HC Deb 19 April 1994 vol 241 cc729-30
6. Mr. Loyden

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what were the numbers of British seamen in employment in each year since 1978.

Mr. David Hunt

The statistics show that in 1993 there were 31,000 employees in the sea transport industry in the United Kingdom compared with 77,000 in 1978.

With permission, Madam Speaker, I will publish in the Official Report the figures for the intervening period.

Mr. Loyden

I am not surprised that the Secretary of State has failed to give the current figures for employment of seamen. Is it not a disgrace that a nation which built its wealth on maritime trade is sitting back and allowing its merchant fleet constantly to diminish and that our shipyards are empty? Is it not an absolute disgrace that the Government are standing aside and doing nothing about those two job-creating industries? Is it not about time the House started paying back its merchant seamen and shipbuilders by providing the sort of jobs that could be created on Merseyside, Tyneside, Clydeside and the rest?

Mr. Hunt

First, I am giving in answer to the hon. Gentleman's question the only figures that I can give and the only figures that are available to me. Secondly, I am not, and neither are my Government, standing aside—[Interruption.] My party or my Government—neither I nor my party nor the Government in which I am proud to serve as a member are standing aside. Today, my officials are meeting, the merchant navy training board to finalise the proposal for a prototype of the new modern apprenticeships and the frameworks to be introduced in the shipping industry later this year. I believe that the new modern apprenticeship scheme will give a real opportunity to the shipping industry, which I hope that it will accept.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Is it not the case that the British Merchant Navy still wins on grounds of quality, if no longer on grounds of quantity, and is that not due to the high standards of training that we give to our young people for a career at sea—not least at the Denton sea school in my constituency?

Mr. Hunt

My hon. Friend highlights the importance of training, to which I have just referred in stressing the importance of the new modern apprenticeship scheme for the shipping industry. I remind him and my right hon. and hon. Friends that the successful completion of the GATT Uruguay round and the consequent increase in world trade is very good news for the United Kingdom. It will be particularly good news for the shipping industry.

Mr. Bennett

What good is the apprenticeship scheme if people who are already qualified cannot get jobs? What help can the Secretary of State offer to one of my constituents who has just been made redundant from a cross-channel ferry so that people from Poland can be employed in his place?

Mr. Hunt

The importance of the new modern apprenticeship scheme is that it will give school leavers aged 16 and 17 next year the opportunity to increase their skills to national vocational qualification level 3, which is equivalent to A-level, and to focus those skills on the shipping industry.

As for the hon. Gentleman's constituent, training for work offers the opportunity to improve and increase training related to qualifications and outputs. If the hon. Gentleman will give me details of the particular constituency case to which he referred, I shall of course follow it up.

Following is the information: Employees in the Sea Transport Industry (Standard Industrial Classification 7400): United Kingdom—1978, 77,000; 1979, 74,000; 1980, 70,000; 1981, 66,000; 1982, 58,000; 1983, 48,000; 1984, 40,000; 1985, 37,000; 1986, 34,000; 1987, 34,000; 1988, 35,000; 1989, 35,000; 1990, 33,000; 1991, 32,000; 1992, 30,000; 1993, 31,000. Information relates to June of each year and is not seasonally adjusted.