Bill Esterson continues his fightfor a full debate on the future

Bill Esterson

The Department for Transport is coming under further pressure with the release of a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Mike Penning MP to the Chair of the Transport Select Committee in which he gags coastguards from speaking to the Select Committee.

Coastguards have subsequently expressed fears that they could face consequences for having made public submissions to the review after the letter raises the suggestion that they may be in breach of their ‘terms and conditions of employment’.

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson, who represents Crosby Coastguard Station has opposed the Government's plans.  

He said: “The Transport Select Committee is holding an enquiry into the future of the Marine and Coastguard Agency and has asked for submissions from serving coastguards. Many staff have written to the committee and some were due to appear as witnesses at a session of the committee.

"The Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Transport had given an assurance to members that coastguard staff would be permitted to give evidence. Last week, the minister announced that serving coastguard would not after all be permitted to give evidence to the enquiry. He stated that staff would be permitted to meet committee members privately but this is not the same as evidence collected on the record.

"There is very real concern among members about the impact on the select committee and on its ability to carry out its enquiry in full. The concern includes the change of heart about evidence and the implication of the minister potentially intervening in the committee’s enquiry”.

Bill will be calling for a further debate in parliament and will be pressing the minister to explain why he has intervened in the matters of the select committee.

Under the Government’s plan, 10 of the UK’s 18 round-the-clock coastguards will close while there is another five daylight-only stations - in which Crosby is up against Belfast.

Bill Esterson said the government was in chaos after it called for a second consultation exercise before making its final decision on whether Crosby will close.

Bill said: "The government should once and for all end the speculation over the future of the Crosby station and admit it made a mistake in even considering closing it.

"This whole process has been farcical from start to finish.

"So we are seeing yet another consultation period, but this time it is very concerning that coastguards are being gagged. How can they seriously make an informed decision without allowing the local experts to have their say?"

 

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