§ Lord Davies of Coity
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they are satisfied with the search and rescue co-ordination provided by Her Majesty's Coastguard.
§ Baroness Hayman
To improve still further the high level of service provided by Her Majesty's Coastguard we are able to announce today that we have endorsed a strategy for HM Coastguard which involves a substantial investment in new technology and which will take the service into the next century. That investment will introduce operational flexibility which will increase the safety of those who use our sea and shores, and will64WA improve the effectiveness and efficiency of an already highly proficient service. The key to the strategy is the introduction of digital communications technology at Coastguard rescue centres and remote radio sites to replace ageing equipment. Once the new technology is in place HMCG will be able to concentrate its operational expertise within fewer rescue co-ordination sub-centres by closing the rescue sub-centres at Oban and Pentland (Orkney) by the end of 1999, and Tyne-Tees and Liverpool by the end of 2000. Portland and Solent rescue sub-centres, at present in unsuitable buildings, will be brought together under the same roof by March 2002.
By carefully planning the process we expect to be able to achieve the reduction of staff by a combination of natural wastage, early retirement and early severance. Staff and trade unions will be closely involved in the implementation.