RNLI Bicentenary — [Carolyn Harris in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:22 am on 26 March 2024.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration) 10:22, 26 March 2024

The hon. Gentleman is quite right to mention Dunkirk, as other hon. Members have. We should agree with Mark Dowie when he says:

“The day that the RNLI turns round to the coastguard and says: ‘I’m awfully sorry, can you tell me where these people are from?’ before they respond, that’s the end as far as I’m concerned.”

We should all associate ourselves with the chief executive’s words. It is therefore very heartening that following these smears and attempts to undermine it, the RNLI found itself on course for the highest annual fundraising total in its near 200-year history.

Much has changed here over the centuries. Both the smaller Glasgow Humane Society and the larger RNLI have added the roles of being advisory and educational bodies. Progressing from its original purpose in 1824 of aiding ships in distress around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, the RNLI now identifies swimmers, paddleboarders, fishing crews, and small boats in the channel as making up the bulk of callouts today. As the RNLI puts it:

“We were all about lifeboats and we’re now about life saving.”

We in Scotland have a strong working relationship with the RNLI, which provides joint safety training alongside the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland. We have a drowning prevention strategy, which aims to reduce accidental drowning fatalities by 50% by 2026. Co-operation between the bodies, including the RNLI, is vital to achieving this. Unsurprisingly, the steering group of Water Safety Scotland consists of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Police Scotland and the RNLI. We in Scotland take this opportunity to thank the RNLI for the vital public service it carries out, and we wish it well for the future and the next 200 years.