To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment he has made of the extent of damage done to the wrecks of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales; what steps can be taken better to prevent the desecration of these designated war graves; and if he will make a statement.
10 November 2014
The wrecks of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales lie in international waters off Malaysia and are designated as protected places under the United Kingdom's Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. Regrettably we are aware of unauthorised salvaging and damage to the wrecks. We are engaged with the Government of Malaysia and the Royal Malaysian Navy to prevent further damage. In May 2014, the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur issued a press release welcoming the actions of the Royal Malaysian Navy to impound a Cambodian registered vessel responsible for illegally disturbing and salvaging ship wrecks for scrap material. We took the opportunity to highlight that wrecks should be treated as military maritime graves and given the respect they deserve.The large number of Royal Navy wrecks around the world means there are limitations on what can be achieved by the United Kingdom alone with regard to enforcing protection but where we have definitive evidence of desecration of sites, we will respond. Also, when items from protected wrecks are found to be for sale the Government can intervene, as we did successfully in May 2014 when items from HMS Repulse and HMS Exeter were removed from an auction in Australia and taken possession of by our High Commission in Canberra.