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Mr. Greg Knight: The hon. Gentleman is probably aware of the recent media programme that speculated about the cause of death of Glenn Miller, the wartime band leader, in which it was argued that his plane might well have been hit by unused bombs dropped by RAF planes on their return from raids on Germany. At the time of his death, Glenn Miller was serving in the armed forces, but my understanding is that the plane on which he was travelling was a civilian flight. Are the remains of Major Glenn Miller covered by the 1986 Act?
Mr. Dismore: My understanding is that they are not, first, because if the hon. Gentleman is correct the aircraft was a civilian aircraft and, secondly, because aircraft are not covered by the Act, which covers only vessels. In connection with previous amendments and just now, I made the point that aircraft are not protected. Perhaps we should at some stagenot todayconsider extending the legislation in that respect.
We have, regrettably, had news of the plunderingpresumably by treasure hunters and not by divers from the United Kingdomof the wrecks of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, two battleships that were torpedoed off Malaya in 1941. As technology advances, some sites will become increasingly vulnerable to misguided and ghoulish individuals who want to crawl all over the wrecks. I am grateful that the diving fraternity utterly condemns such activities and helps to police them to some extent.
Although no sites have yet been designated under the 1986 Act, the purpose of my amendment is to ask the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet to make it absolutely clear that nothing in the Bill would detract from the protections afforded by existing legislation to war graves beneath the seas.
Sir Sydney Chapman: I am sure that, like me, the House is extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for raising this important issue. I hope to be able to reassure him beyond any doubt.
I have concluded that his amendment is not necessary for one specific reason. The Protection of Military Remains Act covers maritime military graves and other military wrecks from conflicts dating from the start of the great warworld war one. Those remain the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence.
As the hon. Gentleman would expect, I have made inquiry of the Ministryand as he pointed out, no sites have been designated. That is a fair point, which adds power to what he has said. However, I understand from the Ministry that it is now drawing up a statutory instrument to designate 16 vessels as controlled sites within UK jurisdiction, plus five vessels in international waters that meet the criteria in the consultation
I am satisfied that the Ministry of Defence is moving now, however lax it may appear to have been to date. The material point is that once a vessel has been designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act it will be protected by that legislation and English Heritage will have no remit in respect of it.
The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that most of the 16 vessels intended to be designated as controlled sites within UK jurisdiction are not located in UK territorial waters adjacent to England, so they would be outside the scope of the Bill. Six are in Scottish waters, one is off Anglesey and four are in waters off the Falkland Islands. There are also five other vessels under consideration, all of which are in international waters.
Mr. Dismore: In his discussions with the Ministry of Defence, did the hon. Gentleman get the impression that we are trying to close the gate after the horse has bolted in thinking about protecting the Repulse and the Prince of Wales through designation?
Sir Sydney Chapman: The hon. Gentleman may be in a better position to do that than I am, as he sits on the Government side of the Chamber. All I can do is to pass the message on to the Ministry of Defence. Perhaps he and I could question the appropriate Minister.
Dr. Howells: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on having tabled some far-sighted amendments. However, it is important that we try to see the matter in a broad perspective. The sites that he has referred to are important, but we believe that his amendments to this Bill are not necessary.
As the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) said, once a vessel has been designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 it will be protected by that legislation and English Heritage will have no remit in respect of it. As the hon. Gentleman also informed us, the amendment is unnecessary, as most of the 16 vessels in UK jurisdiction due to be designated as controlled sites under the 1986 Act are located outside the UK territorial waters adjacent to England, and the 1986 Act applies only to vessels that sank after 4 August 1914.
Mr. Dismore: I am grateful for the explanations by my hon. Friend the Minister and by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman). The purpose of tabling the amendments was to air the issue, and I accept that it would not be appropriate for them to be pressed nowbut I hope that the Ministry of
'(1A) The Commission shall, before exercising its powers under subsections (1)(d) and (e) above, consult and thereafter take account of any representations made by the Government, or any equivalent body to the Commission, of the country concerned.'.
We are somewhat changing the subject now, and moving from international waters to international monuments. The Bill makes provision for the commission to produce books, films and souvenirs relating to monuments, buildings and so on overseas. I want to ensure that if we stray beyond our territorial waters to other countries, we do so in a way that will not offend anybody.
We should also have regard for the sensitivities of overseas countries. The Parthenon sculptures, for example, are a matter of great debate between Greece and ourselves. The sculptures are in the British museum, which produces an awful lot of material about them in the bookshop. There are two very different stories about how the Parthenon sculptures came to be in the United Kingdom. I shall not explore them now, although it is tempting. However, I share the Greeks' view, rather than the British Government's. If we produced plastic parthenons for sale in the British museum, the Greek Government might have something to say. They might also have something to say about the context and content of any books or literature produced.
Mr. Greg Knight: The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) is a powerful advocate. He has moved a number of amendments today, and has taken me with him on some of his arguments. However, he has needed all his powers of advocacy for amendment No. 22 because his case is weak. I am against what he is trying to achieve; he has not explained why we should put the commission under that duty.
The main issue is whether the commission should be able to trade. I have serious misgivings about allowing it to start trading and selling trinkets and would much prefer the Bill not to include such a provision. However, having accepted that that power is in the Bill, the commission must be allowed the discretion to produce items as it sees fit. For example, if it believes that there is a market at certain British sites for tacky replicas of the Empire State building, why should we have to consult the Americans about whether to go ahead with the proposal? The process would be cumbersome and unwieldy, and it would not work. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.