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Coastguards ‘barred from cuts inquiry’

A transport minister has prevented coastguards from giving evidence to MPs on proposed cutbacks to the coastguard service, a Commons select committee chairman has said.

Mike Penning has instructed regular coastguards to decline to give oral evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee, its chairman Louise Ellman said.

Consultation on the proposals, which would either close or downgrade Northern Ireland’s only coastguard Station at Bangor, ended last week, but the Government has indicated it will not make a decision over whether to push ahead until summer.

Writing to Mr Penning, Mrs Ellman said she was “extremely disappointed”.

She went on: “Your decision is in stark contrast to your previous public statements on this matter and the assurances that you have given to me and other MPs.”

Mrs Ellman was hoping to hear from coastguards when the committee visits Falmouth coastguard station in Cornwall and the station at Stornoway off Scotland next week.

Under government proposals, the number of round-the-clock coastguard centres will be reduced from 18 to three.

The 24-hour operational centres will be in Aberdeen, the Southampton/Portsmouth area and Dover.

There will be five sub-centres open during daylight hours, in Swansea, Falmouth, Bridlington, Bangor or Liverpool, and Stornoway or Shetland.

Belfast Telegraph