–17 years ago. Not only are the interests of Turkey concerned, but the interests of the Council of Bondholders. Again and again representations have been made to these creditors of Turkey that a settlement would be made, and again and again, I believe, has the English Government avowed its readiness to enter into the consideration of a settlement of this portion of the Loan. I do not exactly blame Greece, because the primary responsibility of fixing the exact amount lay upon the shoulders of the Powers, and the Powers—excepting one of them—have refused to perform their duty in that respect. And now we go to the world and ask for a loan on behalf of Greece, not really for the indemnity due to Turkey, but in order to wipe out certain arrears and deficits Greece has already incurred—German and Russian debts, and so forth. We have a right to ask that you should consider that portion of the Ottoman Debt which, since 1881, has belonged to Greece, but which, nevertheless, she has not paid up to the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the other day led me to believe that the Loan would include that liability of Greece towards Turkey. I hope he will now be able to tell us that the Bill provides for the amount of the portion of the debt incurred by Greece in respect of territory ceded to her in 1881, and that, consequently, Turkish bondholders and the Turkish reserve may be to that extent relieved. That seems to me the most important consideration with regard to this loan, because I think it will be strange indeed if, when we are giving such assistance to 1120 Greece to enable her to pay doubtful debts, we should not say that she should pay those debts which are most undoubted.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
Some of us on this side would not have addressed the House if it had not been for the remarks of the Gentlemen opposite. I think that so far as the great majority of the Members of the House are concerned, this Bill would probably have passed without discussion. The hon. Gentleman for Lynn Regis has spoken of the Bill, and the war itself, as having been caused by the telegram of sympathy sent by 100 Members of the House to the King of Greece. My hon. Friend bases his opposition to the Bill on that. This story has been told so often that hon. Members opposite seem entirely to have forgotten the circumstances under which that telegram was sent. It had no relation whatever to the subject-matter of this Bill or to the war which seven weeks later was declared by Turkey against Greece. The telegram had exclusive reference to the mission of Prince George of Greece and Colonel Vassos, and at the time it was sent there was every reason to suppose that war would have been averted on the mainland.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I spoke of the telegram as one of encouragement. I had in my mind the description of it given by Sir E. Egerton.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
It must be remembered that the action of the King of Greece had been described by the head of Her Majesty's Government as an act of filibustering, although in the dispatch now laid before Parliament Lord Salisbury has stated that the act was quite natural under the circumstances of the case. The hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division, although he is opposed to hon. Members on this side of the House in respect to this matter, joined with us in attacking Lord Salisbury's policy.
§ *SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I distinctly deny that I joined the right hon. Baronet. I attacked Lord Salisbury's policy on different grounds, and only occasionally.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
The traditional policy of this country towards Greece was itself the Tory policy—the policy mainly of Canning, who was a Secretary of State in the then Administration. It is a curious fact that the club in this country which contains the flower of English Conservative youth bears the name of Canning. In supporting the Government in this loan proposal, we are supporting what has been the traditional policy of England, which, I believe, is a wise policy.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I hope the Debate will no longer be pursued into the distant fields of history. I confess it has seemed to me that hon. Members have addressed their observations to almost everything but the Bill immediately before them. I fail to catch, even in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, anything beyond a reference to history—anything bearing upon this Measure.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
I should not have made those observations if it had not been for the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
My hon. Friend the Member for Lynn Regis raised two points. He asked whether the conditions had been agreed upon under which the Loan should be issued. Yes; that was practically agreed upon by the Governments concerned. He also asked about the provision that had been made for the service of the Loan. I explained this fully to the Committee in moving the Resolution on which this Bill is based the other day, and I explained at the same time the conditions which had been agreed on for the issue of the Loan, Therefore, I can only refer my hon. Friend to what I then stated, which includes the whole matter in question. The hon. Member for Eye seemed to doubt—I think unnecessarily—whether the provisional agreements which have been made are sufficient really to ensure the evacuation of Thessaly. I admit that the actual day for the evacuation has not yet been fixed, because, as I informed the hon. Member in reply to a question, the date 1122 depends upon the occurrence of certain events which have not yet been finally concluded, but which, I hope, will be concluded within the next few days. The last of these events will be a notification of the issue of the Loan. When that is done, then the time will commence to run, at the end of which evacuation will be completed; and, further, as I ventured to point out to the Committee the other day, the provisions under which it has been agreed that the indemnity should be paid to Turkey are certain to insure that it would be to the practical interest of Turkey that the evacuation shall be effected at as early a, date as possible, and shall be completely effected in order to secure to Turkey the payment of the indemnity itself.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I must make inquiry on that point. The Loan covers the external obligations of Greece, but I will make inquiry on the point mentioned by my hon. Friend. I have only now to express the hope that the House will be willing to assent to the Second Reading without pursuing further the Debate on the policy of this country towards Greece, and that the Bill will receive the unanimous support of the House.
*MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
I think it is only right that my right hon. Friend should inform the House what steps have been taken to secure the payment of the interest on the Loan. The House has been asked to guarantee a Loan for a bankrupt State, which in the past has acted fraudently, and in this Bill I see nothing to protect the taxpayers of this country from being left in the lurch. I think any ordinary person in life would look for some security to enable him to recover his money—
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I explained that fully the other day. I said that certain revenues of Greece had been set aside, and placed under an International Board of Control. These revenues will be collected by a body responsible to that Board, and will be applied to this purpose.
*MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Yes, Sir; I fully understand that, and it looks exceedingly pretty on paper, but I should like to know who stands at the back of the Committee to carry out their behests. I should like, furthermore, to know whether my right hon. Friend contemplates sending for that purpose a fleet, which, by the way, if sent before, would have stopped the war? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean said that the celebrated telegram, for which he has offered this tardy apology—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member for Lynn Regis has made a charge, and that charge has been met by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. There must be limits placed on the discussion.
*MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Yes, Sir; of course I understand that there are limits, but I thought the limits might extend to my reply. At any rate, I hope it will be fully understood that the right hon. Gentleman's arguments are not accepted on this side of the House any more than his statement that Canning was a Tory. Canning was a sham Tory, and was notoriously out of harmony with his colleagues on this very question, as the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well. There is one aspect of this Bill which I think the House would do well to bear in mind: We are asked to associate ourselves with Russia and France in the movements from which other Powers stand aloof. Now, this is a matter of notoriety. It has been admitted by Ministers, and I think it would not be denied by anyone, that great injury has already occurred to this country from the anti-Turkish attitude which our Government has assumed and which is emphasised in connection with this Loan. Now, I do not hesitate to say that our troubles on the frontier of India are quite correctly described by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury as being due, in the first place, undoubtedly to that attitude. I should like to know whether it is right for this country, associated as we are with the government of 50,000,000 1124 of Mahomedans, to put ourselves unnecessarily in a prominent position as special enemies of the Sultan. Does anyone believe that Lord Beaconsfield or Lord Palmerston, or any of the great statesmen in the middle of this century, advocated a Turkish alliance out of any great admiration for that Government? No, Sir; on the contrary, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is an old colleague of Lord Beaconsfield, must very often have heard him advocate an alliance with Turkey, not out of regard for the Sultan, or any admiration for the Pashas, but because, in his judgment, it was necessary for this country to maintain relations of a friendly character with the religious heads of so large a body of Her Majesty's subjects. Well, Sir, we are now asked to associate ourselves with a movement which is in spirit anti-Turkish, except in so far as this money goes, some of it, I am glad to think, into the pockets of the Turks, but as for the remainder, a considerable portion is to be devoted to the fortification of Port Arthur and in furtherance of kindred objects, which can scarcely be described as conducive to the interests of this country.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
I do not think that anyone will complain that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet has addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer an inquiry which will enable him to inform the House whether he can give in greater detail further information as to the precise arrangements with regard to the Loan, or, if I may so call it, the appropriation of the revenues assigned to the payment of this Loan. Now, if I understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer correctly, the matter stands in about as satisfactory a manner as any arrangement which, of course, deals with an unsatisfactory condition of things can stand. The arrangement, if I followed him correctly, is founded upon the administration of the assigned revenues of Turkey. No doubt many Members are aware that the bondholders of Turkey were, several years ago, protected by an arrangement under 1125 which certain revenues were assigned, and specially assigned, to a board upon which one representative of all the great foreign Powers sat, and that board has the right and power and duty of collecting what are called assigned revenues. If I understand the present arrangement, it is very much the same. I think it will be admitted by Members on both sides of the House, that the arrangement for the assigned revenues in Turkey has worked exceedingly well, and I see no reason why it should not work well in Greece. I can only say that I hope the arrangement, originally made in Turkey, and made simply and solely for the protection of the foreign bondholders, will be so extended to Greece that in a manner it will secure the restoration of order to the suffering finances of that unfortunate kingdom. There can be no doubt at all that financial recklessness is the curse of the small countries of Europe. I venture to say that in the same way the only adequate protection under this arrangement which can be held out with any prospect to the unfortunate taxpayer of Greece is such an arrangement as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has foreshadowed, which I believe is as good a protection as can possibly be given consistently with the disturbed state of things with which Her Majesty's Government and all the Governments of the Powers of Europe have had to deal in consequence of the late war. One observation has fallen from the hon. Member for King's Lynn, to which I will allude. He brought up the long since dead claim of Turkey to have a certain portion of a certain debt placed upon the unfortunate shoulders of the people of Greece. Why, I thought that had passed into the limbo of forgotten things! But if it is to be brought up you may be asked why some of these funds may not be used for the benefit of Turkey in the same way as they ought to be used for the benefit of Germany and other Powers? If that question is to be asked I desire to give an answer. May I remind hon. Members opposite that the claim of Turkey to have a portion of her debt placed upon Bulgaria, Greece, and other little principalities rests upon one instrument, and when you search the instrument of her title you will find that 1126 that is the Treaty of Berlin? It is upon that same document that the claim of Europe rests that Turkey should do justice to Armenia.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
May I correct the noble Lord? The claim I make is not on the Treaty of Berlin, but on the subject of the Convention made by all the Powers on the 24th May, 1881.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
Well, that Convention arose out of the Treaty of Berlin, and I was quite aware of that. When I occupied the position of Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs the Treaty of Berlin was the one out of which all subsequent Conventions came. When you got the arrangement of 1881 you got certain concessions of territory, and it was owing to those concessions that Turkey was to have a portion of the debt assigned to her. I venture to say that when Turkey does her duty in regard to Armenia, then, and then only, will Turkey have a right to say, "Let the other clauses be carried out," because you must read the Treaty as a whole. It is like a contract between two parties. I do not desire, of course, after the appeal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to follow this subject into the ramifications of the Preamble of the Bill, because this Bill recites the agreement practically entered into between the Government of Her Majesty and the Governments of France and Russia; and the Bill has been proved—and it does not require any argument or illustration—that the policy which has always been put forward from this side of the House, and especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that the true way to deal with these two questions is by agreement, on historical lines, between France and Russia and this country. That policy is the correct one, and the only policy that can preserve the peace of Europe from the horrors of a great war. I am told by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet that this policy belongs to the time of Mr. Canning, who invented it, and that he was not a true Tory. Let 1127 me remind him of this, that I do not think he will deny that the Duke of Wellington was a true Tory, and the policy of Mr. Canning was founded upon the wishes of the Duke of Wellington. Therefore the high figure of the Duke of Wellington stands beside the figure of Mr. Canning, and I would ask him if he can expect the support of hon. Members upon that side of the House if he says that the Duke of Wellington was not a true Tory. I am not able to discuss the whole of the history of that time between the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Canning, neither do I desire to do so. It is a question which he himself raised, and I have a right to hold him to it. There was no disagreement between the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Canning. The Emperor of Russia was at that time hesitating as to whether he would view the Greek question—
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was only hoping that as the hon. Member opposite had been allowed to make a statement I might be allowed to reply to it. I hope that we shall carry this Bill, and hold it forth to Greece as a sign of the goodwill of this country and our desire that she may escape from the perilous position in which she has fallen. This Bill is one which everyone of us on this side of the House can support with cordiality, because, as I have already said, it is a justification of that very policy which during the last two years has been steadily and consistently advocated from these Benches.
§ *MR. H. V. DUNCOMBE (Cumberland, Egremont)
I do not think the House need have any fear at hearing me called upon, because, little as I have interfered in the course of Debate, I feel confident that they are assured of two things, namely—that in whatever part of the House I may sit, I shall be guilty neither of prolonged declamation nor of intellectual arrogance. On behalf of 10,000 taxpayers in this country, I think 1128 it is my duty before the discussion on this Bill closes to state that I think the Government are establishing a very dangerous precedent in this Measure if we are to believe—and I have every reason to believe that what they have told us is true—that they have exerted every influence known to diplomacy of which they are capable and could bring to bear in order to prevent Greece entering into this suicidal war, and then the war, in spite of their endeavours, took place. Those efforts failed, and on behalf of those whom I have the honour to represent I protest against this country being asked to guarantee the losses of a so-called Power who disregarded our advice. If this is to be the sort of policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government to get Greece out of her difficulties by providing her with money to cover a loss which she has brought on herself, I am afraid our diplomacy in the future will be crowned with as small a measure of success as they apparently have been in the past.
§ Read a second time, and committed for To-morrow, at Two of the clock.