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HMS Sussex

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government’s objectives are in the negotiations with Spain on the location and subsequent excavation of the sunken British warship Sussex off the coast of Gibraltar. (160163)

The Ministry of Defence has concluded a partnering agreement with the US company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, for the archaeological excavation and recovery of artefacts from the wreck of the Sussex. The company believes it has located the wreck on the seabed in the Straits of Gibraltar. The next stage of the operation will be the definitive identification of the wreck site.

The Government are not currently involved in any negotiations with Spain on this matter.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to ensure that the gold onboard the sunken warship, the Sussex, is not claimed by the Spanish government. (160164)

The wreck in question has not yet been confirmed to be that of the Sussex and its cargo has also still to be identified. If the sunken vessel is identified as the Sussex, the Government of Spain has informed us that it will respect international laws of sovereign immunity and lay no claim to the wreck. We also understand that Spain has no intention of investigating the wreck site.