The Committee will be taking oral evidence from serving coastguards representing their local PCS union branches in Stornoway on 19 May and Westminster on 24 May. In Falmouth on 18 May the Committee will be meeting local coastguards informally, and many other coastguards have submitted written evidence to the inquiry.
Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Committee has written to Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport asking for assurances that coastguards will not be subject to intimidation as a result of contributing to the Committee’s inquiry.
On 10 May the Minister for Shipping Mike Penning MP announced that he was instructing regular coastguards not to give formal oral evidence to the Committee. It has since emerged that serving coastguards who are also union representatives can give oral evidence to the Committee as a representative of the local union branch, but not in an individual capacity.
Speaking about the letter, the chair of the committee Louise Ellman MP said today:
“I am concerned that the Minister’s instructions to coastguards not to give oral evidence—contrary to his previous statements in the House of Commons—are creating an atmosphere of fear amongst the coastguard community. It is imperative that no intimidation takes place in relation to coastguards who have either submitted written evidence or express a critical opinion about the proposed re-organisation.
I seek assurances from both the Minister and the MCA that no-one will be subject to such action as a consequence of giving evidence to the Committee or speaking to the Committee informally.
I will be raising this issue with the Minister when he appears before the Committee on May 24th.”
The letter of 16 May to Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport is appended.
As part of its inquiry into the future of the coastguard service, the Committee agreed to invite coastguards from eight UK Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (Aberdeen, Belfast, Brixham, Falmouth, Liverpool, Milford Haven, Shetland and Stornoway), as well as volunteer coastguards, to give oral evidence. On 10 May Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, wrote to Louise Ellman MP, Committee Chair to say that he had instructed regular coastguards to decline the Committee’s invitation to give oral evidence.
Written evidence submitted to the inquiry by coastguards around the country has been published on the committee website, or made available in the Parliamentary Archives.
Committee Membership is as follows:
Mrs Louise Ellman (Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool Riverside) (Chair); Steve Baker (Conservative, Wycombe); Jim Dobbin (Labour/Co-operative, Heywood and Middleton); Mr Tom Harris (Labour, Glasgow South); Julie Hilling (Labour, Bolton West); Kwasi Kwarteng (Conservative, Spelthorne); Mr John Leech (Liberal Democrat, Manchester Withington); Paul Maynard (Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys); Gavin Shuker (Labour/Co-operative, Luton South); Iain Stewart (Conservative, Milton Keynes South); Julian Sturdy (Conservative, York Outer).