HL Deb 21 June 1895 vol 34 cc1647-9

had the following on the Paper:— To move for despatches or papers tending to throw light on alleged political movements in the Island of Cyprus; and to inquire whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to undertake any works in the Island of Cyprus with the view of providing a fitting harbour for Her Majesty's ships and vessels of war. The noble Viscount said, that when this notice was placed on the Paper he had reason to believe that considerable political disturbances were going on in the Island of Cyprus. Since then, from what he had heard, he understood the political differences had subsided, and if the noble Marquess could assure him that that was the case he should not press his Motion. With reference to the condition of the island, he had no doubt it had vastly improved since it had been in their hands, and he had reason to believe that the disturbances had no connection with any desire on the part of the people to escape from the control of this country. He could not help, however, further saying that he could not see, under the present circumstances, what good the island was to them. The island had resources which might be made use of if properly taken in hand by the Imperial Government. It had harbours of which this country made no use whatever. In the Mediterranean they had no anchorage for their fleet except at Gibraltar and Malta, and consequently they had their eggs in nearly one basket. Cyprus was entirely thrown away as a station for ships, and unless noble lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was disposed to propose something for the improvement of the harbours there, he could not see what good the island was to them. His friend, the late Sir Geoffrey Hornby, once told him that he had taken a squadron of ironclads into the harbour of Famagusta for the purpose of convincing the Government of the advantages which Cyprus possessed if some money was expended upon it. They had only Malta Harbour to depend upon, and Cyprus, which was admirably suited for their purposes in the East, was utterly neglected. He would ask the Government whether, during the continuance of their administration, they had any intention of doing anything for creating harbours for the anchorage of their men-of-war in the Island of Cyprus?


remarked that he understood the noble Viscount to say that he did not intend to press his motion for the production of papers. He was glad to hear that, because the papers bearing on the subject were confidential reports of the High Commissioner in Cyprus, which it would not be usual nor convenient to lay before Parliament. As regarded the alleged political movements in the Island, the papers did not in the least degree show that anything that had taken place there was directed against British rule. There had been, no doubt, recently, as there had been in former times, a certain number of public meetings held in Cyprus to discuss various public questions. Those questions had been of two kinds. They had related to the pressure of taxation and to the desire on the part of the Greek population of Cyprus that, if the British Government were going to withdraw from the administration of Cyprus, the Island should be handed over to the Greek King. The meetings had been perfectly orderly, they had in almost all cases ended by cheers for the Queen, and at one of the meetings—and that among the most important—such cheers were given after the passing of every resolution. He could not, therefore, regard them as affording any indication whatever of hostile feeling towards the British Government in the Island. In Cyprus, as he was sorry to say in most other parts of the world, there was considerable agricultural depression, prices were very low, and, as was inevitable in these circumstances, the pressure of taxation was more keenly felt. As their Lordships knew, there was considerable discontent among the population of the Island in reference to what was called the tribute. This country was bound to pay the tribute, and they could not relieve the people of Cyprus from the necessity of paying it; and that, no doubt, under circumstances such as those which existed at the present moment, gave rise to a certain amount of dissatisfaction at the taxation which was pressing on the people. The Government in the present year, partly in the supplementary estimates and partly in the general estimates, were asking Parliament for a larger amount for Cyprus out of the taxation of this country than they had been doing in the past, and were, therefore, in that way affording larger relief to the necessary expenses of the Island. He did not deny that many things might be done in Cyprus by the expenditure of money, but this would necessarily increase the amount required from this country, and they had to look, not only to questions affecting Cyprus, but what was just to the taxpayers of this country. He could assure the House that there was nothing in the recent meetings in Cyprus to cause the least anxiety as regards the political condition of the country. As regarded the latter part of the noble Viscount's question, there was no intention on the part of the Government to undertake the creation of new naval harbours in that country. Anything of that kind would be very costly, the natural harbours not being suited to that purpose, and the money could be much more wisely employed in other directions.

House adjourned at Five minutes before Seven o'clock till Monday next, a Quarter before Eleven o'clock.