HL Deb 07 August 1885 vol 300 cc1434-6

, in rising to ask the Prime Minister, Whether Her Majesty's Government propose to take any steps, and, if so, what steps, to insure compliance by the State of Bulgaria with Article 10 of the Treaty of Berlin, in so far as it refers to the Varna and Rustchuk Railway? said, that several Questions had been asked in the House of Commons on the subject; but the answers given had not been very reassuring. The action of the Bulgarian Government had been so dilatory as to be almost suggestive of bad faith. If it were a private individual or firm, there would be a method of dealing with it, and he could not see how the code of commercial honour of States differed from that of individuals. The Article of the Treaty of Berlin seemed in danger of lapsing; and, if one Article lapsed, the whole might do so, an idea in which Her Majesty's Government were hardly likely to concur. In asking the Question, he was actuated by no self-interest—he was not a shareholder, nor a Director—but, judging from the Blue Book, the conduct of Bulgaria was at variance with ordinary notions of commercial honour.


, in reply, said, that the noble and gallant Lord opposite (Lord Sandhurst) had relied a good deal upon the Article of the Treaty of Berlin; but he (the Marquess of Salisbury) very much doubted whether that Article had precisely the bearing which appeared to have been suggested to the mind of the noble and gallant Lord. He did not gather from it that it gave any new rights to the Company. The Treaty of Berlin transferred Bulgaria, so far as practical government wont, from the Porte to the Prince of Bulgaria, and the Prince succeeded to the obligations which the Porte had assumed in respect of this railway. Therefore, the Railway Company had precisely the same rights against the Prince that it had against the Porte, neither more nor less. No doubt, the creditors of the Railway Company had been badly treated. Successive Governments in England had done what was in their power to bring about a satisfactory settlement of the long-standing claim of the Company; but those efforts had proved ineffectual, and the noble and gallant Lord seemed to think it strange they had not succeeded. No doubt, as the noble and gallant Lord had said, in this country a creditor could easily bring a debtor to book; but, among the inventions of modern times, a Bankruptcy Court as between nations had not yet been discovered, and, therefore, a process which would be easily applied to a private debtor in this country could not be applied to a State which did not fulfil its obligations. The noble and gallant Lord asked what steps were to be taken to insure the payment of the obligations of the State to the Varna Railway. "Insure" was a big word, and he did not know whether the noble and gallant Lord attached any military views to the idea, or whether he intended to carry out the analogy he had instituted, by issuing process against Bulgaria, and attaching the body of the Prince or those of the inhabitants. He (the Marquess of Salisbury) must say that none of those material methods appeared to be open to us, and we were left entirely to such moral influence as other nations of Europe and ourselves could exercise. He doubted whether it was incumbent upon us especially, or whether it was incumbent upon all the Signatories to the Berlin Treaty, to secure that proper effect should be given to the Article relied upon; but he earnestly hoped that, by the wisdom of the nations of Europe, some exhortations might be addressed to the Bulgarian Government sufficiently pressing to induce them to do more justice than they had hitherto done to these and to other creditors. He should be sorry to use any language winch would separate his statement from those of his Predecessor (Earl Granville), which had been described as sympathetic, but not too encouraging on the subject. As to himself, he desired to offer the noble and gallant Lord who asked the Question all the sympathy in his power; but, beyond sympathy, he doubted very much whether he could promise any assistance. He could only say that all means that were open to the Government diplomatically they should gladly bring to bear so as to secure the equitable settlement of these long outstanding claims. It was much to be regretted that they had stood over so long. But, at the same time, it was only fair to say it was probable that the delay of the Bulgarian Government in making payment was to be attributed quite as much to financial embarrassment as to any indisposition to satisfy the demands of the Company. He should be glad to use his efforts to get the matter referred to arbitration, if he thought that arbitration could lead to any practical results; but it did not seem likely that it could do so. The matter should receive all the attention the Government could give to it; but he could not give any promise to insure the satisfaction of the claims of the Company.