HC Deb 11 May 1995 vol 259 c552W
Dr. Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what contracts or tenders have been considered in relation to clearing, removing or otherwise dealing with explosives on the ship Montgomerie sunk off Canvey island; with what results; and if he will make a statement; [22619]

(2) when the explosives on the ship Montgomerie sunk off Canvey island were last inspected; what were the results of that inspection; and how often inspections are undertaken; [22618]

(3) what assessment he has made of the risk posed to nearby residents, shipping or fishermen, by the explosives on the ship Montgomerie, sunk off Canvey island; and if he will make a statement. [22620]

Mr. Norris

I have been asked to reply.

These are operational matters for the Coastguard agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from C. J. Harris to Dr. Robert Spink, dated 11 May 1995: The Secretary of State for Transport has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions as these deal with operational matters, for which I have responsibility as Chief Executive. PQ 1660/94/95. The last survey was completed in September 1993. The Viscount Goschen, Minister for Aviation and Shipping, sent you and other interested MPs copies of the survey report on 26 October 1994 and copies were also placed in the Library of the House of Commons. I am arranging for a further copy to be sent to you. The survey found no evidence of any major change to the condition of the wreck and concluded that there was no reason to change the policy of not disturbing it. The wreck is surveyed biennially. Another contracted survey will take place this summer supervised by the Ministry of Defence, with the agreement of the Port of Sheerness. When the details are finalised I will write to you, to other local MPs and local authorities in the area to explain what is happening. PQ 1661/94/95. Expert opinion, based on the information available about the types of explosives on board, is that the risk of an explosion is remote, and that the best way to keep the risk to an absolute minimum is to leave the wreck undisturbed. The site of the wreck is designated a prohibited area under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. PQ 1673/94/94. No contracts have been considered in relation to disturbing the munitions. Expert opinion is that the risk of an explosion would significantly increase if the wreck were to be disturbed by moving its contents or otherwise dealing with the explosives.