§ Mr. McNulty
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the search and rescue co-ordination provided by Her Majesty's Coastguard. 
§ Ms Glenda Jackson
To improve still further the high level of service provided by Her Majesty's Coastguard I am able to announce today that I 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 will 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 aging equipment. Once the new technology is in place HMCG will be able to concentrate their operational expertise within fewer rescue co-ordination sub-centres by10W 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 bought 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.