Metals: Theft

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 27th February 2018.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps he has taken to deter metal scavenging from shipwrecks and war graves.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what reports he has received on the status of Royal Navy war graves on the shipwrecks of HMS Electra, HMS Exeter and HMS Encounter near Indonesia and Malaysia and on similar wrecks in other areas of the world at risk from metal scavengers.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether he has had recent discussions with the Foreign Secretary on reburying the remains of Royal Navy sailors from HMS Exeter.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are aware that the Java Sea wrecks HMS EXETER and HMS ENCOUNTER have been almost completely salvaged, while HMS ELECTRA has been partially salvaged. We are working with the Indonesian government to agree protected status for British World War II (WWII) wrecks in Indonesian waters. We are also aware that the wrecks HMS REPULSE and HMS PRINCE OF WALES near the coast of Malaysia have been partially salvaged. They are designated as 'Protected Places' under the United Kingdom's Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

In response to media reports that human remains, which may include British sailors and soldiers, have been removed from WWII wreck sites in the Java Sea, the British Ambassador to Indonesia has written to the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs raising these concerns and asking the Indonesian authorities to investigate.

If further evidence confirms that military remains have been removed and placed in a mass grave, we will consider the options to ensure that our Servicemen are appropriately commemorated. In the event that the remains prove to be conclusively those of British Service personnel, the Ministry of Defence, with support from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, would arrange for a dignified funeral and the marking of their final resting place.

Where we have evidence of desecration of the wrecks of Royal Navy vessels, we will take appropriate action, including working with regional Governments and partners to prevent inappropriate activity at such sites. It should be appreciated however that, given the vast locations of Royal Navy wrecks around the world, that there are limitations on what protection we can provide.

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