MP Reflects on Coastguard Visit

March 17th, 2011

“Shipping Minister Mike Penning seemed to be in good form when he arrived along with the N.I. Secretary of State at Bregenz House last Wednesday afternoon, and he certainly left in even better form.  Not only had the discussions with the Bangor Coastguard staff been friendly and open, but Centre Manager Richard Newell and his colleagues had also managed to play a blinder, so to speak, by presenting the Minister with a brand new set of proposals for the modernisation of the UK’s entire Coastguard Service.
Their alternative proposals, well-researched and exceedingly well-presented, gave Mike Penning a solution – not a headache – about how best to update the country’s Coastguard Service and build its resilience to meet 21st century demands.  Sitting beside him during the presentation, it was obvious to me that Mr Penning was positively impressed and clearly delighted to welcome ‘as a fresh breath of air’ these new proposals presented by Richard and his team.

As for the six-week extension for submission of written responses to the consultation, I’m fairly relaxed about that.  I say so because the original closing date of 24th March 2011 happens, by complete coincidence, to be the same day as the dissolution of the current N.I. Assembly at Stormont.  During the ensuing six-week election campaign, the Northern Ireland Office and the Government at Westminster will have to observe a period of ‘purdah’, making no comment on local matters.  So, even if the Shipping Minister had good news to announce regarding Northern Ireland’s remaining Coastguard Centre in Bangor, he could not have returned to Bregenz House to do so.
Now, with the newly-announced closure date for submissions fixed for 5th May, which also is the date of the Assembly Election, ‘purdah’ will finish at midnight that night.  I’ve made it abundantly clear to Mike Penning that we would be absolutely delighted to have him back in Bregenz House to give us good news.  My invitation was warmly extended last Wednesday and, following the presentation of the new proposals then, I am definitely much more hopeful that he will be able to deliver a good result for Northern Ireland.”

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