Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


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 (PTSD)

  The Department received two separate requests for indemnities.

  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.

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