HC Deb 13 March 1958 vol 584 cc609-10
47. Mr. Teeling

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the coming closing down of the Royal Naval Air Station at Ford, and of the Royal Air Force Station, Tangmere, ceasing to be operational, he will discuss with his fellow Ministers what can be done to maintain a helicopter service for sea rescue along the Sussex coast where this service has now proved to be far faster and more efficient than lifeboats.

The Prime Minister

Although Royal Naval and Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopters give civil rescue organisations whatever help they can, their primary rôle is the rescue of aircrew, and this must be the governing factor in deciding their deployment.

There are no Royal Air Force helicopters at Tangmere, but there is a helicopter unit at Thorney Island which it is not at present intended to move.

Mr. Teeling

Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister bear in mind that this is a comparatively new service which has, so far as we can see on the Sussex coast, given tremendous help to the lifeboat service? If anything can be done to develop it and to link it up with other ports on the coast, will my right hon. Friend use all his influence in that direction?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I will do everything I can to help, but I would remind my hon. Friend that the primary purpose of the Service is rescue of aircrew. There are considerable limitations on the help that helicopters can give. They cannot at present operate in darkness or fog, and in strong winds their capacity is somewhat limited. However, the area now covered by Ford will be reasonably well covered by the Royal Air Force helicopters at Thorney Island, which is only 16 miles away.