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Helicopter Search and Rescue

Volume 750: debated on Thursday 16 May 2024

10. What recent discussions he has had with helicopter search and rescue operators on the adequacy of response times. (902846)

The right hon. Member will be aware that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is conducting an analysis of recent incident data to examine whether the demand for the search and rescue helicopter service has changed since the launch of the UK’s second generation search and rescue aviation procurement. It is expected to be published by the end of 2024. I have had no recent discussions on this point, as the review is ongoing.

I thank the Minister for his answer—he seems to be aware of the situation—but a new threat to search and rescue response times is emerging, namely the poor and deteriorating industrial relations between Bristow’s management and its staff. As we speak, members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association who work in SAR cohort 2 are on strike, having been driven to it by a management who are playing negotiating hardball on salary and on terms and conditions. Will the Minister call in the management and make it clear to them that, as the customer, the Government expect them to treat their search and rescue staff with the respect and consideration that their skill and bravery deserve?

I know how important search and rescue services are in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and he has been a great champion for them. Good industrial relations are clearly vital to ensuring that they operate effectively, and I am sure that the MCA will keep that in mind during its review. I should add that just this morning, I agreed to meet the management of Bristow.