Examination of Witness (Questions 590
WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY 2001
MR M STOREY
590. May I ask you to identify yourself?
(Mr Storey) Good morning, my name is Maurice Storey,
I am the Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
591. Do you have any general remarks you wish
(Mr Storey) With your kind permission, if I may. You
may remember the last time I appeared before your Committee was
on 11 November 1998, which is just over two years ago.
592. Yes; very clear in my mind.
(Mr Storey) I am very proud to say that the UK shipping
register is continuing to grow and prosper and the MCA is fulfilling
the important role given to us of an inward investment agency.
More than 160 ships have joined the register since the MCA was
formed on 1 April 1998, and more are joining all the time. Because
I understand how the industry works, I have been able to bring
considerable personal expertise to the role of Chief Executive.
The result is that we have changed the industry's perception of
the Agency by becoming more focused on the needs of our customer,
both at home and abroad. Of course, that does not mean we have
undermined safety. We are still prepared to say no to shipowners,
but we now ensure that they understand why we are saying no and
what they have to do for us to be able to say yes. In short, it
is our style and approach that has altered. We are also supporting
our customers' needs through the continuing development of our
one-stop-shop, which incorporates a 24-hour information phone
line and the appointment of customer service managers. We are
actively exploring the new possibilities of the internet and e-business
to make our registration procedures and our ship survey fees collection
arrangements as professional and as efficient as possible. We
are determined not to be left behind by modern business methods.
I recall from your last report on the Agency your concerns about
stability. Of course all good organisations change to keep pace
with modern practices and technologies and the MCA is no exception.
Change is inevitable. The challenge is to ensure that change is
properly managed and implemented with the widespread support of
both staff and systems. I believe that this is best achieved by
setting out clear plans for the futureboth short and long
termwhich allow everyone in the Agency to accept, manage
and implement change. Our planning provides a stable framework
within which change takes place. You will recall that the introduction
of the new Integrated Coastguard Communications System (ICCS)
was a central theme of the Committee's Sixth Report which looked
at the MCA. As the Committee recommended, we thoroughly tested
the new ICCS equipment at our training centre before we installed
it in coastguard stations. That testing proved successful and
the new technology is now up and running in Clyde, Stornoway,
Shetland and Aberdeen. The successful installation has allowed
us to close the coastguard stations at Pentland and Oban. I believe
that closure programme has been well handled and managed. I also
believe that those involved and the unions share the view that
careful planning has allowed us to redeploy our resources appropriately
and sensitively. As you will know, the Deputy Prime Minister announced
on Monday of this week an expansion of the Coastguard Service
with the establishment of new arrangements for search and rescue
for the tidal Thames as far as Teddington lock. This will include
the establishment of a new coordination cell based at the Port
of London Authority's Thames Barrier Navigation Centre. The new
arrangements will be in place by next January and will take the
form of a significant partnership between the MCA, the RNLI, which
is providing three lifeboats, the PLA and other emergency services.
I also recall that last time you rightly asked me about the added
value of the MCA compared to its predecessor separate agencies.
One benefit of the merger has been the deployment of sector managers
to undertake initial inspections of under-12-metre fishing vessels.
This has proved successful and has enhanced the job satisfaction
of those involved. Another benefit is the cross-fertilisation
of the Agency's coastguard and surveying expertise. Coastguards
will often accompany surveyors on ship inspections. This improves
their ability to deal with incidents because they can visualise
the equipment that a ship will have as a result of their familiarisation.
A further benefit is that our counter-pollution work is now much
better coordinated, again bringing together into one unit the
skills of experts in salvage, experts in search and rescue, and
those with practical experience as master mariners or ships' engineers.
Together this pool of expertise is invaluable to the Secretary
of State's Representative (SOSREP). Let me turn now to some management
issues. We are implementing a recent independent review of our
recruitment arrangements which will lead, over five years, to
the development of entry and career progression routes based on
the competencies needed to perform a job, with less of an emphasis
on academic qualifications or previous experience. Competency
frameworks are in place for the vast majority of the Agency's
staff and others are in development. In time it should be possible
for staff to join the Agency at one level and be able to map out
their potential careers to senior management knowing exactly the
skills and knowledge they will need to acquire for each job on
that career path. We will actively encourage careers which include
experience as a coastguard, a marine surveyor and as an administrator.
In that way, we will continue to break down out of date attitudes
and promote greater integration. Another vehicle for breaking
down those barriers is our annual conference in Leeds at the university.
It is a chance for a wide range of our people at all levels and
in all jobs to get together and exchange views in an informal
setting. I have continued to promote a policy of frank and open
discussions at all levels within the MCA. I have annually visited
each and every MCA Coastguard Station and Marine Survey Office
and have encouraged everyone to have their say. I want to hear
as many views as possible and I have encouraged my managers to
do the same. I am determined that everyone should feel valued
and that they should know they have a contribution to make. My
directors and I operate an open-door policy for when staff feel
that their normal channels of line management are proving unsatisfactory.
I am convinced that our relations with the trades unions have
improved over the past couple of years. Of course we have our
differences, but generally we air them in a spirit of frankness
and cooperation rather than confrontation whenever possible. Our
regular formal Whitley meetings are a useful vehicle for exchanging
views and discussing issues and I welcome the unions' valuable
contribution to the close cooperation over the closure programme
and the current discussions about watch levels both demonstrate
good industrial relations. I am pleased to say that this approach
was rewarded with Investors in People status last year and we
continue our commitment and determination to maintain that status.
We are also now adopting the EFQM excellence model, which also
stresses the need to invite and listen to the concerns of all
those working in the organisation. The Agency's people remain
its most important resource. I am confident that my managers take
the same view, which was recently reinforced through a comprehensive
series of management workshops catering for over 400 managers.
Our commitment to good management is also demonstrated by our
introduction in March this year of a management development programme
which will lead to a certificate or diploma in managementexternally
accredited by the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations Boards.
The training will combine on and off the job training and assignments
between 15 and 18 months. I have attempted, Madam Chairman, to
give you and the Committee a quick update on our progress. I thank
you very much for your patience.
593. It is nice that you are so satisfied. However,
in your Chief Executive's foreword to the annual report you chose
to credit my Committee with destabilising your system. You said
that it was necessary for you to work to internally agreed targets
whilst ensuring you did not prejudice the Government's response
to the Committee, but you were unable to print your business plan.
Then you are saying that it was only when the Government said
that they were not going to demerge them that you were able to
proceed. It seems a trifle unlikely that that was the impact of
this Committee's report, but I am very interested to hear it.
I am sure you would like to tell us in what way the merger of
the Marine Safety Agency and Coastguard Agency benefited the customers.
(Mr Storey) First of all, the sector managers have
undertaken the fishing vessel inspections. We have been able to
undertake a series of fishing vessel inspections: in the first
year 900 inspections which will increase to 1,600 inspections.
I believe from a customer perspective, in the form of the fishing
industry, they have applauded this input because we are pointing
out areas of safety to individuals who seem to disregard some
of the safety issues. They are listening to what we are saying
and I think in turn it will enhance the safety requirements within
the fishing industry in the small fishing vessel sector, which
is the under-12-metre sector.
594. Could you not have done that before? You
did not need an enormous merger to do that, did you?
(Mr Storey) The Coastguard sector managers are currently
out around the coast of the UK where these vessels are dispersed
in all the nooks and crannies around the UK.
595. We know that; we pointed that out to you
at the time.
(Mr Storey) The coastguard sector managers are patrolling
those areas and have an opportunity to have an interface with
596. Do you mean they are talking to them?
(Mr Storey) They are and they have built on that interface
or talking to the people, and have grown in the safety regime
and tried to expand the safety regime of the organisation further.
You will remember that surveyors are classed as policemen rather
than people who are there to help you and that is why the sector
manager gives a better interface with the fisherman.
597. That is not something you could not have
done before. What else have you done?
(Mr Storey) The counter-pollution work has been better
coordinated in respect of the employment of the Secretary of State's
representative for salvage and intervention. It has allowed him,
with the team of people, both coastguards themselves and search
and rescue and working with the counter-pollution team, the surveyors,
to bring together the various issues with the other groups in
environment, English Nature and all the various areas round the
coast, to work much more closely together, to look at the environment
and salvage situation, to protect the UK coasts.
598. How concerned are you that your staffing
numbers in coastguard stations at times fall below the appropriate
(Mr Storey) The staffing numbers do concern me if
they do fall below certain levels. I believe there are no stations
where the staffing numbers have fallen below the levels which
are required for the minimum safety levels. In any organisation
you have a small turnover of staff and of course we obviously
look to fill those vacancies as possible. I do not believe we
have any major concern at the present time.
599. Even though your staff work long hours
and often may operate apparently without proper numbers you do
not think that has any implication for safety at all.
(Mr Storey) I do not think they operate without proper
numbers. The hours that they work is a system which was agreed
between our staff and the unions.