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No inquiry into RNLI dispute

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THERE will be no committee of inquiry into the long-running lifeboat dispute after States Members rejected an investigation into the causes of the animosity between the RNLI and the former St Helier crew.

Coxswain Andy Hibbs with his crew outside the St Helier station after his reinstatement last year

In a debate that finished shortly before 9 pm on Wednesday, Members ultimately decided that a line be drawn under the disagreement and the RNLI and the newly formed Jersey Lifeboats Association, made up largely of former RNLI crew members, should endeavour to work together to provide search and rescue services in Jersey.

Environment Minister Steve Luce argued that a committee of inquiry would only ‘prolong the animosity’ and said the investigation would take '12 months to tell us what we already know’.

And despite several Members speaking in support of the JLA and the former St Helier crew members, including Deputy Russell Labey who argued that the former crew deserved the chance to tell their story, the proposition from Senator Sarah Ferguson was rejected by 26 votes to 15.

The relationship between the RNLI and St Helier crew members broke down following the sacking of coxswain Andy Hibbs in April. He was later reinstated but the tensions behind the scenes continued to escalate.

The dispute came to a head last November when the charity closed the St Helier station and sailed the George Sullivan all-weather lifeboat to Poole, standing down the crew in the process.

Since then the JLA has publicly stated its intention to run an independent lifeboat service, with many of the crew members signed up to man the yet-to-be-bought boat.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
author

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