This question is almost identical to one put by my hon. Friend on 28 June 1988 and I must refer him to the answer given at column 219 on that date. I repeat that it is not possible to give an accurate assessment of the cost of civilian use of the military search and rescue service facilities at RAF Chivenor.
I thank my hon. Friend for that not very far advanced reply. Is he aware that in north Devon and across the Bristol channel the RAF helicopters are seen as our first and strongest line of safety at sea? Should it ever be the case, as has been rumoured in the past, that finance becomes a problem in maintaining that service. I hope that funds will be sought to support the defence helicopters before anything is done to remove that vital service.
I recognise the prominent role that my hon. Friend has played in focusing public attention on the subject. If he is fair he will recognise that the service has been enhanced as the Wessex helicopters stationed, at Chivenor remain and have been supplemented by Sea King helicopters based at Royal Navy air station Culdrose and RAF Brawdy which have an overnight and foul weather capability.