HL Deb 11 February 1878 vol 237 cc1420-3

who had given Notice "To call attention to the further correspondence respecting the Affairs of Turkey, "said: I snail not go on with the Notice I have for to-night. My intention is to connect it with a Motion; but some interval will be necessary, so that your Lordships may not be taken by surprise. The reason for postponing observations on the subject of the Correspondence is the serious intelligence which has just been received, to the effect that the British Fleet is not able to enter the Dardanelles. The Motion and the day will both appear upon the Paper.


I wish to ask a Question with regard to a telegram which appeared in a newspaper this morning, and as I do not see the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his place, I will put it to the Prime Minister. In The Standard of this morning there appears a telegram which says that a large number of Russian Marines have crossed the Balkans en route for the Sea of Marmora to man Turkish men-of-war, which will shortly become Russian property, and which will presently convey Russian troops to Odessa and Sebastopol. If these rumours are substantially true they involve serious considerations, and I would therefore ask whether they are true; and, if so, whether the ships are to be used temporarily as transports, or whether they are to become the permanent property of Russia?


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have no information on the subject on which the noble Earl has addressed me. The statement to which he refers has appeared, I believe, in some newspapers; but we have no reason to think it is authentic, and I hope it is not.


I have given private Notice of a Question to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but as he is not in the House, I will postpone it until to-morrow.


He will be here presently.


My Lords, seeing the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs now in his place, I wish to repeat a Question I put to him on Friday last. I then asked him with reference to the entry of the British Fleet, or a portion of the Fleet, into the Dardanelles, whether Her Majesty's Government had obtained the assent of the Turkish Government to that proposal, and if there were any doubts about it, whether any instructions had been given to the Admiral, as to how he should proceed? The noble Earl gave me an answer to this effect—that the Turkish Government had on a former occasion given a firman, and he did not anticipate any objection on their part. Seeing in the papers to day, that the detachment of the Fleet had not entered the Dardanelles, I wish to ask the noble Earl whether, consistently with the exigencies of the public service, he can give any information on that subject to your Lordships' House? There is another point on which I should also like to ask for information. We were told the other night that Her Majesty's Government had made a communication to other foreign Powers on this subject of the Fleet, I should like to know what has been the result of those communications?


My Lords, I do not think it would be in the interest of the public service that I should answer the Questions of the noble Earl except in general terms. When the detachment of the Fleet which had been sent up arrived at the forts of the Dardanelles, it was found that no notification from Constantinople had reached the officers in charge of those forts, and thereupon the Admiral very properly declined to take the responsibility of passing the forts without permission, and returned to Besika Bay for instructions. Communications have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Porte, and I do not conceal from your Lordships that some difficulty of the kind adverted to in the public papers has occurred; but I have the most entire confidence that the difficulty will be surmounted, and that in a very short time the intentions announced by us on Friday last will be carried into effect. With regard to the second Question, I have to say, that in consequence of the communications which we made, three foreign Powers have instructed their Ambassadors to apply for a firmans; but I am bound to add—for I do not wish to leave any false impression on the minds of your Lordships—that it does not necessarily follow from the fact of those firmans having been applied for, that they will be acted upon at once. I apprehend that the Go- vernments in question reserve to themselves the right of considering whether, in their opinion, the circumstances are sufficiently urgent to require action on their part.

House adjourned at half-past Five o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.