Coastguard Service Debate: MP raises concerns over possible closures

Peter Aldous raises his concerns at the proposed closure of the Yarmouth and Thames maritime centres especially in light of increaed activity of the East Anglian coast including the building of 1,000 wind turbines.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hancock, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) for securing this debate. I will précis quickly what I was going to say. I pay tribute to the crew of the Lowestoft lifeboat, who received awards last week for the great bravery that they showed during a storm in 2009.

The coastguard needs to be reviewed. I have five concerns. The first relates specifically to the East Anglian coast and the proposed closure of the Yarmouth and Thames maritime centres. I am concerned about increased activity off the East Anglian coast, including the building of 1,000 wind turbines, continued dredging, renewed activity in the oil and gas sector and forthcoming construction work at Sizewell, as well as ship-to-ship transfers, increased shipping movement from Felixstowe and Yarmouth and more leisure activity on the broads, in the estuaries and along the coast. The current system has the advantage of close co-ordination with the helicopter rescue service at RAF Wattisham and ship service provided by Suffolk fire service. I therefore ask the Minister to review closely whether it is appropriate to close both stations.

My second point, which has already been made during this debate, is the importance of harnessing and retaining local knowledge. Members have spoken eloquently about it. I could speak about it as well, but the point has been well made.

Thirdly, I would welcome confirmation from the Minister that the review is a genuine effort to restructure and improve the service and that adequate Treasury funding has been secured to implement the proposals. It is vital that reorganisation is properly managed and resourced and that no effort or expense is spared to secure a successful transformation.

Fourthly, I understand that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution will make a single representation. I do not know what the RNLI's thoughts are, but I urge the Minister to give them full consideration, as the RNLI will play a vital role in implementing any change.

Finally, I have a slightly unusual request concerning flares, which must be disposed of safely if unused. I am advised that in East Anglia at present, the nearest disposal station is the Thames coastguard. If that is closed, will East Anglian seafarers have to travel to Dover or Humberside? If so, will the Minister consider the provision of a closer and more accessible disposal station?

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Peter holds regular surgeries at various locations in the constituency. Please call 01502 586568 to make an appointment.

Next Surgeries - 2018: 
Beccles, Saturday 7th July
Lowestoft, Wednesday 25th July



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