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Farron calls on Government to put ‘safety first’ for future of Search and Rescue

March 1, 2011 2:18 PM

TF ruralSpeaking in a debate this morning on the provision of helicopters for Search and Rescue Cumbrian MP, Tim Farron, called on the Government to retain 24 hour cover through Search and Rescue to ensure safety is always the highest priority in giving out new contracts for the service.

Search and Rescue provides a vital service for many people across the Lake District and which rescued hundreds of people during the flood that devastated West Cumbria in November 2009. However Search and Rescue has been in the spotlight recently after an investigation into the handling of the private finance initiative contract, led to the Government scrapping the PFI contract for Search and Rescue - Harmonisation (SAR-H).

This has meant that the Lake District's nearest base, RAF Boulmer in Northumberland, which was due to start receiving new helicopters in 2012 to replace the aging Sea Kings fleet through the SAR-H contract, will now face further uncertainty over the future of their helicopters.

Commenting after the debate Tim said: "To a certain extent I am relieved that the Search and Rescue - Harmonisation contract was cancelled as it included plans to reduce Search and Rescue's cover to just daylight hours which could hugely impact the safety of people in the Lake District who are reported missing when they do not return home in the evening."

"The cancelled contract is a great opportunity for the Government to seek alternative routes in for any new contracts while keeping safety as the top priority by ensuring that helicopters at RAF Boulmer are operational 24 hours a day."