British MP calls for re-run of SAR privatisation competition

British MP calls for re-run of SAR privatisation competition

7-Feb-2011 Source:

David Laws, the Liberal-Democrat Member for Parliament has called on the British Government to re-run the SAR privatisation competition following the recent debacle when the previous tender fell apart after “irregularities” were found some 11 months after the Soteria consortium were named “preferred bidder”.  Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the consortium members, pulled out.  Additionally it was revealed that military personnel were providing information direct to the Soteria team in flagrant breach of their supposed impartiality. [see £6bn UK SAR privatisation deal on hold – police investigate ]

David Laws, in whose constituency the AgustaWestland factory at Yeovil falls, was forced to stand down from a prominent position in Britains new coalition government in May 2010 after a national newspaper revealed that he had not been fully transparent with his expense payments. Laws had claimed expenses of over £40,000 for costs of running a second home between certain dates in 2004 and 2009, but failed to notify the authorities that he was in a relationship with his landlord, James Lundie.

In recent days, Mr Laws told the Daily Press: “It seems clearer by the day that there are major concerns about the existing contract for the replacement of search and rescue helicopters. If these concerns are borne out by Government investigations it is clear that the contract should be re-tendered.  The Government should look in the short-term for other options to keep the search and rescue effective, which would include extending the life of existing Sea King helicopters.  I hope as a consequence of this there will be a fresh opportunity for Westland Helicopters to put in a bid for any new tendering.  That is clearly an opportunity for it do extending work on the Sea Kings if an upgrade is going to take place, and potentially to sell a new helicopter for search and rescue purposes.”

AgustaWestland had previously formed part of the “UK Air Rescue Service” consortium putting the AW101 forward, working with Serco, FB Heliservices and Bristow Helicopters. Soteria had focused on the S92 and was formed of Sikorsky, RBS, Thales and CHC.  A third bidder was the AirKnight team, bringing together Eurocopter and, Lockheed Martin who were bidding with the EC225.

The tender was to bring together the UK SAR service under a single provider with a long-term 25-year contract on offer.  Currently SAR services are provided by a mix of Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Coast Guard services.

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