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Question

Volume 47: debated on Friday 5 March 1897

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Cycle Posts (Rural Districts)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he is in a position to state what steps have been taken since the last Session of Parliament to provide bicycles for the use of letter carriers and telegraph messengers in the United Kingdom, and especially in the country and suburban districts; what price has been paid; and to whom and in what circumstances or cases will an officer of the Department be supplied with a bicycle, and upon what terms as to the care or safe custody of the machine?

For many years it, has been the practice to establish cycle posts in rural districts where the conditions are suitable, but no special advance in this direction has been made since the last Session of Parliament. It must be recollected that only those rural posts are adapted for cycles where the roads are tolerably flat and in good order, and where the postman has not to cross fields and follow bye-roads. In those cases, where cycles are used by postmen in the service of the Department, the Department does not itself provide the cycles, but grants an allowance of four shillings a week in each case, the postman making his own arrangements as to purchase and maintenance. As regards telegraph messengers, arrangements have been made since last Session to supply bicycles—which will remain the property of the Department—to 22 provincial towns as an experiment. At the same time weekly allowances will be given to telegraph messengers in a corresponding number of provincial towns to use bicycles, of which they themselves will become the possessors and for the care of which they will be responsible. The result of this concurrent trial of the two systems will enable the Department to decide which will be preferable as a permanent arrangement. In the suburban districts of London sonic bicycles, the property of the Department, are about to be used experimentally with the same object. It would not be expedient to state the price paid for the bicycles. The Postmaster General has enjoined upon postmasters and sub-postmasters generally the desirability of arranging for the employment of persons mounted on cycles in the delivery of telegrams wherever it is practicable, especially for distances exceeding three miles. For such distances the charge for delivery by cycle will be at the rate of 4d. per mile, as compared with the charge of 1s. per mile by man and horse.

Mercantile Marine Fund

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether the Departmental Committee on the Mercantile Marine Fund has reported that the receipts from light dues exceed the expenditure for lighting our coasts by an average sum for the last 12 years exceeding £56,000; and, whether the whole question of the provision for the lighting of our coasts can now be referred to a Select Committee of this House, so that a final and complete settlement can be arrived at on this vexed question?

Yes, Sir; but my hon. Friend is aware that the Legislature has placed upon the Mercantile Marine Fund charges other than those directly connected with lighting. Having regard to the recent investigation of the question by the Departmental Committee, I see no reason for asking the House to appoint a Select Committee to further inquire into the matter.

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Departmental Committee distinctly reported that they refrained from dealing with the whole question of light dues because it was outside the terms of their reference?

I do not think they quite said that. What they said was that the question whether the cost of lighting the coast should be contributed by the Treasury and the shipowners entirely relieved of it, did not come within their province. I am not prepared to recommend that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the matter.

Income Tax (British Colonies)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether in continuation of the request made in the last Session, a Return could now be presented to Parliament giving details as to the levying of Income Tax in British Colonies, including name of Colony, statute authority, rate of tax, and whether levied by domicile of person or locality of property so taxed?

A return containing details as to the levying of Income Tax in British Colonies was given privately to the hon. Member last Session. If it were now proposed to lay it on the Table I should have to refer to each of the Colonies for verification, and it could not possibly be laid this Session. Under the circumstances, unless there is some general demand for this information, I think it would hardly be worth while to take the steps necessary before presentation.

Telephone Service

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether his attention has been called to the inefficient service of the Telephone Company in London and Westminister, and of its inability to supply persons with telephones; and whether he will take immediate steps to place the telephone service of London, which is now almost essential to modern business requirements, on a satisfactory basis?

The attention of the Postmaster General has not recently been called to any inefficiency in the telephone service in London and Westminster, and he has no knowledge of the inability of the Telephone Company to supply persons with telephones. He understands that the Company are making every effort to place the service on a satisfactory basis, and that the work of reconstructing the system on the metallic circuit principle is now nearly completed. The Company state that they hope to be able to make arrangements for largely putting the lines underground, and that they will then be enabled to effect still further improvements.

gave notice that on the Post Office Estimates he should draw attention to the unsatisfactory condition of the telephone service.

Grangegorman Prison

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1) whether he is aware that in February 1896, less than a month before the Order of the Board curtailing fuel issue in Grangegorman Prison, the superintendent of that prison fined a number of the female warders for having ashes under the grates in their room and required them to clear them away, although' two servants are paid out of the public money to do this and other work; (2) whether in March 1896 the superintendent denied the issue of fuel to some officers and sanctioned the issue of fuel to other officers, who like the former class had access to the general sitting or mess room, and whether a remonstrance caused this inequality to be remedied; (3) and, whether, the officer designated superin- tendent being a female, it is in accordance with the law that she should determine complaints against the staff, which is composed of males and females?

The facts are generally as stated in the first paragraph. The two servants were otherwise engaged on the occasion. The superintendent reports that she is not aware of any remonstrance having been made as alleged at the period referred to, or of any inequality in the treatment of the officers, but that in the exercise of her discretion, she sanctioned the issue of fuel to three assistant matrons whose quarters are situated at the rear of the prison and at a long distance from the mess room. I am not aware that the superintendent is legally incompetent to exercise the disciplinary authority delegated to her by the Board as regards prison officers serving under her orders.

Science And Art Department(Inquiries)

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I beg to ask the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education how many Parliamentary and Departmental Committees have inquired into matters connected with the Museums and Art and Science Schools of the Science and Art Department since 1st March 1877.

There have been one Parliamentary and forty-six Departmental Committees.

Fair Rent Application(County Monaghan)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that in October last a number of tenants on the estate of R. C. Leslie, Ballybay, county Monaghan, made application to the Irish Land Commissioners to have fair rents fixed on their holdings; whether he can state the cause of the delay in having fair rents fixed, and whether the Snb-Commissioners who will try these cases will sit in Ballybay to suit the convenience of all concerned; whether he is aware that flax is largely grown in this district, and that this crop has been almost a total failure for some years past; and whether he will send sub-Commissioners to try these cases who know about flax growing?

Some of the cases from the estate referred to were heard at Ballybay on the 12th and 13th ult. The Assistant Commissioners were Mr. Edge, Q.C., and Messrs Patterson and Mowbray. The decisions have not yet been communicated to the Land Commission. The remaining cases, 15 in number, will be listed in due course, and will be heard at such place, and by such Assistant Commissioners, as the Land Commission in the exercise of their discretion, and having regard to the circumstances, think proper. I must repeat that I have no control over the arrangements made or proposed by the Land Commission.

Land Law (Ireland) Act 1896(Rules)

I beg to ask the Attorney General for Ireland whether the rules provided for in Sub-section (2) of Section 25 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act 1896, have yet been made by the Treasury; and if they have been made, where they are to be seen?

The Land Commission are still in communication with the Treasury on the subject of the Rules proposed to be issued under Section 25, Sub-section (2) of the Act of last year. As soon as a settlement is arrived at in the matter there will be no delay in issuing these Rules.

Land Commission (Rules)

I beg to ask the Attorney General for Ireland whether the new rules of the Land Commission have been yet laid upon the Table?

Two sets of rules, dated respectively the 2nd of September, 1896, and the 21st of November, 1896, have been made provisionally by the Land Commission under the second section of the Rules Publication Act of 1893. These have not been laid upon the Table of the House, and it is more than doubtful whether it is necessary that they should be. One set of final rules, dated the 2nd of January 1897, which are little more than a consolidation of previously existing rules, have been made by the Land Commission. These final rules should have been laid on the Table of the House within three weeks from the commencement of the Session, but, owing to the unfortunate illness of the officer of the Land Commission whose duty it was to see to these matters, this in the present press of business was omitted to be done. As soon as my attention was called to the omission I took immediate steps to have it remedied, and accordingly all these rules have been laid upon the Table of the House.

Loan Fund Acts (Ireland)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1) whether he is aware that a few years ago an official of the Strabane (county Tyrone) Loan Fund, working under the Charitable Act, 6 and 7 Vict., c. 91, was convicted of embezzling the funds of the Society, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment; that more recently there have been defalcations in the funds of this Society; and that the Society, including depositors and debenture holders, have lost considerably through these defalcations; (2) whether the Government or the Loan Fund Board will recoup the Society for its losses; and (3) what steps it is proposed to take to prevent similar occurrences in future?

I am informed that the facts are substantially as stated in the first part of the Question, except that the amount ascertained to have been recently misappropriated has been repaid to the Society by one of the sureties of the defaulting official. The Loan Fund Board have, so far as I am aware, no power to recoup any Loan Society for losses arising from dishonesty or from any other cause, and I have already stated that the Government cannot accept responsibility in the matter. As regards the third paragraph of the Question, it would be impossible to give a definite answer pending further consideration of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry. Where, however, Societies of this kind are locally managed, the local managers must primarily be held responsible. Even the most careful supervision of a Central Board could not effectively secure a Society from defalcations by its officials.

Delivery Of Letters

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether there is any rule of the Post Office which enables a postmaster to direct that letters bearing any business or professional description shall not be delivered by the early deliveries before places of business are open at the private address of the person for whom they are obviously intended, even when such address is within the same postal delivery, but shall be detained until the next delivery after such places of business are opened; and whether, if such rule exists, he will take steps so to amend it as to prevent the grave inconvenience caused by it in places where there are few deliveries of letters?

There is no rule which precludes postmasters from delivering letters bearing a business or professional description at the private address of the person for whom they are obviously intended. If such letters, besides bearing a business description, are actually addressed to a place of business, it is the postmaster's duty to deliver them there in accordance with the general rule which requires that all letters should be delivered at the place of their address; but even in such cases arrangements can be made for a special delivery at the addressee's private residence on payment of an annual fee of one guinea.

Army Equipment

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether a certain Horse Battery, R. H. A., in the First Army Corps, is still without the new light equipment, and has only four guns, and is without any ammunition wagons; whether the Field Artillery is now between 700 and 800 men short; and, how it is proposed to make good this deficiency?

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Every battery of Horse Artillery in the First Army Corps is fully equipped in every respect. The Field Artillery is necessarily under establishment (though not so largely as my hon. Friend suggests), having just dispatched its drafts to India to replace men coming home for discharge to reserve, etc. The deficiency will be met by recruiting as usual.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what he means by being fully equipped? Have they got the new guns?

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I think the whole of the First Army Corps have, but there are some batteries that have not been delivered by the trade. Those are the only ones which have not got the new guns.

said the right hon. Gentleman had not answered the first part of the Question as to the ammunition wagons.

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If the right hon. Gentleman finds out he is mistaken in that statement will he correct it?

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Steamship "Angloman"(Fog Signals)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) if his attention has been called to the finding of the Court of Inquiry into the loss during a fog of the Angloman steamer on the Skerries, exonerating the master and officers from all blame for the loss on the ground that the fog signal that ought to have been sounded was not heard by them, although the person in charge declared he had given the usual signals; and (2) will he cause an inquiry to be made into the arrangements for using the fog signal, and its sufficiency in protecting vessels from approaching a dangerous point, round which the vessels bound for the Mersey must pass?

I have not seen the report of the Court of Inquiry, which I am told is in the printer's hands; but the Board of Trade are in communication with the Trinity House and the Northern Lights Commissioners with regard to the matter raised in the second paragraph of the hon. Member's Question.

Tubular Boilers(H M S "Powerful")

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what was the total consumption of coal during the thirty hours' trial of the Powerful, how many boilers were used, and what was the average indicated horse-power and speed maintained during the trial; and what number of vessels, other than torpedo boats and destroyers, have been fitted or are being fitted with tubular water boilers, with the aggregate indicated power of their engines, and if any and which of them have yet been tried on an oversea voyage, and to what place?

The number of boilers in use on the thirty hours' trial of the Powerful was 48, the whole number, the total coal consumption 453 17–20 tons, the average indicated horse-power 18,459, and the average speed 20–95 knots per hour. There are 39 vessels in the Navy, other than torpedo boats, destroyers, and small craft, fitted or being fitted with water-tube boilers. The aggregate horsepower of these vessels is 421,800. Of these, the Speedy and Sharpshooter have been employed on service with the Channel Squadron, the Speedy since February 20, 1894, and the Sharpshooter from September 15, 1894, to May 6, 1895. I may mention that the French man-of-war Alger recently returned from China after a three years' commission, and we have been informed that there were no defects in her boilers, which were of the Belleville type, and that they worked satisfactorily during the whole commission.

Freemasons (Ireland)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland if a register is kept of the members of the Masonic Society in Ireland, in compliance with the Act of Parliament, 39 George III., c. 79; and if said list for the different counties is sent annually to the Clerk of the Peace for each county; if so, is it open for inspection?

No register is kept of the members of the Masonic Society in Ireland, though the Act of Parliament referred to has not been repealed. It has fallen into disuse and become obsolete, like the Catholic Emancipation Act, which prohibits the assumption by Roman Catholic clergymen in Ireland of ecclesiastical titles, and constitutes as a misdemeanour the coming into the realm of members of religious and monastic orders in Ireland.

Distress (Claremorris, Co Mayo)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he has received a memorial and resolution from the Board of Guardians of the Claremorris, County Mayo, Poor Law Union, drawing his attention to the need of aid from the Congested Districts Board within the scheduled portions of that Union; and whether he can see his way to recommend to the Congested Districts Board a compliance with the request of the Guardians of the said Union?

The resolution referred to has been received and forwarded to the Congested Districts Board, by whom it will be considered at their next meeting.

Irish Mails

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster-General, whether he has recently received a copy of resolution adopted by the Cavan Board of Guardians recommending the dispatch from Dublin, immediately on its arrival there, of the Irish night provincial letters, thereby securing delivery in London at about 5 p.m., and enabling business letters to be replied to inside 24 hours; and whether this arrangement could possibly be made in connection with the new time table for Irish mails; and, if not possible of adoption at present, can the Postmaster General promise consideration with a view to future adoption?

The Postmaster General has received a copy of the Resolution referred to by the hon. Member. As I stated in the House on the 15th and on the 22nd of February, the Postmaster General has been much pressed by Irish representatives to fix a later instead of an earlier hour for the departure from Dublin of the morning mail to England, and he has so far yielded to their wishes as to fix the hour of departure from Dublin at 7.10 a.m., instead of at 6.40 a.m. The arrangement desired by the hon. Member cannot be made in connection with the new time table which comes into effect on the 1st proximo, nor can the Postmaster General, having regard to the strong pressure brought upon him to postpone the departure of the mail, hold out any expectation of its future adoption. The night mails arrive in Dublin, if punctual, at a little before and after 5 a.m.

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether he can state the result of his inquiries into the very inadequate limited mail day service between Dundalk and Cavan and Dundalk and Belturbet; and, whether the Department has yet entered into negotiations with the Great Northern Railway Company to start a special train from Dundalk on the arrival there of the morning mail at 7.20 a.m.; and, if not, can he give any assurance that pressure will be brought to bear on the Company to grant this concession?

The Postmaster General cannot at present state the result of the inquiries into the matter referred to by the hon. Member, as the inquiries are not concluded, and in these circumstances he is not yet in a position to approach the Railway Company on the subject of the day mail to Cavan and Belturbet. The Postmaster General, however, will place before the Great Northern Railway Company the strong desire that exists for improvement in the hope that some arrangement may be found practicable.

Elementary School Teachers(Scotland)

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether it is the case that the Scotch Education Department has resolved to employ in the elementary schools teachers holding certificates issued by the Irish Education Board; and whether such teachers are equal in their qualifications to those holding certificates from the Scotch Education Department?

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No change has been made in the Scottish Education Code in regard to certificates issued by the Irish Education Board, which are not recognised under that Code as qualifying a teacher to earn grants.

Educational Endowments(Ireland) Act Amendment Bill

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether, in regard to the Educational Endowments (Ireland) Act Amendment Bill, the Government have given it further consideration; and, if so, whether he can now state what course they propose to take regarding it?

Yes, Sir. The question of amending this Bill has been most carefully considered; and we have arrived at the conclusion that without alterations so extensive as to amount to an entire reconstruction of the Bill, it would be impossible to amend it so as to carry out the views of the Government. Under the circumstances the Government will feel bound to oppose the further progress of the Bill.

Dardanelles

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to a passage in a speech delivered on the 22nd ultimo by the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, in which he is reported to have said that M. Millerand thinks that France should have entered the Dardanelles and seized the Sultan in his Palace; that a proposal was made by one Power at the end of November 1895, but was set aside; whether that proposal, or a proposal to enter forcibly the Dardanelles, became known to Her Majesty's Government; and, if so, when; and whether Her Majesty's Government expressed any, and what, opinion upon it?

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I have nothing to add to the answers which I have on two previous occasions given to the hon. Member on the same subject.

said those previous answers were susceptible of two or three interpretations, and they would like to know which they were to accept. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that no such proposal came to the knowledge of the Government, or did he mean that he did not desire or refused to make any statement on the subject?

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I do not think I ought to be called upon suddenly to explain—[Ministerial cheers]—the two previous answers of mine, the meaning of which was absolutely clear. I have said that I can add nothing to those answers, and to that, I am afraid, I must adhere. ["Hear, hear!"]

Then we shall be obliged to put another question to clear up the matter. [Ministerial cries of "Order!"]

said the first part of his question had not been answered at all. Did the right hon. Gentlemen evade it or decline to answer it. [Ministerial cries of "Order!"] If he refused to answer it, let him give reasons why he refused. [Opposition cheers.]

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The right hon. Gentleman has said he does not propose to give any further answer. He is at liberty to refuse to give a further answer if he chooses to do so.

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The hon. Member seems to be under the impression that he can compel an answer. He has no right to compel any further answer if the right hon. Gentleman does not propose to give it.

Royal Marine Artillery

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty (1) what is the number of subalterns of Royal Marine Artillery now serving afloat; (2) what additional number of subalterns would be required for service afloat in the event of the mobilisation of the Fleet; and (3) whether there are only two fully trained subalterns now available for service afloat at the Royal Marine Artillery Headquarters, Eastney, one of whom is already under orders to embark?

Twelve subalterns, R.M.A., are now serving afloat. The number of subalterns, R.M.A., required for service afloat, in the event of mobilisation, cannot be given, as it would depend upon the ships to be mobilised, which have different complements. The answer to the third Question is in the affirmative. There are 17 officers undergoing instruction in addition.

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what percentage of the number of gunners of Royal Marine Artillery who embarked in the Fleet for the first time during 1896, had passed all artillery drills ac cording to regulations; and what percentage of gunners who re-embarked during 1896 had only not requalified in all artillery drills according to regulation, but were actually re-embarked without requalifying, according to regulation, in Naval gunnery?

Seventeen per cent. of the gunners R.M.A. who embarked in the Fleet for the first time during 1896 had passed all artillery drills; but none were embarked who had not passed in Naval gunnery. There are no regulations regulations requiring gunners to requalify before re-embarking.

Supply (Colonial Vote)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he will be able to take the Colonial Vote at an early day?

I do not think it would be possible to make any announcement as to the Special Service Vote until we have made some progress with the financial business, which must be got through before March 31. We have still to get the Speaker out of the Chair on the Navy Votes. Then there are the Supplementary Army Votes, the Vote on account, and we must get the Speaker out of the Chair before I can allocate Friday for any discussion.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements to bring forward at a comparatively early date in the Session the Votes which were closured at the end of last Session?

I think it will be possible to get the Speaker out of the Chair on the Civil Service Estimates on the first Friday after we have disposed of the necessary Navy Estimates; but, of course, I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman how soon that will be. It will depend on the action of the House, over which I have no control. I believe I have already stated that I would endeavour to bring the Votes closured last Session on at an early date.

Crete

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I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it would be possible to at once lay before Parliament the Greek Note of 10th February, recently alluded to by him in the House, together with any subsequent statement of the case of the Greek Government which may be in the possession of Her Majesty's Government?

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THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
(Mr. G. CURZON, Lancashire, Southport)

The Greek Notes will no doubt be laid in due course, together with the other papers relating to the same subject. There is the less necessity at once to lay the Note of February 11th, inasmuch as it would appear to have been already communicated by the Greek Government to the Press.

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a Question of which 1 have given him private notice—namely, whether he will state the terms of the demand made on the Sultan by the Government in concert with the Powers, and particularly the conditions imposed in regard to the removal of Turkish troops from Crete, and whether, as in the case of Greece, a fixed date has been assigned for the compulsory assent by the Porte to the conditions imposed?

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, I am not in a position to answer the Question in consequence of not having received from our Ambassador at Constantinople authentic intelligence as to what has been done in the matter of the presentation of the Note to the Porte. I shall, of course, tell the House at the earliest opportunity what has occurred, and at once lay on the Table the Note to the Porte as well as the Note presented to the Greek Government.

As the position is very critical and the House will not meet again until Monday, can my right hon. Friend say whether, on the Adjournment of the House to-night, he would give further information as to the demands made upon Turkey as well as the demands made on Greece?

I think it is extremely probable I shall have information before the close of business, and if so I will communicate it to the House.

wished to inquire as to the fate of the Mussulmans at Candano, whether the attention of the Under Secretary had been called to the statement of the correspondent of Standard

"at Canea yesterday to the effect that a great deal of most precious time which may cost many lives is being wasted—in fact, the fate of the wretched Mussulmans appears to be secondary to the question which side should have the political credit of rescuing them. The claims of humanity are, in fact, those of diplomacy."
A similar telegram appeared in the Daily News from another source. He wished to ask whether, in view of these facts and the danger these 3,000 persons, mostly women and children, were in at the present moment, the Government would telegraph to their Admiral in Cretan waters and instruct him and his colleagues to dispatch the land force stated by the Consuls of Great Britain, Russia and Italy on February 22 to be necessary for the relief of these persons?

asked if there was any truth in the statement made in several of that morning's papers that the Admirals opposed considerable delay to the Greek Consul, and refused to convey, or allow the Greek Consul to proceed to Candano in accordance with the orders of King George to render assistance in rescuing, the Moslems?

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No, Sir; the statement is absolutely incorrect. I have not seen the telegram in the papers, but I do not hesitate to say that it did not give a correct statement of the facts. The information we have received on the subjects of the beleaguered garrisons at Candano and Selino is as follows: On March 2nd, the Dryad left to escort a Turkish steamer conveying provisions to the inhabitants of Selino. The Admirals on March 4, so far from refusing to help the Greek Vice-Consul, offered to convey him to Selino in a vessel of the Allied Fleet, with a view to assist the rescue of the Mussulmans at Candano. We have no information whether he refused or accepted. Special instructions to spare no exertions for this end have been sent to the British Admiral; and in addition to three foreign ships, Her Majesty's ship Rodney, with Sir A. Biliotti on board, has started for Selino with orders to relieve Candano.

I only wished to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of stating whether or not it was true that the Admirals refused to permit the Consul to proceed on the Greek ship, and in consequence of the refusal several hours was lost.

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Message To The King Of Greece

I desire to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a question of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether his attention has been called to the publication of a telegraphed letter alleged to have been signed by several hon. Members of this House—[Opposition cheer]—conveying an expression of their opinion to the ruler of a Power with whom the continuation of our friendly relations is of the first importance? [Ministerial cheers.]

In answer to my hon. Friend I have to say that my attention has been called to the letter to which he refers. Without expressing any opinion upon the action of the gentlemen who signed the letter, I may say I do not anticipate any serious consequences from it. [Loud Ministerial cheers] It was signed by less than one-sixth of the Members of the House immediately after a Debate had occurred on the foreign policy of the Government, and on which no division was challenged. [Renewed Ministerial cheers.]

Mr. Speaker, I desire very respectfully to ask you whether it is consonant with the spirit of the conditions under which strangers are admitted to the Members' Lobby of this House that a representative of a journal should use this privilege for the purpose of securing the signatures of Members to a document bearing upon a political question? [Ministerial cheers.]

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It is obvious that the question of the hon. Member has reference to the same matter which was the subject of the last Question. I must not be taken as expressing any opinion about the facts of that case, for I do not know what the facts are; but in answer to the general question I may say that I certainly consider that it would be an abuse of the privilege—[Ministerial cheers]—granted to any gentleman representing the Press in the Lobby if he were to use that opportunity for the purpose of soliciting from Members signatures to public petitions or addresses of any kind. [Ministerial cheers.] Unless I am otherwise instructed by the House, I should deem it my duty to prevent anything of the sort taking place if it were brought to my notice. [Cheers.]