Richard Drax calls on PM to 'intervene personally' in Portland helicopter fight

Bournemouth Echo: South Dorset MP Richard Drax South Dorset MP Richard Drax

SOUTH Dorset MP Richard Drax called on the Prime Minister to ‘intervene personally’ in the fight to save Portland Coastguard helicopter.

Mr Drax asked a question during Prime Minister’s Questions at noon today. 

Speaking before the House of Commons he said: “I’m sure the Prime Minister will join me in praising all those that work in the search and rescue service and I ask the Prime Minister to intervene personally in our battle to save the Portland search and rescue helicopter.

“And ask his minister to come down to Dorset and listen to those that work in this life-saving service - before it is cut.

“Repeated requests have so far been ignored, and I would have thought a visit would be at the least courteous and wise.”

David Cameron paid tribute to search and rescue crews and said he was sure that ministers would ‘listen carefully’ to what Mr Drax had said, but he gave no indication if a minister would go to Dorset.

He said: “The former transport Secretary of State and other ministers from the department have met with My Honourable Friend and I am sure they would have listened very carefully to what he said.

“As well as paying tribute to the coastguard it is a good opportunity to pay tribute to the search and rescue services across the country.

“Our reforms are aimed to improve average response times by 20 per cent – that is why we are going ahead with these reforms.

“But I’m sure the ministers will listen very carefully to what he has said.”

The Portland helicopter faces the axe in 2017 over budget cuts and a campaign including an online epetition and a paper petition are currently on-going to try and save the service.
If the petition gets 100,000 signatures then it is likely to spark a debate on the issue in the House of Commons.

The Portland coastguard Maritime Rescue and Co-ordination Centre on Weymouth harbourside is also under threat due to a restructuring of the coastguard aimed at modernising the service.
Mr Drax said that he was disappointed with the response from David Cameron as he had not replied to his request.

Mr Drax said: “It wasn’t - ‘of course we will help you’ – nothing of the sort.”
But Mr Drax said he would not be deterred and would continue to fight to save the helicopter and fight to get members of the government’s transport department to come down to Dorset to discuss the issues and concerns with life-savers.

He said: “I shall follow up my question with a letter to the minister and invite him to come down to Dorset.”
To sign the online petition visit epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36619.

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Comments (11)

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2:51pm Wed 30 Jan 13

Bob Goulding says...

How can cutting search and rescue services possibly "improve average response times by 20 per cent"?

How often will the 'average response time' (whatever that is) be just too late to save a life?

Reforms should be aimed at saving more lives not improving meaningless statistics.
How can cutting search and rescue services possibly "improve average response times by 20 per cent"? How often will the 'average response time' (whatever that is) be just too late to save a life? Reforms should be aimed at saving more lives not improving meaningless statistics. Bob Goulding

5:11pm Wed 30 Jan 13

ViewPoyntz says...

New helicopters will be faster.
New helicopters will be faster. ViewPoyntz

5:40pm Wed 30 Jan 13

Bob Goulding says...

ViewPoyntz wrote:
New helicopters will be faster.
They would have to fly close to light speed to be quicker than the Portland helicopter if called to an incident in this area (assuming they are not committed elsewhere). A slight exaggeration I admit but it does not take a genius to work out that the further the rescue vehicle has to travel the longer it will take to respond and that might be just too long. What would you suggest is a reasonable response time then ask yourself the same question if it was your life or that of a family member that was in the balance? Average response times are meaningless in life or death situations. If faster helicopters are affordable then why not replace the whole fleet and save even more lives?
[quote][p][bold]ViewPoyntz[/bold] wrote: New helicopters will be faster.[/p][/quote]They would have to fly close to light speed to be quicker than the Portland helicopter if called to an incident in this area (assuming they are not committed elsewhere). A slight exaggeration I admit but it does not take a genius to work out that the further the rescue vehicle has to travel the longer it will take to respond and that might be just too long. What would you suggest is a reasonable response time then ask yourself the same question if it was your life or that of a family member that was in the balance? Average response times are meaningless in life or death situations. If faster helicopters are affordable then why not replace the whole fleet and save even more lives? Bob Goulding

7:24pm Wed 30 Jan 13

Is it me or is everything rubbish? says...

I would put money on the helicopter staying.

Politically, it is a win win situation.

Drax gets kudos for "fighting for the area" and helping to save a much needed resource.

The Government gets kudos for "listening to the people".

Everyone looks good and we all live happily ever after.
I would put money on the helicopter staying. Politically, it is a win win situation. Drax gets kudos for "fighting for the area" and helping to save a much needed resource. The Government gets kudos for "listening to the people". Everyone looks good and we all live happily ever after. Is it me or is everything rubbish?

7:34pm Wed 30 Jan 13

JACKC says...

The Tories don't listen to Joe Public anyway. They have already decided what will happen and no amount of petitioning will change this. The party is not for turning. Let's hope they get voted out next election, before everything is closed, run down or ruined beyond recognition.
The Tories don't listen to Joe Public anyway. They have already decided what will happen and no amount of petitioning will change this. The party is not for turning. Let's hope they get voted out next election, before everything is closed, run down or ruined beyond recognition. JACKC

8:24pm Wed 30 Jan 13

Bob Goulding says...

JACKC wrote:
The Tories don't listen to Joe Public anyway. They have already decided what will happen and no amount of petitioning will change this. The party is not for turning. Let's hope they get voted out next election, before everything is closed, run down or ruined beyond recognition.
Perhaps "Is it me or is everything rubbish" and "JACKC" should give some time to address the real issue rather than taking cheap shots at our elected representatives. I don't agree with current Government policy in this instance and neither does Mr Drax. He is doing his job, representing our opinions and our concerns (yes, he does listen), and I wish him well and hope he is successful. If you are unhappy about the poor state of our 'town' then you should look elsewhere to apportion blame. It is the result of poor local governance (of whatever persuasion) over decades.
[quote][p][bold]JACKC[/bold] wrote: The Tories don't listen to Joe Public anyway. They have already decided what will happen and no amount of petitioning will change this. The party is not for turning. Let's hope they get voted out next election, before everything is closed, run down or ruined beyond recognition.[/p][/quote]Perhaps "Is it me or is everything rubbish" and "JACKC" should give some time to address the real issue rather than taking cheap shots at our elected representatives. I don't agree with current Government policy in this instance and neither does Mr Drax. He is doing his job, representing our opinions and our concerns (yes, he does listen), and I wish him well and hope he is successful. If you are unhappy about the poor state of our 'town' then you should look elsewhere to apportion blame. It is the result of poor local governance (of whatever persuasion) over decades. Bob Goulding

1:27am Thu 31 Jan 13

Houdini says...

OK, let's explain again Mr Cameron. The coastline and surrounding areas of Devon Somerset and Dorset will be without a Search and Rescue helicopter and coordination base if the Portland and Brixham Coastguard are closed. By any thinking persons reckoning, that would put the entire area under the responsibility of the bases at Penzance and the Solent, Response times therefore would be dramatically increased, with the added complication of the fact that if either of these is responding to a call, would be disastrous to say the least.
According to our dear Prime Minister, response times will be reduced by 20%. I cannot believe his ludicrous statement.
Only yesterday, the Portland SAR attended a search in Torbay and has in the last few months been on missions to the Bristol, Devon and Hampshire area's, as well as it's home patch.
I salute our excellent local Coastguard and their contribution to our area being classified as one of the recommended destinations.around the world, let's keep it that way, please sign the e-petition in this article.
OK, let's explain again Mr Cameron. The coastline and surrounding areas of Devon Somerset and Dorset will be without a Search and Rescue helicopter and coordination base if the Portland and Brixham Coastguard are closed. By any thinking persons reckoning, that would put the entire area under the responsibility of the bases at Penzance and the Solent, Response times therefore would be dramatically increased, with the added complication of the fact that if either of these is responding to a call, would be disastrous to say the least. According to our dear Prime Minister, response times will be reduced by 20%. I cannot believe his ludicrous statement. Only yesterday, the Portland SAR attended a search in Torbay and has in the last few months been on missions to the Bristol, Devon and Hampshire area's, as well as it's home patch. I salute our excellent local Coastguard and their contribution to our area being classified as one of the recommended destinations.around the world, let's keep it that way, please sign the e-petition in this article. Houdini

12:42pm Thu 31 Jan 13

Bob Goulding says...

I am very concerned that, in a rush of enthusiasm to use new website 'technology' The Echo could derail our attempts to put pressure on the Government to reverse its decision to cut search and rescue and coastguard services.

The mini survey running along side this report, if taken out of context, could suggest that there is a majority who are in favour of the cuts. I can't believe that this is true.

At the time of writing the results were:

What do you think of the Prime Minister's response?

Adequate: 52%
Acceptable: 27%
Unacceptable: 10%
He could do more: 11%

The obvious missing element is the number of votes cast... 52% of a hand-full is about 2.5 which is hardly statistically significant and is not likely to be representative of the wider universe.

Please please Echo, do not report on this without very careful consideration of the possible ramifications. There is a very real danger that you could inadvertently undermine the efforts of those who are campaigning to save these services which would not be at all popular with a great many of your readers.
I am very concerned that, in a rush of enthusiasm to use new website 'technology' The Echo could derail our attempts to put pressure on the Government to reverse its decision to cut search and rescue and coastguard services. The mini survey running along side this report, if taken out of context, could suggest that there is a majority who are in favour of the cuts. I can't believe that this is true. At the time of writing the results were: What do you think of the Prime Minister's response? Adequate: 52% Acceptable: 27% Unacceptable: 10% He could do more: 11% The obvious missing element is the number of votes cast... 52% of a hand-full is about 2.5 which is hardly statistically significant and is not likely to be representative of the wider universe. Please please Echo, do not report on this without very careful consideration of the possible ramifications. There is a very real danger that you could inadvertently undermine the efforts of those who are campaigning to save these services which would not be at all popular with a great many of your readers. Bob Goulding

1:24pm Thu 31 Jan 13

Houdini says...

Well said Bob.
Well said Bob. Houdini

3:25pm Thu 31 Jan 13

Bob Goulding says...

Hi Houdini,

Just had a horrible thought. Does anyone in the Echo editorial department read these posts? If not we may have to take a more direct approach before it's too late.
Hi Houdini, Just had a horrible thought. Does anyone in the Echo editorial department read these posts? If not we may have to take a more direct approach before it's too late. Bob Goulding

4:56pm Thu 31 Jan 13

Houdini says...

I'm sure they check. I wanted to 'vote' but mini survey was closed already. It would be better to give it longer than just 24 hours to run. So far 65,000 people have signed both the official paper and e-petition that the various local campaign groups have been promoting.

Go to Save Our Helicopter facebook page and follow what one of these groups is doing. There are meetings and web discussions about the current position. Almost everyone wants to retain the local Coastguard service, the local economy depends on there being a provision to make the area a viable holiday destination. Take away the safety net and we become less attractive to holiday makers, ferry operators, cruise ships, divers, coastline activities, small boat users, special beach events, not to mention the extra hazards that will befall our fishermen.
I'm sure they check. I wanted to 'vote' but mini survey was closed already. It would be better to give it longer than just 24 hours to run. So far 65,000 people have signed both the official paper and e-petition that the various local campaign groups have been promoting. Go to Save Our Helicopter facebook page and follow what one of these groups is doing. There are meetings and web discussions about the current position. Almost everyone wants to retain the local Coastguard service, the local economy depends on there being a provision to make the area a viable holiday destination. Take away the safety net and we become less attractive to holiday makers, ferry operators, cruise ships, divers, coastline activities, small boat users, special beach events, not to mention the extra hazards that will befall our fishermen. Houdini
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