MPs urge rethink on Minch tug

Publishing the Government Response to its report on the Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group, the Transport Committee has repeated it concern about the minister’s decision to cut public funding for emergency tugs.

Commenting on this response, Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP said,

“We called on the Government to withdraw its proposals for the future of the Coastguard Service and to issue revised plans; it is positive that Ministers have done so.

In particular, it’s reassuring that Ministers have accepted our key recommendation to abandon any notion of ‘daylight hour’ coastguard stations. I am pleased these revised plans ensure all remaining stations will operate on a 24 hour basis - able to provide swift and expert assistance to people on local coastlines and in local waters, whatever the time of day or night.

Ministers have also accepted our concerns about the potential loss of local knowledge amongst coastguard officers that would have occurred under the initial proposals. Nevertheless, it will be important for the Government to demonstrate that the new plans properly address our concerns to sustain operational effectiveness at key points when swift information transfer is required in order to save lives.

It is regrettable that some coastguard stations will still close under these revised proposals. We called on the Government to hold a further short period of consultation if it issued new plans and I am pleased that this has been done. I hope the Government will continue listening.

I am very disappointed, however, that the Government still intends not to renew the contract for emergency towing vessels. These vessels protect our shores from pollution and we are not convinced that suitable commercial alternatives exist.

Similarly, I am very disappointed that the Maritime Incident Response Group, a partnership between the Government and coastal fire services to respond to incidents at sea which require fire-fighting, is not now being funded. In my view, key skills and expertise will be lost and lives put at risk because of this short-sighted decision.”