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MP questions move of rescue base to Wales

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 03, 2013

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North Devon's MP has demanded to know why one of the search-and-rescue helicopter bases serving the South West will be relocated from its current Westcountry home to south Wales.

It was announced last week that Texas-based firm Bristow Helicopters would take over the operation of the search-and-rescue service in Britain, ending the RAF and Royal Navy's 70-year link.

The £1.6 billion privatisation deal will see helicopters withdrawn from RNAS Culdrose in Helston and RMB Chivenor, near Braunton, to move to new sites in Newquay and St Athan in south Wales.

But Sir Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat MP for north Devon, has asked minister Stephen Hammond at the Department for Transport (DfT) and Bristow for a detailed explanation of the decision.

He said: "I want to see the numbers. All the infrastructure exists at Chivenor and will have to be replaced, and moving the personnel to Wales will cost money. I want to see the details of how they have come to the view that moving the service makes financial sense.

"And in logistical and operational terms, I would also like a fuller explanation of why St Athan is believed to be a better base, when Chivenor has performed so well for so long.

"Of course the facility, wherever located, is to provide a regional and not a local service, but I have had people contacting me worried about longer response times in our locality."

There are currently two helicopters based at Chiverton, each manned by four crew and supported by other mechanical staff.

Once the contract changes hands in 2015, the existing personnel will be given the chance to apply for positions on the new service or be redeployed within the military.

A DfT spokeswoman said: "Bidders were able to put forward proposals to deliver search and rescue operations from alternative locations, provided they were close enough to existing bases to offer the same level of cover."

A Bristow spokesperson added: "We started with a clean sheet. A detailed analysis of the historical data has allowed us to select bases and helicopters specifically matched to the rescue requirements in the different geographical areas."

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  • josdave  |  April 03 2013, 11:12PM

    Typical reaction from a Lib Dem who supports the coalition until it does something that affects his area and then tries to get some credence by going against it. Nobody will believe the Lib Dems again on anything unless they break with the Tories, who are supposed to be their enemies if you believe their manifesto.

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  • toffer99  |  April 03 2013, 2:19PM

    You must know, Sir Nick, that it doesn't matter what "the numbers" are. Your party are in Government, and are therefore responsible. Here's the deal: 1. It is a Public Service, provided free. 2. All Public Services must go, and be replaced by private FOR PROFIT companies, subsidised by the taxpayer if necessary. (Think Railways) 3. Therefore SAR helicopters must go. This has been decided by the government that you are a part of. Don't bother asking questions of the Minister, he'll just brush you off with a few platitudes. If you're serious either resign the Libdem whip, or better still, get your party to withdraw from the Coalition that we didn't vote for.

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