I am pleased to inform the House that I am today laying a departmental minute, the contents of which are replicated below, which proposes the transfer of HMS Victory and its contents and fittings to the HMS Victory Preservation Trust. This is a new charitable trust which has been established for the purpose as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
The proposed transfer would enable private donations to supplement current Defence provision for support of the ship; and I am pleased to inform the House that the Gosling Foundation has generously agreed to donate £25 million to support the establishment of this new trust. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has agreed to match this donation with a further capital grant of £25 million. Together, this amounts to a very sizeable endowment and would enable HMS Victory to be sustained for the benefit of future generations.
This transfer is part of a wider agreement which would enable HMS Victory to remain as a commissioned warship under her commanding officer and ship’s company. Currently the flagship of the Second Sea Lord, she will become the flagship of the First Sea Lord.
The detailed arrangements proposed, which are subject to legal and contractual discussions and trade union consultation, envisage that the trust would assume responsibility for the ongoing maintenance contract. The MOD would provide project management assistance in support of the contract for up to two years to enable the trust to grow this expertise. I expect the new arrangements to be in place by 1 April 2012.
Departmental Minute Dated 6 March 2012 Concerning the Gift of HMS Victory to the HMS Victory Preservation Trust:
“1. It is the normal practice when a Government Department proposes to make a gift of a value exceeding £250,000, for the Department concerned to present to the House of Commons a minute giving particulars of the gift and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from making the gift until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.
2. The gift to be made in this case, subject to finalisation of legal and contractual arrangements, is to a charitable trust controlled by the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and comprises the historic warship HMS Victory together with its collection, fixtures, fittings and contents, material in store, technical information and the cradle on which the ship rests in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Department also intends to grant rights to occupy and use the dry dock and land around the ship together with associated services access rights and leases to use those buildings in the dockyard which support the ship—put simply, a complete package, which would allow the trust to take over responsibility for the ship’s maintenance, repair and operation as a heritage attraction. The current maintenance contract for the ship operated by the Department would be novated to the trust; and the Department would provide project management expertise to the trust for a period of up to two years while the trust develops its own in-house expertise.
3. As a unique and irreplaceable national heritage asset, it is difficult to measure the value of HMS Victory in financial terms but the ship (together with its associated historical artefacts, fixtures and fittings) has an insurance valuation of £10,000,000. Apart from the ship itself, the value of the material in store and the cradle is assessed as £5,000,000. The total value of the gift is therefore £15,000,000.
4. Although the property of the charitable trust, the ship would be licensed to the MOD so that she can remain a commissioned warship and flagship of the Royal Navy. This allows for the development of a partnership between the Department and the voluntary sector for the support of this important element of British and naval history; and enables the sustainment of this iconic symbol of our history for the benefit of future generations.
5. The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, before 23 March, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.”