Sefton Central Labour MP calls debate in Parliament on scrapping

Bill Esterson with PCS coastguard union rep Paul Kirby at the Crosby Coastguard Station


Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has called an historic debate on Tory-Lib Dem plans to close Crosby Coastguard Station - with the support of nine Parliamentary parties.

Bill has called for the debate for next Thursday afternoon (March 17) in the main chamber in the House of Commons.

It is one of the few times a debate has received the backing of such a large number of political parties in the Commons which includes all three main parties, as well as the regional parties including those from Northern Ireland.

Bill said: "The level of support I have received for this debate just shows what level of opposition there is to these ludicrous proposals.

"As we know, the proposals will see the number of coastguard stations from around the British isles slashed.

"All parties see this as gambling with people's lives. that is why we are seeing the biggest cross-party campaign in the history of Parliament.

"Even Crosby's biggest competitor, Belfast, recognise the concerns over effectively covering the waters around Liverpool without having the key local knowledge.

I want to see the findings of the risk assessment into the impact of these closures. What dangers are there of us losing lives for the sake of saving money? I can guess that risk is considerable. These are all issues which we will discuss during the debate."

The House of Commons debate comes just days after Thursday evening public consultation meeting which was held in Southport.

More than 200 people got the chance to quiz a Maritime Coastguard Agency representative on the proposals.

A vote amongst the audience revealed that everyone who attended the meeting opposed the proposals.

Bill said: "There was a lot of new information which was released during the public consultation meeting in Southport on Thursday evening.

"But the key issue remains - there is no substitute for local knowledge. Having all the staff in one centre, wherever that centre may be, means that you have people who don't have the local geographical knowledge making ill-informed decisions which could cost lives.

"The government's proposal to counter that problem is that staff would receive training. But you can't teach in a matter of weeks or even months the level of local expertise that the staff on the ground have spent a career building up.

"Even if these proposals are workable, it will take many years before staff working in say Southampton will have the equivalent knowledge as the people currently working in Crosby.

"You can't replace decades of expertise with a few weeks' or even months' training. People don't learn like that and that's exactly what is part of the proposal.

"Concerns have been raised for people out fishing or sailing who are not likely to have hi-tech equipment on board. This was an issue which was flagged up by the commodore of Blundellsands Sailing Club. He told the meeting about a time when he was out and needed assistance and the only landmark he could pinpoint was the gantry at the airport. People who don't have the local knowledge would not be able use that information.

"The government is playing with people's lives in trying to rush through more of their slash and burn cuts. They are not thinking about the danger this will cause.

"Any savings that are made will be eradicated by one major incident or one loss of life. And that is too great a danger to even risk."

Bill has received a letter from the Transport Committee chairman Louise Ellman who is also concerned about the proposals. In the letter, she confirms that the committee has announced an enquiry into the government’s coastguard proposals as well as future arrangements for emergency towing vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group.

Bill added: “I and the Labour Party will continue to oppose any cuts and I will do everything in my power to make the government realise they are cutting too far and they are gambling with people's lives.

"That is why I have submitted a question to the Transport Secretary asking if he will carry out a risk assessment of his proposals for the re-organisation of the Marine and Coastguard Agency. I should receive an oral answer tomorrow (March 10)."

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