HL Deb 12 February 1878 vol 237 cc1483-5

My Lords, I rise to ask the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he will consider it his duty to afford any further information to the House with respect to the state of affairs in the East?


My Lords, the Question of the noble Earl is one of a very general and comprehensive character; so much so, that I scarcely know in what special form he and your Lordships desire I should answer it. Perhaps I may say that with regard to the movements of the British Fleet, which I take to be the matter of the most pressing interest at the present moment, I hope that when your Lordships meet again, in 48 hours, we shall be in a position to state that the intention which we announced some days ago has been carried into effect, and that our ships are at Constantinople. My Lords, with regard to the question of the Conference, there is nothing altered in the situation during the last few days. All the Powers have agreed to the principle that a Conference should be held. The only remaining difference is as to the place of meeting, and I do not think that that difference is likely to give rise to much difficulty. My Lords, with regard to the movements of the Russian Army I can add nothing—nothing that is certain or authentic—to the statements contained in the Circular Telegram of Prince Gortchakoff which has appeared in all the newspapers in Europe.


My Lords, as the noble Earl has remarked, my Question was of a general character. I made it so purposely because I did not wish to press for an Answer from the noble Earl on any particular point if it were not convenient for him to give one. I now desire to ask a particular Question; but I do not press for a formal Answer to it, unless the noble Earl thinks fit to reply to it in that way. Yesterday the noble Earl stated that a difficulty had been experienced in respect of the passage of our ships through the Dardanelles; but he expected that an arrangement on the subject would be come to with the Porte. Indeed, he was sanguine in that expectation. I wish to know now, Whether he is able to give your Lordships any additional information with reference to the entry of those ships? The noble Earl also stated that three other European Powers had applied for firmans. This, also, is a point on which further information would be desirable.


My Lords, with regard to the first Question of the noble Earl, I think it is better that I should reserve my Answer till Thursday, when no doubt I shall be in a position to speak more fully and satisfactorily than I can do now. With regard to the Question respecting the other Powers which applied for firmans, the position is this— The French and Italian Governments two days ago authorized their Ambassadors to apply for firmans to admit their ships to the Dardanelles. What passed between those Ambassadors and the Porte I, of course, do not know with any exactness; but it appears that, in consequence of their representations, their Governments have thought fit, for the present, to suspend sending their ships up, and consequently, I presume, the firmans have not been demanded. With regard to the third Power, as I stated yesterday, a demand for a firman was made by the Ambassador of that Power, but I know nothing more.