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Coastguard officials banned talking to Dorset MP Richard Drax over Portland helicopter

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

Portland search and rescue helicopter

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The Government has been accused of gagging the head of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over plans to close the Potland search and rescue helicopter base.

It is feared that plans to cut two of the 12 search-and-rescue (SAR) bases dotted around Britain’s coastline, including Portland in Dorset, in 2017 will leave some areas exposed.

The private company which takes over the service, currently carried out by RAF and Royal Navy pilots and crew, will be expected to operate from ten locations around Britain.

Conservative MP Richard Drax, whose South Dorset constituency includes Portland, has now criticised the Government for its “almost Orwellian” behaviour in banning the head of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Sir Alan Massey, from discussing the scheme with him.

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“I fully understand your wish to speak with me about an issue that I know causes you great concern,” Sir Alan said in an email sent to Mr Drax.

“[The] minister has, however, determined that he does not wish me, as an official, to re-engage on a matter on which the Government, and he personally, has made its position clear.”

Mr Drax has written to the Transport Minister Stephen Hammond asking him if he had banned MCA officials from speaking to him.

He said: “I find it quite extraordinary that an MP should be prevented from speaking to anyone on behalf of his constituents. It really is almost Orwellian and totally out of character with Conservative policy and principles.”

The successful private bidder for the 10-year search-and-rescue contract is expected to be announced by the Government soon.

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