Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Minister confirms coastguard station closures

Shipping Minister Mike Penning has confirmed plans to close eight coastguard stations in the UK.

Co-ordination centres will be closed at Brixham, Clyde, Forth, Great Yarmouth, Liverpool, Portland, Swansea, and Walton-on-the-Naze.

Some centres will stay open, including Shetland and Stornoway and there will be a new Maritime Operations Centre in Fareham, with a back up at Dover.

Announcing the details to the Commons on 22 November 2011, Mr Penning said the changes would make the coastguard service better co-ordinated and more resilient to the challenges of the future.

The move would give "better support for our coastguard volunteers" and "front-line rescue capabilities", he added.

In July, the government watered down its initial plans to cut the number of 24-hour coastguard centres from 18 to three following a consultation process.

Shadow transport minister Jim Fiztpatrick, responding to the statement, said he had "no doubt" the proposals were "at least partly driven by financial constraints".

He said the government was right to amend the initial proposals in light of concerns expressed about safety, but added: "In a number of communities out there now there will be real disappointment and even anger today."

Conservative MP for South East Cornwall Sheryll Murray, whose trawlerman husband died at sea, wanted reassurances that no coastguard co-ordination centres would close before the new system works.

Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy believed there was a "considerable element of gamble" involved in the proposals. He asked the minister if the government would "if circumstances merited... reopen the entire recasting and go back to the drawing board?".

Mr Penning told him the proposals had been brought forward because the original plans proposed by the previous government were "flawed".

In most coastguard stations he visited, including in Scotland, people acknowledged that the number of stations had to be cut, he added.

Labour's Ian McKenzie, Inverclyde MP, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the announcement. Mr Penning told him the proposals put forward by the previous government were "ten times worse".

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