HMS Victory questions and answers


As published on Monday 23 January 2012 at the parliament web page

Defence

Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the future management and conservation of the wreck of HMS Victory 1744; and if he will make a statement. [90968]

Mr Robathan: An agreement has been reached with the Maritime Heritage Foundation for the trust to undertake the future management of the Victory (1744) wreck site. The remains of the vessel have been gifted to the trust, with safeguards to ensure that any actions taken in respect of the wreck are consistent with the archaeological principles set out in Annex A to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

The 42-pounder bronze cannon raised from the shipwreck site of HMS Victory being lifted from the water for placement on the deck of the Odyssey Explorer. source Odyssey Marine Explorations website

There are still more questions, many of which need to be raised both with the MoD and in public.

1. May we have sight of the Deed of Gift transferring the wreck to MHF or sight of the draft terms if it has not yet been executed ? We assume, as MOD is ‘gifting’ the wreck, that commercial confidentiality does not apply thereto.

2. If it has not yet been executed shall we be afforded an opportunity to comment upon the draft Deed?

3. May we have sight of the documentation setting out the constitution of the Advisory Group, its powers and its duties?

4. Your email states that “Under the terms of the deed of transfer, the prior approval of SofS is required before any physical work on the site is carried out. SofS and the Trust will in turn be advised by the Advisory Group, which is charged with ensuring that any work is consistent with the rules to the Annex. “. This statement is somewhat confusing. We appreciate the prior approval of the Sof S is required before ‘ physical work on the site is carried out’ but this requirement for prior approval does not seem to extend to arrangements for deposition and curation of recovered material. This leaves open the possibility that the MHF could sell or dispose of part of the archive to raise funds or pay for the services of an archaeological / salvage contractor, as suggested in the Sunday Times article. Could you please clarify whether the requirement for the Sof S ‘s approval extends to deposition and curation of recovered material and whether, under the terms of the Deed of Gift, it would be possible for the MHF to sell or dispose of part of the archive to raise funds or pay for the services of an archaeological contractor?

5. Your email also states that “Under the terms of the deed of transfer, … the Trust will in turn be advised by the Advisory Group, which is charged with ensuring that any work is consistent with the rules to the Annex.”. This is also somewhat confusing. An Advisory Group is exactly that i.e. advisory. Advice is not binding, although it must be taken into consideration. It is difficult to see how the Advisory Group could ‘ ensure ‘ that “any work is consistent with the rules to the Annex” when its powers and duties are advisory only. Could you please clarify to what extent, if at all, the advice of the Group is binding upon the MHF and whether the Group may veto any proposed ‘work’?

6. Could you please clarify whether the term ‘any work’ extends to deposition and curation of recovered material?

7. Similarly, we note that in the MOD’s Press Release it states that “The Group will advise on the extent to which actions proposed by the Foundation are consistent with the archaeological principles set out in Annex A to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.”. Does the term ‘ any action ‘ extend to deposition and curation of recovered material? Could you also please clarify to what extent, if at all, the advice of the Group is binding upon the MHF in respect of ‘actions’ and whether the Group may veto any proposed ‘action’..

8. We note that your email states that the Group is charged with ensuring ‘work’ is consistent with Rules of the Annex. It does not state that the Group is charged with ensuring that the deposition and curation of recovered material is consistent with the Rules of the Annex. Does the function of the Group encompass the latter?

9. Similarly Mr. Robathart’s Parliamentary Answer states: “ … with safeguards to ensure that any actions taken in respect of the wreck are consistent with the archaeological principles set out in Annex A to the UNESCO Convention …”. What does the term ‘ safeguards ‘ encompass ? Do these ‘ safeguards ’ extend to deposition and curation of recovered material?

10. How does MOD intend to ensure that the treatment of the recoveries is in conformity with the Rules of the Annex?

11. Can MOD confirm that any sale or dispersal of the recovered material from the site, contrary to the Rules of the Annex, would not be possible under the terms of the Deed of Gift?

12. Could the MOD comment upon the reported statement that “If coins are found in the ship, …. The bulk of them are likely to go to Odyssey …”

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