MP concern at Liverpool Coastguard base closure plans

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MCA operations room
Image caption,
Ten operations centres would shut under the proposals

MPs from across the political divide have questioned government plans to close Liverpool Coastguard station.

Under the shake-up, the station on Hall Road, Crosby, would be one of 10 round-the-clock Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) centres to shut.

Three would remain open around the UK and five others would only operate during daylight hours.

Paul Maynard, the Conservative MP for Blackpool and Cleveleys, said UK-wide stations would lack local knowledge.

The proposals, which are currently subject to consultation, were examined by MPs on the House of Commons Transport Committee on Tuesday.

MCA chief executive, Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Massey, told MPs that the reorganisation would lead to "a better distribution of the workload".

'Call centre operation'

"Coastguards have put their hands up and said we need to change," he said.

"They are working in a structure that is fundamentally inefficient.

"Hearing from my own coastguards that the system needs to be modernised - I find that encouraging, although I expect there will be quite a lot of critical response to the plans."

Image caption,
The government believes the changes will "strengthen the coastguard service"

John Leech, the Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, said plans to have two national networked operations centres - in Aberdeen and the south coast of England - amounted to a "call centre-style operation".

Liverpool Coastguard is responsible for co-ordinating rescues off the coast of Blackpool and its MP Mr Maynard said he was worried by the plans.

He asked Sir Alan if he believed that "somebody in a office in either Aberdeen or Southampton will have sufficient local knowledge that if that individual [requiring a rescue] were to describe what they could see, then they will be able to locate that person?"

He added: "Are you seriously telling me that that is still the case?"

Sir Alan replied: "Can I guarantee? The answer is no? If I could guarantee that would be fantastic.

"But let me just put it into a more relative context. At the moment Stornoway coastguard looks after over 1,000 miles of coastline and I defy anybody to say that somebody coming ashore in a kayak in some very remote place would be able to describe his position."

The committee's chairman, Labour's Louise Ellman - MP for Liverpool Riverside - said the plans had led "to a great deal of consternation" and concern at the loss of centres in Liverpool and Falmouth in Cornwall.

"I think he'll find that Liverpool was added at a fairly late stage and it rather looks like a last-minute thought to put something down perhaps without meaning it. Am I wrong?"

Sir Alan said the closure of Liverpool was "put back in as an option" just before the consultation document was finalised.