RNLI Bicentenary — [Carolyn Harris in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:29 am on 26 March 2024.

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Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:29, 26 March 2024

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mrs Harris, and a happy Easter to everybody. I congratulate Anthony Mangnall on securing this debate, and thank all Members who have spoken about the brilliant work the RNLI and its volunteers do around our coasts. I make a special reference to the stepmother of Duncan Baker for her volunteering.

I associate myself strongly with the comments from Chris Stephens about the importance of rescuing everybody at sea, in particular people on small boats in the English channel. My hon. Friend Margaret Greenwood reminded us of just how dangerous it was 200 years ago and less, and how many gave their lives to rescue others. My hon. Friend Matt Rodda talked about the importance of water safety on inland waterways. Those are important additions to the debate.

The RNLI mission statement says it all. The RNLI is committed to and focused on the purpose for which it was created 200 years ago: to save lives at sea. Founded in 1824 as the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Lives and Property from Shipwreck, it was 30 years later, in 1854, that it was officially named the Royal National Lifeboat Institution—the RNLI, as we all know it today.

We all think of it as the fourth emergency service, after the police, fire and ambulance services, so it is remarkable that 97% of its frontline staff are volunteers and that it is funded by charitable donations. As a charity independent of Government, its volunteer lifesavers give their time for free, but they need training, well-maintained equipment, lifeboats and shore facilities, and part of the donations received fund those things. Almost 6,000 volunteer lifeboat crew members are stationed around the UK and Ireland, and they are ready, when the call is received, to spring into action to save the lives of those in danger at sea.

Since its launch, the RNLI has saved the lives of 4,356 people across the north-west and 146,000 people across the UK and Ireland. It works tirelessly in my constituency: in 2022 alone it saved five lives, responded to nearly 200 incidents and aided 1,000 people across the boroughs of Sefton and Wirral. I am proud to say that Crosby beach, which is in my constituency, is the only British beach that is patrolled by the RNLI all year round.