HC Deb 06 June 1962 vol 661 cc454-5
27. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many bathers and yachtsmen, who have got themselves into difficulties off the coasts of Great Britain, have been rescued by the Royal Air Force in the past 12 months.

Mr. Amery

Sixty in the year ending 30th April, 1962.

Mr. Browne

These are impressive figures. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the extreme value of this service, and may I, in particular, congratulate the helicopter base at Chivenor, which covers the western end of my constituency, on the work it does in this way? Will he assure the House that this type of air-sea rescue work of bathers who get into difficulties on our coasts will continue?

Mr. Amery

We will certainly do our best to continue it, although my hon. Friend will realise that the main purpose of the helicopter air-sea rescue service is to rescue aircrew, and it is only where they happen to be stationed in areas where bathers and others get into trouble that they are able to help them. The primary purpose of the service is a military one.

Mr. Kershaw

Do any of the seaside resorts which benefit greatly from visitors make any contribution to the cost of this service?

Mr. Amery

No, Sir; not financially.

Mr. P. Williams

While I recognise the value of the service, may I ask my right hon. Friend what the rough cost of it is?

Mr. Amery

I cannot say offhand. It is quite expensive, but we would incur this expense in any case, because of the question of rescuing aircrew whose aircraft may come down over the sea.

Mr. Milne

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the saving of life? It is not primarily a question of cost. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of the lifeguard corps and the voluntary life-saving people on the coasts around Britain are very grateful indeed for the assistance they receive on occasions like this?

Mr. Amery

We are very well aware of that, and I am sure that the hon. Member will bear that in mind when voting for next year's Air Estimates.