HL Deb 08 July 1880 vol 253 cc1876-9

in rising to ask, Whether Her Majesty's Government have come to any determination as to what steps are to be taken, with or without the other Powers represented at the late Conference at Berlin, in the event of the Porte declining or neglecting to be guided by the decision of that Conference; and, further, to ask, whether, in the event of Greece receiving an accession of territory, she will in consequence become responsible for a proportionate amount of the Turkish Debt; and, if so, whether she will thereby become liable for any part of the War Indemnity due to Russia by the Porte? said, he thought that the uncertainty of the decision come to at the Conference in Berlin justified him in asking the Question which he was about to put to Her Majesty's Government. They were all aware that the Powers assembled at that Conference had come to the decision that a certain amount of territory was to be given to Greece, and they knew that the decision so arrived at was about to be made known to the Porte; but they were in comparative ignorance as to other points in connection with the decision. He believed, technically speaking, that the act of the Conference might be looked upon as an act of mediation to enable two parties, who could not otherwise agree, to come to an agreement. He thought that the words used in the Treaty were to the effect that the Signatory Powers "reserved to themselves a right of mediation" in order to facilitate the negotiations. He thought there was also a resolution passed to the effect that the Powers were prepared to adopt direct mediation. He was not aware of any difference between direct mediation and any other mediation, and it appeared to him to be only logical to suppose that the Powers which had reserved to themselves the right of mediation must have also reserved to themselves some right to see that their mediation was not ignored. Considering that, and considering the events which had occurred during the last few years in the East, it was impossible not to regard the decision come to by the Conference as something more than mere advice, or ordinary friendly mediation, and something which might possibly be backed up by further action. As regarded the first part of the Question, he thought it had been stated in some of the papers that if Greece obtained an accession of territory, she would be liable to a portion of the Turkish Debt. That was almost invariably the case, except with Irish landlords, who were treated somewhat differently. If so, it would be interesting to know whether Greece would be liable for any portion of the War Indemnity payable by Turkey to Russia, because becoming liable to a Power which would look after the payment was a different thing from becoming liable to individuals. He had no intention of asking the Government to state what steps they were going to take; but if the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville) would do so, such a statement would be interesting to the House and the country. The Government must, he supposed, know what they were going to do; and he would like to hear that they knew themselves what steps they would take, either singly or in concert with the other Powers, in the event of the recommendation agreed to at the Conference not being carried out. He, therefore, begged to ask the Question of which he had given Notice.


would, before the Question was answered, like to take that opportunity of asking his noble Friend, Whether he could lay upon the Table of the House a map of the country, showing the lines of rectification of the Frontier of Turkey and Greece, as the maps in the Library were not such as could be relied upon? As to Greece undertaking to pay any portion of the Debt of Turkey, he had not much to do with diplomacy; but he could not understand why Greece should pay a portion of the Debt of a bankrupt State.


My Lords, the first part of the Question which the noble Earl (the Earl of Dunraven) has put to me is of an important character, and belongs to a subject concerning which not only the Government, but all your Lordships, including the noble Earl himself, take great interest. I am, therefore, sorry that I cannot give an answer which is likely to be perfectly satisfactory to him in reply to a Question which, I am bound to say, has been put in his usual clear and straightforward manner. I remember that, on entering the Foreign Office some 20 years ago, I learnt from Lord Palmerston a maxim which has always approved itself to my judgment—namely, that, except in very exceptional circumstances, it is not consistent with the duty of the Government to answer hypothetical Questions, or to describe what may be the future policy of the Government upon every possible contingency. Now, there has been a meeting of the Representatives of the European Powers at Berlin, and they have come to an unanimous decision upon one of the points of the Berlin Treaty, and the Collective Note embodying that decision will be conveyed to both Turkey and Greece, but it has not yet been presented. Certainly it is not from any want of respect to Turkey that I state that all the Powers were unanimous in thinking that they had a right to expect that that decision, when communicated, would not be disregarded by the Porte; but it is not for me to assume that the answer to the Collective Note will be a disregard of it, and then to publicly discuss what steps the Powers will be prepared to take in such a contingency. That would, as my noble Friend will upon reflection see, be an improper course for me to take. In reference to the second part of the Question of the noble Earl, I am sure he will see that it would be premature for me to say what arrangements have been come to between Greece and the Porte as to the former bearing a portion of the Debt charged upon Turkish territory; but I may say that care will be scrupulously taken in dealing with the pecuniary rights of the Government which makes the cession, and also the just rights of the landowners will be most carefully regarded, both on the grounds of equity and International Law. As to the concluding observation of the noble Earl, I am quite unaware how in this transaction Greece can become liable to Russia for any part of the Indemnity. In answer to the Question of my noble Friend the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset), while admitting that the common maps are very incorrect, I may say there are being prepared very accurate maps showing the rectification of territory. I hope soon to be able to present them; but, as the recommendation is a joint act, usage requires that we should obtain the permission of the other Powers before we lay those maps on the Table.

House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, till to-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.