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Written Statements

Tuesday 6 March 2012

HMS "Victory"

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans (Andrew Robathan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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

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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 million. Apart from the ship itself, the value of the material in store and the cradle is assessed as £5 million. The total value of the gift is therefore £15 million.

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.

Office of Tax Simplification

Statement

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (David Gauke) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government launched the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) in July 2010 to provide independent advice on simplifying the tax system.

The OTS has today published an interim report on its review into pensioner taxation and the final report on the review of approved (tax advantaged) employee share schemes, both commissioned by the Government on 5 July 2011.

The Government asked the OTS to carry out a two stage review of pensioner taxation. In this first stage of the review the OTS has identified and examined at a high level those parts of the tax system which cause the most complexity for pensioners. The OTS will analyse these areas in more depth before formulating recommendations in the second stage of its review.

The Government also asked the OTS to carry out a two stage review of employee share schemes. The first stage of the review looked at the four tax-advantaged schemes. The OTS was asked to evaluate the four

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schemes, identifying where they create complexities and disproportionate administrative burdens for scheme users, and examining areas where the schemes could be simplified. The OTS will look at the simplification of unapproved schemes in the second stage of its review.

Electronic copies of both reports have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The Government will respond to the OTS reports in the Budget, on 21 March 2012.



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Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill [HL]

Statement

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): I have made a Statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the Statement has been placed in the Library of the House.


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