Helicopter service must not suffer

SIR - I understand the Government is close to announcing the results of the contract to run the Country s Search-and-Rescue Service. This �5billion project will replace the Sea King helicopters and dispense with the majority of RAF and Navy staff. It is u

SIR - I understand the Government is close to announcing the results of the contract to run the Country's Search-and-Rescue Service.

This �5billion project will replace the Sea King helicopters and dispense with the majority of RAF and Navy staff.

It is understood that two bids have been received - one from Soteria (the French defence company, Thales, Royal Bank of Scotland and CHC, the helicopter operator and also AirKnight (representing the VT Group, American Lockheed Martin and British International Helicopters).

It is suggested that the aircraft fleet falls by between 25 and 30 because of the arguments of speed and lower maintenance.


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When the preferred bidder is chosen, the Government plans for contracts to be in place for the change to be effective in 2012 but in terms of our cover here in North Devon, the question has to be asked - how long has our elected Member known of this plan and the likely reduction in the cover provided at present by Chivenor and what representations were made at the earliest possible stages? In the meantime, we should continue to protest at any threat to this valuable cover.

Over the years, the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Coastguard have built a phenomenal reputation for saving lives. The future provision of quality Search and Rescue is uppermost in all our minds, regardless of how the service is provided.

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The Conservative Aviation and Shipping Spokesman, Julian Brazier, has visited the Department for a full briefing on the proposals from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, as well as visiting Coastguard operations and the RNLI and holding discussions with other interested parties to ensure there is no compromise of safety with future services.

The people of the South West have a right to know that however these services are provided in the future, they will have the same degree of protection they have come to enjoy.

Philip J Milton

Prospective Member of Parliament

for North Devon

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