Asterisks in the written evidence denote
that part of the memorandum has not been reported, at the request
of the Ministry of Defence and with the agreement of the Committee
Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence
concerning the UK's efforts to assist the Russian submarine Kursk
(29 September 2000)
You will recall the events surrounding the loss
of the Russian submarine Kursk and the UK's efforts to assist
in the rescue operation you will wish to be aware that, in responding
to the Russian request for assistance two non-statutory contingent
liabilities were created.
It is normal practice, when a Government Department
proposes to undertake a contingent liability in excess of £100,000
for which there is no specific statutory authority, for the department
concerned to present to Parliament a Minute giving particulars
of the liability created and explaining the circumstances; and
to refrain from incurring the liability until 14 days (exclusive
of Saturdays and Sundays) after the issue of the Minute, except
in cases of special urgency.
For the reasons explained below, it was not
possible to provide the necessary advance notification to Parliament.
Also, the issue of these indemnities is a matter of commercial
confidentiality between the owners of the Normand Pioneer and
the Ministry of Defence. In view of this I am unable to present
a Minute to Parliament on this matter. However, I thought you
would welcome some details about the indemnities and circumstances
in which they were granted.
On 16 August 2000, in circumstances of extreme
urgency, the Ministry of Defence gave indemnities against nuclear
contamination risk and the risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The Department received two separate requests
Because of the extreme urgency of the situation
it was not possible to obtain prior approval in principle from
the Treasury in accordance with normal procedures. However, the
Treasury has since been informed and has accepted the Department's
decision. If the liability is called, provision for any payment
would be sought through the normal supply procedure.
I am also sending the same letter to the Chairman
of the Public Accounts Committee.