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Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009


Tuesday 3 February 2009


Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor


The Petition of Emma and Alexander Pheby (parents of Xanthe Pheby, stillborn on 4 April 2007),

Declares that every one in two hundred pregnancies in the United Kingdom end in stillbirth (around 3,600 children a year) and yet in over half of these cases a cause for the baby’s death is not established. There is currently very little funding for research into unexplained stillbirth;

Notes that in the 1980s important research was carried out into sudden infant death syndrome (otherwise known as SIDS or cot death) which in turn led in 1991 to a public health campaign and the numbers of cot deaths were dramatically cut;

Further declares that it is time for the United Kingdom Government to fund additional epidemiological studies and new scientific research to identify risk factors, causes and prevention strategies for unexplained stillbirths so that the country’s high rates can be reduced.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government of the United Kingdom to put more resources into research in this area.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Charles Clarke .]




Coastguard Services (Devon)

The Petition of residents of Hope Cove and the surrounding area,

Declares that the Hope Cove Coastguard lifeboat should be reinstated immediately; further declares that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency should recognise that it is an auxiliary and additional rescue cover to the RNLI lifeboat at Salcombe for one of the most dangerous parts of the South Devon coastline.

Further declares that the inshore Hope Cove lifeboat has been in operation since 1890 and has saved 213 lives alone since 2000, and can be launched within minutes.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that tourists and yachtsmen visiting Hope Cove beaches and the Thurlestone area are adequately protected by way of sea rescue from Hope Cove in the event of an emergency.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Anthony Steen, Official Report, 14 January 2009; Vol. 486, c. 314 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) boat at Hope Cove is classified as an additional resource in support of the primary rescue assets in that area. It is not a lifeboat.

Checks in June 2008 showed that the boat was not safe for use by members of the voluntary Coastguard Rescue Service and it was a danger to members of the public. As a result the MCA decided that the boat could no longer be used for coastguard purposes. Following some repairs of deficiencies locally, the MCA agreed to the boat returning to service under restricted conditions in terms of weather and the distance from shore that the boat could operate. The weather restriction meant that the boat was again stood down from being used from 1 November 2008.

As part of the Government’s responsibility to deliver search and rescue (SAR) provision around the UK coast, experts in Her Majesty’s Coastguard, with many years practical experience of co-ordinating responses to maritime incidents, have been conducting detailed reviews of the SAR needs for a number of areas including the southern part of the south-west peninsula. These reviews have looked at the maritime risks presented by trends, incident types, geography and weather conditions for each area. They have then explored the SAR requirements for each area and have considered what SAR assets are (or should be) available to address those maritime risks. Where a residual risk has been identified, the reviews consider what additional assets would best address the gap and how those assets might be made available. In some cases, the reviews have concluded that SAR cover in particular areas could be better delivered by a different configuration of assets from those currently provided.

Ensuring appropriate SAR provision is of the highest importance not only in meeting our national and international obligations, but also for the individual local communities served. The UK Search and Rescue Strategic Committee and its Operators Group will be asked to provide an independent evaluation of the reviews conducted by the MCA. This Committee is an inter-agency national forum, with responsibility for advising Ministers on the structure, scope and framework of the organisation of UK SAR. The Committee’s expert views will be reflected in the final package of recommendations that will result from this review process, which will then be consulted on locally. It is hoped to conclude this procedure in February and the local consultations on the recommendations will begin soon after that.