The Department supports a number of initiatives promoting careers at sea and on land in the maritime sector, including Seafarers Awareness Week, Maritime UK’s maritime careers forum, the Women In Maritime Taskforce and the Year Of Engineering. To increase cadetships, the SMarT budget is being doubled to £30 million, and the Government continue to support the sector in developing maritime apprenticeships.
Southampton is one of the busiest ports in the country, and the UK’s No. 1 export port. There are many opportunities in the marine and maritime sector in addition to a life at sea, and if our ports are to continue to thrive beyond Brexit, we will have to attract the brightest and best of the industry. What plans does my hon. Friend have to promote opportunities in the wider marine and maritime sector?
My hon. Friend, like me, is a champion of Southampton port and of increasing the seafaring population. Ports such as Southampton have a key job to do in accessing our global markets. We support a range of initiatives promoting careers at sea and on land in the maritime sector. We have developed maritime apprenticeships and doubled the SMarT budget to £30 million to increase cadetships, and we support a wide range of campaigns such as seafarers awareness week and a campaign that I launched myself—Women in the Maritime Task Force—to increase the current pitiful 3% of maritime jobs held by women.
One thing that would bring young people into the industry is decent wages. The Scottish Government recently commissioned a survey of the extra freight service from Aberdeen to Lerwick. I am told by RMT officials that the operators may be paying as little as £3.78 per hour. That is something that the Scottish Government should not be allowing, but it would not be an option if the Minister implemented the legal working group recommendations that she received earlier this year without any further delay.
I recently met the RMT to discuss a number of issues, including the national minimum wage, which I am keen to explore, working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The right hon. Gentleman is right. We need to ensure that people are paid and dealt with appropriately and work in comfortable circumstances, whether at sea or on shore.
It is scandalous that British officers and ratings hold fewer than 20% of jobs on UK vessels, while the shipping companies reap the benefits from the tonnage tax. Does the Minister agree that we need to create a mandatory link to training and employment of British seafarers, including ratings, as other EU countries have?
The tonnage tax enables us to have six types of apprenticeship, and it encourages companies to employ UK ratings as well. We are doing everything we can, whether it is on ports or working with our ship owners, to ensure that every opportunity is available for young people to enter the maritime sector as a career.[Official Report, 15 October 2018, Vol. 647, c. 6MC.]
Order. The hon. Gentleman, I can see, is in what I would call good chuntering form. His favourite sport is to chunter from a sedentary position. [Interruption.] I am grateful to be advised of the hon. Gentleman’s opinions from his seat as well as when he is on his feet.