Andrew Smith (Oxford East, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence
(1) what discussions his Department has had with (a) Odyssey Marine Exploration, (b) English Heritage and (c) Ministerial colleagues on the discovery of the wreck suspected to be that of HMS Victory; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what steps his Department is taking to establish the identity of the wreck reported by Odyssey Marine Exploration suspected to be that of HMS Victory.
Bob Ainsworth (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence; Coventry North East, Labour)
Following the notification by Odyssey Marine Exploration of the possible discovery of the wreck of HMS Victory, exploratory discussions have been held by MOD officials with the company. Discussions have also been held at official level with a number of other Government Departments with a potential interest.
The wreck is potentially of significant historic interest and it is important to ensure that we are absolutely confident of the claims being made. English Heritage, who are the Government's advisers on heritage issues for England, have been invited to provide advice on the historical significance of the wreck and its likely identity, together with an assessment of the risks to its in situ preservation which would be the Government's preferred approach in such cases.
These considerations are likely to take some time.