HL Deb 19 March 1877 vol 233 cc90-2

asked the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he is in a position to give the House any further information regarding the negotiations on the Eastern Question?


My Lords, I think it best, in answer to the noble Earl, to state exactly the course which the present negotiations have taken so far as they have hitherto gone. On Sunday, the 11th instant, after some previous communications had taken place on the subject, I received from the Russian Ambassador a draft Protocol proposed by the Russian Government, and intended to be signed by the Representatives of all the Powers, as embodying their views of the situation in the East. That draft Protocol was considered by the Cabinet, and certain modifications were proposed by us. Some negotiations ensued between Count Schouvaloff and myself; and in the end a modified Protocol was agreed on between us—agreed on to this extent, that we were prepared to adopt it, and he accepted it ad referendum. Count Schouvaloff accordingly referred that modified Protocol to his own Court; and if my noble Friend had put his Question three hours ago my answer would have stopped here; but shortly before I came down to the House, I received a visit from Count Schouvaloff, and he informed me of a proposal of some alterations in the Protocol agreed upon between us which his Government considers desirable. Those proposed alterations I have not yet had time to consider. As I have only received them within the last few hours, they have not yet been seen by my Colleagues, and, therefore, I am not in a position to give any further information with regard to them.


asked the noble Earl whether it was correct that Sir Henry Elliot was about to return immediately to Constantinople, or was to enjoy that period of rest to which his multifarious and anxious labours so well entitled him?


I am glad my noble Friend has put the Question to me. In answer to it I beg to say that it was my wish and intention that Sir Henry Elliot should, if possible, return without delay to Constantinople, where his experience and judgment would render him eminently useful. I had a communication on the subject with Sir Henry Elliot, and, with that public spirit which he has always manifested, he expressed himself ready to return at once if the public service required that he should do so; but he did not conceal from me that he had come home in much need of rest after his arduous and anxious labours during the last 12 months, and he believed that if he returned to Constantinople without a further interval of repose, the probable result would be that in a very short time he would become again unfit for work and be compelled to ask for further leave. Under these circumstances I felt that, even putting personal considerations out of the way—and no man is more entitled to personal consideration than Sir Henry Elliot—it would not be for the benefit of the public service to press for his immediate return to the Embassy. I am, therefore, making other temporary arrangements for carrying on the work at Constantinople, and Sir Henry Elliot will remain some time longer in England, retaining his present position, but being here on leave.


I will put another Question to the noble Earl, leaving him to answer it only if he thinks fit—What are those other temporary arrangements?


As they are not yet made, I am unable to state them.