Row breaks out over coastguard cuts

Picture: Pierandrea Guarnieri

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COASTGUARDS facing cuts to their service have been told not to give evidence to a House of Commons select committee, its chairman has claimed.

In a letter to transport minister Mike Penning, transport committee chairman Louise Ellman said she was ‘extremely disappointed’ he had instructed regular coastguards not to co-operate with her enquiries.

The government is considering cutting the number of round-the-clock coastguard centres from 18 to three.

Under the plans, the coastguard station in Lee-on-the-Solent would shut and a new state-of-the-art Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) would be built in either Portsmouth or Southampton.

It would be one of just three in the UK operating 24 hours a day and will handle calls from around the country.

Mrs Ellman was hoping to ask coastguards about the proposals when her committee visits Falmouth coastguard station in Cornwall and the station at Stornoway off Scotland next week.

In her letter to Mr Penning she said: ‘Your decision is in stark contrast to your previous public statements on this matter and the assurances that you have given to me and other MPs.’

She added: ‘It is a very serious matter that coastguards are prevented from giving evidence in this way.

‘I will be discussing this situation with the committee and will be raising it with the minister when he appears before the committee on May 24.’

To view the government’s plans in full visit