HC Deb 06 May 1964 vol 694 cc1285-6
27. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that a large number of deck apprentices fail to complete their training because of the lack of facilities for promotion; and if he will introduce legislation to provide educational opportunities for them to link the practical side of their training with an academic nautical course.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I understand that there are good opportunities for the promotion of deck officers in the Merchant Navy, and that the wastage during training is not unduly high. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport are discussing with shipowners, the officers' associations and the navigation schools the possibility of providing academic qualifications which would enable deck apprentices to attain a higher standard of education. Legislation would not be necessary.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that I am informed that half the young men who enter this industry as apprentices leave it after four years because there is no system of promotion and because the pay is not good? Can he do something to encourage men to enter this important industry, upon which we depend so much?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

My information differs from that of the hon. Gentleman's. Mine is that the wastage is about 20 per cent., and that most of it occurs during the first two years of apprentices' time. No particular cause stands out, but I suppose that the short answer is seasickness and girls—although the two are not necessarily in order of importance.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the information which he has given to my hon. Friend will be very welcome, because although some shipping companies provide this form of training, there are many ship- owners who do not? While I agree that registration is unnecessary, perhaps, in addition to what the Minister has stated is the intention of the Government, would they consult the Shipping Federation, because there is a great danger that deckhands will be in short supply in future years?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has to say about the advantage of arranging for a higher standard of education. We are in consultation with the various bodies concerned and perhaps I may say that the proposals recently made by the Merchant Navy and Airline Pilots Association have proved a most valuable contribution.