On Air Now
Early Breakfast with Jenni Falconer 4am - 6:30am
Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset, has been invited to give evidence to the inquiry into the proposed closure of the Portland helicopter by the Commons Transport Select Committee on Monday, November 5th.
In an unusual development, they've requested Drax's appearance after he submitted a report in response to the Committee's request for written evidence on changes to the coastguard service in September.
The Select Committee was particularly interested in how changes to the coastguard service were being implemented and their potential impact on the search and rescue service. Drax's report, concluded that cutting the Portland helicopter was an act of 'sheer folly'.
"It is good news that the Transport Select Committee are calling witnesses," says Drax, "And I hope that this means that they are taking a critical approach to a decision which could adversely affect the lives of all of those who live on, work on or visit the South Coast.
"This is not just a constituency matter, nor is it solely a Dorset matter. We have 16m visitors a year. They come from all over the country, indeed the world, to enjoy our coastline. It is important that they are able to enjoy it safely. And there is no doubt that if the Portland helicopter goes, safety will be compromised.
"I have already spoken at length about the longer times alternate helicopters will take to arrive at incidents. Longer times over greater distances mean less chance of a successful outcome.
"And this, to save what the DfT agrees is a mere £5m to £7m a year. Just three lives saved would pay for the helicopter.
"The Portland helicopter has more than proved its value. As a 12 hour station, it carries out the same number of taskings as its sister station at Solent, which is open 24 hours a day.
"There can be no sensible rationale for pursuing this destructive and ultimately dangerous proposal.
"I will do what I can but I hope that the Committee will call those who are intimately involved with the operation of the SAR service. Sadly, I am concerned that they will be reluctant witnesses because many I have spoken to fear losing their jobs. This cannot be right when such an important decision is being made and vital information is needed in order to make it."
Drax says he's keen to emphasise that saving the Portland helicopter is not a political matter.
"This is something that has brought together people of all political persuasions because in the end, we all want the same thing.
"For that reason I would urge everyone to sign the Government online e-petition at
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36619 because that is the one which the Government is bound to respond to, if it tops 100,000 signatures.
"Our ultimate aim is to save the helicopter. A debate in the chamber would be an important step in this direction."