This week I held a Parliamentary debate to celebrate 200 years of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Calling it a debate rather misses the fact that MPs from all sides came to celebrate the remarkable work of this extraordinary institution and to recognise the work of those volunteers who have selflessly given a great deal of time and energy to help save others. It is a source of enormous pride that the UK’s waters are protected by this remarkable charity that is completely independent of government and relies on the generous support of donors.

This independence has meant that the RNLI operates without fear of political interference and can focus its work on protecting lives at sea. Founded in 1824 by Sir William Hillary, the RNLI is driven by values of selflessness, courage, dependability and trustworthiness, all of which have been on display throughout its history. With an estimated 146,000 lives saved through remarkable feats of bravery over the last two centuries, the RNLI also manages to capture the derring-do of its volunteers.

From the sixty-volunteer crew of the Cadgwith who rowed back and forward for 16 hours to rescue over 456 passengers (including 70 babies) from the Suevic in 1907, to the rescuing of a Titanic survivor and 140 other passengers of the Rohilla in 1914, to the work of Torbay, Salcombe and Dart RNLI lifeboat stations and crews whose history and lifesaving work has rescued countless people.

The RNLI has created a network that covers every square mile of the UK’s coastline as well as some inland waterways. Its comprehensive coverage means that everyone from the Merchant Navy down to the humble paddleboarder is protected when navigating British waters. It cooperates across the country with the UK Coastguard, the National Coastwatch Institution and the recently founded National Independent Lifeboat Association.

It is often remarked that the RNLI should be funded by the Government. To the contrary, the charity has never sought Government funding because it values its independence and its ability to connect directly with the British public who so generously support it through financial donations as well as items of worth including bequests of gold teeth and two vintage Ferraris. Those legacies and donations have amounted to over £197m in 2021 and £206 in 2022.

The RNLI’s ability to attract volunteers while also raising significant sums of money has meant it has long been able to ensure that it's dedicated to its core objective of protecting those in danger. It has remained focused on doing so over the last two hundred years and will undoubtedly continue to do so over the next two centuries.

It is a source of enormous pride to represent an area that is home to three lifeboat stations supported by countless volunteers as well as four beaches patrolled by RNLI lifeguards. The RNLI has gone from strength to strength under the tenure of CEO Mark Dowie, and we should certainly be proud to support and quick to celebrate all aspects of the organisation.