Lee-on-the-Solent coastguard helicopter base will stay open

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK's newest aircraft carrier, as the ship arrives in Portsmouth Picture: POPHOT Ian Simpson/Royal Navy/PA Wire

‘A symbol of maritime might in the navy for the next 50 years’

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PLANS to keep the south’s search and rescue helicopter going have been announced by the government.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s contract is set to expire for its helicopter at HMS Daedalus, in Lee-on-the-Solent, soon.

But the Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, has said his department will run a competition to keep an interim service at the base for up to five years.

He said: ‘The contract will be open to all interested bidders able to offer a service that fully meets our requirements and ensures the safety of the public and seafarers.’

The future of the search and rescue helicopter was thrown into doubt after a £6bn procurement programme was halted by the government in February.

The preferred bidder had admitted having access to commercially-sensitive information during the bidding process.

An announcement on the government’s long-term intentions for how the search and rescue helicopters will run is expected later in the year.