Update on Mountain Rescue exhibition held last week at Parliament

On Monday 28th October 2013, we reported within this website on the start of a week long exhibition on the role of Mountain Rescue Teams and Cave Rescue Teams within England and Wales in 2013, being held in the House of Commons at Westminster, London, by our National Body; Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW)

The exhibition took place from Monday 28th October until Friday, 1st November, in the Upper Waiting Hall, between 09.30hrs and 16.30hrs each day.

A reception was held on Tuesday 29th October in Dining Room A between 16.00hrs and 18.30hrs, linked to this five day exhibition.

The purpose behind the exhibition was to highlight to Members of Parliament, directly at their ‘place of work’ the very varied operational roles of mountain and cave rescue teams in England and Wales in their role of providing a totally voluntary search and rescue service within their local, regional and national communities.

As with every MRT and CRT in England and Wales, we wrote to all the Members of Parliament who have constituencies within the Bolton MRT primary area of operational responsibility, in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, thanking them for their continuing support of our team and inviting them to visit the exhibition.

We wrote to the following Members of Parliament in this respect; Ann Coffrey of Stockport Constituency, Graham Brady of Altrincham and Sale West, David Crausby of Bolton North, Lindsey Hoyle of Chorley, Hazel Blears of Salford and Eccles, Yvonne Favargue of Makerfield, Yasmin Qureshi of Bolton South East, Andy Burnham of Leigh, Mark Hunter of Cheadle, Paul Goggins of Wythenshawe and Sale East, Lucy Powell of Manchester Central, Lisa Nandy of Wigan, Kate Green of Stretford and Urmston, Julie Hilling of Bolton West, Jake Berry of Rossendale and Darwen, and Barbara Keeley of Worsley and Eccles.

A great many of ‘our’ Members of Parliament have always been very supportive of the Bolton MRT and Mountain Rescue in general within England and Wales, and are very sympathetic to our cause and the many issues now facing us, to which we turn to our Government for their help and support to our entirely free and totally voluntary national organisation and its constituent teams.

The following report is from our national organisation, MREW (Mountain Rescue England and Wales) website, and specifically mentions comments from ‘our’ Julie Hilling MP Bolton West;

Members of both Houses of Parliament supportive of Mountain Rescue funding campaign

Representatives of mountain and cave rescue teams from across England and Wales were in Parliament last week and met with over 80 MPs and members of the House of Lords during that time.

David Allen is the Chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW): “We focused on two key messages: the breadth of what we are asked to do and the funding gap with similar services,” he said. “We were encouraged by the level of interest, the obvious support and the understanding of our current status as volunteers providing a vital service. We now need to clarify the next steps in our campaign to achieve regular and significant funding from central government.”

The exhibition ran in the Upper Waiting Hall in the Palace of Westminster from Monday to Friday and a Reception, sponsored by Penrith and the Border MP and leader of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Rescue Services, Rory Stewart OBE MP, was held on Tuesday night (29 October) and attracted about 50 people from both Houses.

“I believe that this was an important event for Parliament because mountain rescue represents one of the very solid examples in the country of volunteers, people unpaid doing something which is completely vital to the public interest,” said Rory Stewart. “For Parliament to concentrate on that and to get nearly fifty MPs in a reception, meeting mountain rescue people, I think it is going to be very important in changing perceptions of what volunteers do for us in society.”

Rory Stewart had invited the Prime Minister, David Cameron to attend the Reception and, although unable to do so, he wrote in reply and commented that: “The work carried out by the volunteers and everyone involved in this service is immensely worthy of praise and recognition.”

Andrew Bingham, MP for High Peak and based in Buxton, attended the reception: “It was great to be there to support the mountain rescue because they do such a fantastic job across the whole of the High Peak area. They really are the extra emergency service that not only residents rely on but also all the visitors that we get across Kinder. Without the mountain rescue, we really would be struggling.”

Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West, recognised the need for persistence in the campaign: “I need to talk to my local team and to others to find out the very specific questions that need to be asked and to build some solid background information that I can use to support the campaign for more funding,” she said.

“Volunteer rescuers, about 3,600 of them in England and Wales, are available 24/7 throughout the year for local call outs,” said MREW Head of Fundraising, Mike France, “and they have to train for all these different situations and needs too. So it seems crazy that they also have to find time for fundraising just to keep their Teams going and we’re hoping that the week’s discussions in Westminster will have shown MPs the huge discrepancy between the financial support given by government to Scottish rescuers – about £16,480 per team – and the much more limited funding to English teams of just £2,246 per team.”

“If government could guarantee a level of funding from the public purse closer to the Scottish figure, we’d be able to underwrite investments in vehicles and essential kit and subsidise essential training and insurance. We want to be able to ensure that our volunteer rescuers can focus their time and resources on getting the job done rather than having to worry about fundraising.”

“We had great support last week from the MPs local to our rescue teams and representing the key areas for our more obvious work,” said David Allen, “and the reception enabled us to extend this knowledge and support throughout Parliament. We will continue to work with Rory and the APPG to move this campaign on and explore the options for future funding.”