The Transport Committee publishes a letter to the Secretary of State about the Government's current procurement exercise for a new, unified search and rescue helicopter service.
Expressing surprise and disappointment at failure to consult public about closure of two bases, the Committee urges the Government to consult the public about its decision to close helicopter bases at RAF Boulmer and Portland. This follows concerns that the closure of these bases may lead to slower response times and increased fatalities in the areas affected.
Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP said:
"People rightly expect that the Government will listen to their views and concerns, taking them into account before major decisions are reached. This has not happened with the planned closure of the helicopter bases at RAF Boulmer and Portland, despite compelling arguments that these closures may cost lives. It is not too late for the Government to consult and, if necessary, to change their proposals before the new contract is let."
The Committee also asks a number of questions about the specification of the new search and rescue helicopter contract; the key user requirements taken into account when specifying the contract; the usage of the Portland helicopter; and modelling of the effect on response times of closing the Portland base.
More information on the DfT's procurement exercise can be found here:
The Committee's letter follows up concerns raised by Richard Drax MP and Dr Ian Mew of Dorset County Hospital. Their memoranda to the Committee can be found here:
The Committee intends to publish the Secretary of State's reply in due course and at that point decide whether to carry out further work in this area.