News that the process of privatising the UK's search and rescue helicopters has been suspended after "irregularities" emerged in the bidding process to find a supplier, should not be a surprise. New Labour have twice tried (and failed) to privatise this service, and the Tories and Lib Dems were following them until the news of this leaked information, compromised the privatisation process.
An admission by the preferred supplier, Soteria, admitted it had access to commercially sensitive information, has derailed the privatisation process for the moment. The Department for Transport and Ministry of Defence (MOD) have now stated the preferred supplier would not be used and MoD Police are now investigating how commercially sensitive information came to be in the possession of the bidder.
The real question is not whether to privatise SAR or not (and my answer would be NOT) but what questionable idiot ever considered this option in the first place. Most people view the Search and Rescue services as the fourth emergency service. I have seen them flying round Snowdonia enough times (in fair and foul weather), to recognise their skill, dedication and bravery. The seas around Wales can be treacherous enough at times and there is little doubt that the military-trained helicopter patrols have helped to save many lives and strive to maintain the highest possible rescue standards.
The Conservative (sorry Con Dem) Government's decision to try to sell off (cheaply no doubt) the the Search and Rescue Service now thankfully hangs in the balance. Many people are very concerned that this is a privatisation too far - I would go further, this reckless plan to sell off the Search and Rescue services was dangerous to begin with and should be scrapped.
Our search and rescue service needs the most modern equipment and effective helicopters to carry out operations safely – privatisation of this essential service could lead to corners will be cut in order to make a profit and cost lives. The UK Westminster Government must now abandon its plans to sell off this vital life-saving service or risk selling it off on the cheap in order to make a quick saving, one that may put the lives of our service personnel and civilians at risk, which would be absolutely unacceptable.