Rory Promotes Rural Emergency Services in Parliament
Rory continued his campaigning work as rural emergency services champion in Parliament yesterday, convening both a meeting with Mountain and Cave Rescue to discuss standard operating procedures, speaking in the parliament debate on Air Ambulance, and supporting a motion for a VAT rebate for Air Ambulances.
Yesterday’s Commons debate centered on the “Return VAT on Air Ambulance fuel payments” e-petition, which has received 150,000 signatures. Rory Stewart was one of a number of MPs who pressed a parliamentary motion calling for recognition of Air Ambulance and a rebate on their VAT on fuel. The government did not challenge the motion. Instead, it undertook to review the policy and consider a rebate on VAT.
Rory said: “I think we have won this debate. Last year we won a VAT rebate for Mountain Rescue. Now I think we’ll get one for Air Ambulance. I couldn’t be more delighted. These are two of our greatest completely voluntary services, and a backbone of Cumbria. I’m delighted the government is listening.”
In the debate, Rory called for greater co-operation between mountain rescue teams and air ambulances in joint operations, and a resolution over territorial fundraising between the Great North and North West air ambulances, both of which operate in Penrith and the Border.
Speaking in the debate, Rory said: “One challenge we face in Cumbria is that mountain rescue finds it easy to co-ordinate with the police and the RAF, particularly when Sea Kings are involved, but very difficult to co-ordinate with air ambulances. Air ambulances appear to be reluctant to give information to mountain rescue teams as a standard operating procedure. Interoperability is a challenge, but I would suggest that it is a particular challenge with air ambulances.”
Rory will be convening a meeting in September in Parliament between mountain and cave rescue representatives, and air ambulance officers, to discuss this further and work towards a solution.
An active supporter of the Great North Air Ambulance and its Penrith-based ‘Pride of Cumbria’ craft, Rory also took the opportunity to raise his concerns in the debate about the fundraising activities of the North West Air Ambulance and the overlapping of territories with the Great North Air Ambulance, calling for a more disciplined approach to fundraising boundaries.
He said: “I warmly applaud the idea that there should be a strong focus on charitable fundraising, but the challenge we in Cumbria face is that the North West Air Ambulance is attempting to fundraise in exactly the same areas as the Great North Air Ambulance. They are both presenting themselves as the sole Cumbrian provider. We therefore have paid fundraisers fighting on the doorsteps, as it were, to get contributions from Cumbria’s very small population of 500,000 people. Air Ambulance is such a wonderful and vital part of our lives and we must do all we can to make its life easier and its operation more effective. “