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Search and Rescue Operations

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2006

10. What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the future of search and rescue operations in Wales. (81357)

Search and rescue provision in the UK is continuously reviewed by the UK search and rescue strategic committee and its associated working groups. No changes to the level of service are currently planned to the helicopter search and rescue service in Wales, operated by the Ministry of Defence and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. He will be aware of the excellent work that is done by the search and rescue community in Wales and the contribution of Squadron 22 that is based at RAF Valley. He will be further aware that the headquarters of SAR is to be moved to Valley in the coming year. There are concerns about the harmonisation that is planned by the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Transport. Owing to financial savings involving the private finance initiative, that could undermine the operations and deployments in place. Can the Minister give assurances that that will not be the case? Will he press the MOD and the Department for Transport for those assurances?

I can give my hon. Friend that reassurance. Rigorous assessment of options by the joint MOD-Marine and Coastguard Agency procurement team led to a recommendation of harmonisation under a private finance initiative. The MOD and the MCA will continue jointly to manage and task the service, and will retain a high proportion of military aircrews. There will be no reductions in the service provision of search and rescue helicopters. The Government are committed to delivering a future service that is at least as effective as the present one. I hope that my hon. Friend is reassured.


The Prime Minister was asked—