HC Deb 19 May 2004 vol 421 c1074W
Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Under-Secretary of State's letter reference D/US of S/IC 1295/04/A of 5 April 2004, what action he is taking to resolve the legal principle in international law of the ownership of wrecks; and what lessons have been learned in wreck management for his Department's work on HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. [166925]

Mr. Caplin

The Ministry of Defence is consulting with other Government Departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as to the most appropriate means of resolving the legal principle in international law of the ownership of wrecks.

As to HMS Royal Oak, every opportunity has been taken during the wreck remediation work on this vessel to further our understanding of the technical and environmental issues associated with the management of such wrecks. Our investment in Royal Oak has highlighted that detailed risk and environmental assessment is key to remediation work; that removal of oil, rather than containment, may be the best solution in certain circumstances; that it is important to work closely with industry to identify non-intrusive technological solutions to meet the challenging conditions on similar wrecks; and that there is a need for clear and concise mapping of a wreck and the surrounding site before the start of remediation work.