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Clyde Coastguard Station

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 22 June 2011

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on the Clyde coastguard station in Greenock. (60313)

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on a range of issues of mutual interest, including the future of Scottish coastguard stations.

May I pay tribute to David Cairns, who had been campaigning to save the Clyde coastguard station before his tragic early death? The waters around Argyll and Bute, with all its islands, peninsulas and sea lochs, present a unique challenge to seafarers. If the Clyde coastguard station is closed, however, all the valuable local knowledge of the area held by the people who work there will be lost. Will the Minister draw that to the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport and urge him to keep Clyde coastguard station open?

It is appropriate that there is mention of David Cairns, who gave distinguished service as a Scotland Office Minister, at this first Scottish questions since his tragic death. I assure my hon. Friend that his points will have been heard, as they were in the recent Westminster Hall debate in which he took part. The Department for Transport will make no announcement on the future of coastguard stations until the Transport Committee has reported.

I associate myself with the comments that have been made about David Cairns.

As the Minister will know, concern is sometimes expressed in Scotland about what he actually does. In a spirit of co-operation, may I offer him an opportunity to allay that concern by expressing, in clear and unambiguous terms, his opposition to the disastrous plans of the Department for Transport to close the coastguard centre in Greenock? Will he stand up for Scotland in that regard?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Scotland Office always makes the case for Scotland, and for facilities and resources in Scotland. I welcome the approach of my colleagues in the Department for Transport, who say that they will listen to all representations following their consultation and await the report of the Select Committee on Transport.

Clyde coastguard is important to the west coast of Scotland. As one who represents a west coast constituency, I believe that we have already suffered from the loss of Oban coastguard a decade or so ago. Does the Minister agree that—as the doughty fighter Anne McLaughlin is always reminding me—we need Stornoway, Shetland and Clyde coastguards on the west coast as a maritime insurance policy?

I would characterise the hon. Gentleman himself as a doughty fighter for the station in Stornoway. He has made significant representations, and they have been heard. My colleagues in the Department for Transport will announce their conclusion after the Select Committee has delivered its report.