‘Cuts could put lives at risk’

GOVERNMENT proposals to cut the number of round-the-clock coastguard centres could put lives at risk, a union leader told MPs.

Proposals to cut the number of centres open 24-hours-a-day will be reduced from 18 to just three, with the centre that serves Hartlepool and east Durham under threat.

The Government is planning to close the centres out of daylight hours, including the Humber Coastguard centre that covers the coast from the Borders down to Lincolnshire.

The plans, that will only see round-the-clock cover from centres in at Aberdeen, in the Southampton/Portsmouth area and at Dover, have already been slammed by town fisherman Phil Walsh who said it could cost lives.

Now the proposals have been attacked by Steve Quinn, president of the coastguard section of the Public and Commercial Services Union, who told the House of Commons Transport Committee: “Cuts of this magnitude can only lead to putting people’s lives at risk.”

Under the Government proposals, in addition to the 24-hour centres, there will be five sub-centres open during daylight hours – at Swansea, Falmouth in Cornwall, Bridlington in East Yorkshire, at either Belfast or Liverpool and at either Stornoway or Shetland.

Mr Quinn told the committee he could see “no real benefit” in the cuts.

Allan Graveson, senior national secretary of the seafarers’ union Nautilus, also told the MPs: “Change to the system should not mean wholesale, or what appears to be random, cuts.

“New technology is no substitute for sufficiently-qualified personnel.”

Steve Todd, national secretary of the RMT transport union, said the cuts were “far too much”.

In written evidence to the committee, the Chamber of Shipping said the proposed closures “raised a number of concerns”.

It added that it did not believe the concepts of “peak and off-peak” hours were fully applicable to shipping.